Contemporary Art Museum | St. Louis Public Radio

Contemporary Art Museum

Jean-Michel Basquiat poses in front of some of his work in the apartment he and Alexis Adler shared.
Alexis Adler

When Alexis Adler lived with New York painter Jean-Michel Basquiat in an East Village apartment, she never knew what she might wake up to.

Where most people saw walls, floors and even refrigerators, the emerging master of social commentary saw canvas. Basquiat often painted throughout the night, the ideas in his head spilling out onto almost every surface in the run-down space.

St. Louisans will soon have a rare glimpse into the life and early work of Basquiat, a one-time New York street artist whose paintings eventually sold for more than $100 million. “Basquiat Before Basquiat: East 12th Street, 1979–1980” opens Friday at the Contemporary Art Musem and runs through Dec. 30. It displays the nascent creations of the artist of Haitian and Puerto Rican roots, who died in 1988 at 27, reportedly of a heroin overdose.

 This image is from Sarah Paulsen's film White by Law which is part of her The Invention of Whiteness exhibition at the Contemporary Art Museum.
Sarah Paulsen

For most of her life, St. Louis artist Sarah Paulsen was oblivious to what it means to be white, and the privilege it confers.

Then in 2008, Charles Lee “Cookie” Thornton shot and killed six people at Kirkwood City Hall.  Thornton was a black man; his victims were white. The tragedy threw a spotlight on the racial, class and wealth divide that had long existed in the St. Louis suburb. It also prompted Paulsen to begin exploring the social construct of race in America and how being white means never having to think about it.

Amy Sherald, "What’s precious inside of him does not care to be known by the mind in ways that diminish its presence (All American)," 2017.  5/15/18
Amy Sherald and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago

Baltimore-based artist Amy Sherald built a reputation in the art world for painting highly stylized portraits of what you might call ordinary people. But she became a household name in wider circles this year for her portrait of a rather extraordinary subject: the first African-American First Lady of the United States. 

 

An exhibition of Sherald’s work is at Contemporary Art Museum, where it remains on view through Aug. 19.

CAM St. Louis' chief curator Wassan Al-Khudhairi talks about Iraqi artist Hayv Kahraman's orchestrated perfomance.
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh talked to Wassan Al-Khudhairi, chief curator of the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (CAM) about an orchestrated performance by Iraqi-born artist and refugee Hayv Kahraman.

The act, “Gendering Memories of Iraq,” reflects on concepts of diaspora, immigration, and community. The performance is organized in four sections and will feature local performers Nancy Bell, Layla Goushey, Parvuna Sulaiman, Sahara “Sista SOLS” Scott and Yin Xiong.

A Murmuration
Zlatko Ćosić

Video artist Zlatko Ćosić has called St. Louis home since 1997, but it was his experiences growing up and eventually fleeing the former Yugoslavia that have most influenced his work. After the war in his homeland started, he was kicked out of the university and his father lost his job just because of their nationality and religion. They were eventually arrested and placed in forced labor for eight months.

This is an image of late actor Eartha Kitt from "Angelitos Negros #1," a video by artist Mickalene Thomas.
Provided | Contemporary Art Museum

Many St. Louisans have been watching the Contemporary Art Museum closely since an exhibition last fall was viewed as offensive to black people, particularly women.

But an upcoming display could leave CAM visitors with a better impression. On Sept. 8, the museum opens four shows, including one featuring the work of Mickalene Thomas, an African-American multimedia artist.

Local art collector Adrienne Davis said Thomas’ images of black women stand in stark contrast to those of Kelley Walker, a white male artist whose Sept. 2016 exhibition outraged many visitors.

Dave Nadelberg, creator of "Mortified."
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Would you ever share your embarrassing childhood writing and other artifacts on stage? How about on a podcast listened to by thousands each month? Or on a television show? Or in a book?

For some, it could be considered a worst nightmare. For others, it could be considered catharsis. For “Mortified” creator Dave Nadelberg, it is a little bit of both.

Visitors to the Contemporary Art Museum are now (Sept. 30, 2016) greeted by warning signs and a wall that went up in front of Kelley Walker's Direct Drive exhibit following criticism and outrage of the work.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The region’s arts attractions could be a little more crowded this week.

As many as 5,000 people are expected to attend the American Alliance of Museums annual meeting, which is being held in St. Louis this year. The event, which kicks off Sunday, is the country’s largest gathering of museum professionals. 

The artist Agnes Denes stands in the middle of a wheat field she planted in a landfill.
Provided by CAM

Update 05/08 10:01 - This article was updated to include local artist Juan William Chavez's contribution to the show and better reflect Kelly Shindler's curatorial trajectory. 

The Contemporary Art Museum’s CAM’s new exhibit, “Urban Planning: Art and the City 1967–2017,” features images of burning buildings, wheat fields planted on landfills, and whole lot of history.

By combining works by emerging and established artists, the project explores themes of architectural failure, racist housing practices, and the depopulation of St. Louis. 

For artists, the themes are design currents that flow beneath the city’s physical spaces, visiting curator Kelly Shindler said.

A recent show at the Contemporary Art Museum
Provided by the Contemporary Art Museum

The Contemporary Art Museum has hired a chief curator.

Wassan Al-Khudhairi, a curator of modern and contemporary art at the Birmingham Museum of Art, joins CAM in August.

Al-Khudhairi, whose work places a priority on interactions with local audiences, replaces Jeffrey Uslip, who resigned late last year amid controversy over a solo exhibition by artist Kelley Walker.

MET director at CAM to address the role of museums

Feb 23, 2017
A recent show at the Contemporary Art Museum
Provided by the Contemporary Art Museum

The director of the largest art museum in the United States says during turbulent political times museums should stay faithful to their missions of unifying the country.

Thomas P. Campbell, director and CEO of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is the featured guest tonight at the Contemporary Art Museum’s annual distinguished speaker event. In recent weeks, he has spoken against attacks on federal funding for the arts, writing "The Folly of Abolishing the NEA" for the New York Times.

Katherine Bernhardt, Untitled, 2015. Acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 96 x 120 inches. Courtesy the artist and CANADA, New York.
Katherine Bernhardt

Last Friday marked the opening of the new spring exhibitions at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, featuring a wide variety of work examining the body, the sky and a site-specific mural from St. Louis native Katherine Bernhardt.

Contemporary Art Museum unveils spring exhibition

Jan 27, 2017

After a controversial fall season overshadowed by community outrage over Kelley Walker's “Direct Drive,” the Contemporary Art Museum will unveil a spring season this weekend.

This file photo of the painting "Exasperation" by local artist Fabio Rodriguez depicts people in his home of the Domincan Republic desperate for essentials like food and water. It was cut from an art exhibition for being potentially disturbing.
Provided | Fabio Rodriguez

St. Louis-area artist Fabio Rodriguez was devastated when a very personal piece of his work was removed from an exhibition. But did that action rise to the level of censorship?

From Radar Home by Amy Reidel, an illustration by Fox Smith and a file photo of poet Treasure Shields Redmond
Provided and file photos

The art of activism weaved its way more deeply into the St. Louis arts scene in 2016.

In this year’s Cut & Paste arts and culture podcasts, we brought you conversations with performers, poets and visual video artists, inspired personal experiences and cultural issues.

Provided by CAM

The Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis hopes its upcoming exhibit will help regain some of the public trust lost after the Kelley Walker exhibit spawned controversy this fall.

The new exhibit will feature four artists: photographer Deanna Lawson, visual artist Louis Cameron, figurative painter Nicola Tyson and muralist Katherine Bernhardt.

Although CAM planned the latest exhibits before the Walker exhibit opened, administrators want the show, which opens in January, to address some of the concerns people in St. Louis had about Walker's displays.

Visitors and area artists expressed outrage that CAM gave wall space to a white artist who they criticized for defacing images of black people — from civil-rights era photographs to an enlarged image of the rapper Trina on the cover of the culture magazine King.

Visitors to the Contemporary Art Museum are now (Sept. 30, 2016) greeted by warning signs and a wall that went up in front of Kelley Walker's Direct Drive exhibit following criticism and outrage of the work.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 1:40 p.m. Oct. 10 — Chief curator Jeffrey Uslip is leaving St. Louis' Contemporary Art Museum for another institution.

Uslip's departure follows weeks of controversy over CAM's current solo exhibition by white artist Kelley Walker that some found demeaning to African-Americans. Three CAM employees and others had called the museum to remove Uslip shortly after the exhibition, "Direct Drive," opened Sept. 16.

In a news release, the Contemporary did not say where Uslip is going or whether he will remain in St. Louis.

A crowd packed the Contemporary Art Museum for a panel discussion on artist Kelley Walker's use of black bodies.
Wills Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

On Friday’s “Behind the Headlines,” we took a deep dive into the controversy around Kelley Walker’s “Direct Drive” exhibit at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis.

We heard from St. Louis Public Radio reporters Jenny Simeone and Willis Ryder Arnold, who have been reporting on the issues surrounding the exhibit and public outcry over its depiction of black bodies. Some have called for the exhibit to come down in its entirety and others have said that would constitute an act of censorship.

Jason Wilson, CAM board member, and Shanti Parikh, anthropology and African Studies assistant professor
Kelly Moffit | St. Louis Public Radio

An exhibition that opened at the Contemporary Art Museum Sept. 16 continues to draw fire for images that some say are demeaning to African-Americans. The issue has hit home with many St. Louisans including Shanti Parikh, an anthropology and African Studies associate professor, and her husband Jason Wilson, who’s on the board at CAM.

Controversial artwork to remain at CAM

Sep 26, 2016
A art piece by Kelley Walker depicting a civil rights-era protest is splattered with melted dark, white, and milk chocolate.
Kelley Walker, Black Star Press | Paula Cooper Gallery

Updated Sept. 29 with a statement from Jeffrey Uslip — The Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis will not remove Kelley Walker’s controversial artwork from its walls. 

Some St. Louis residents called for a boycott of the museum and three of the museum’s black employees called for the removal of four works  — and for chief curator Jeffrey Uslip to resign — on the grounds that Walker’s exhibit demeaned black people. CAM director Lisa Melandri said Monday that removing the work would be censorship.

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