Review: Anschultz's paintings do double duty
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 15, 2010 - One defining feature of traditional works of art is a lack of function: Most paintings and sculptures don't do anything other than exist as art and receive our gaze.
It's necessary to keep this in mind to understand the profound radicalism of the works in Brandon Anschultz's "Stick Around for Joy," the latest in the Kranzberg Exhibition Series at Laumeier Sculpture Park.
Anschultz transforms paintings on an ontological level, treating them as so much raw material for the production of other things -- furniture, sculpture, a handbag or more paintings.
Works such as "Purple Painting" and "Yellow Gold" (both 2009) are made by grinding paintings into chips and forming them into clotted mounds of brilliant pigment.
Sitting quietly on the floor, "Folded Pink" (2009) is a sculptural volume made out of a painting that might just be mistaken for a parcel. "Double Stack" (2010), a step-like construction placed against the wall, exists at the intersection of furniture, sculpture, architecture and painting.
"Clutch" (2010) is the handbag, a tidy accessory set atop the thermostat box in Laumeier's Gallery 1 -- it's made of oil, watercolor and canvas, the stuff that normally is framed and hung on the wall.
There are plenty of paintings hanging on the wall in this exhibition; they just don't behave, or weren't created, like traditional paintings.
For instance, Anschultz has produced two pairs of paintings by covering clean surfaces in globs of paint, squishing them together and wrenching them apart. The finished works bear abstract patterns and peaks of gooey impasto. They're analogous to human couples who have come together and separated -- each is unique and yet bears the indelible imprint of the other.
"For H.O." (2010) is an homage to Helio Oiticica, a Brazilian artist working in the 1950s-70s who has been inspirational for Anschultz. In his lamentably short career, Oiticica devised ingenious interactive sculptures, wearable art, environments and mobile works. His art had a function -- it invited the audience to manipulate it, to use it to create more art and expand the artistic experience.
That spirit of optimism and ingenuity pervades Anschultz' exhibition, which is by turns surprising, enlightening, baffling and, indeed, full of joy.
Ivy Cooper, a professor of art at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, is the Beacon's art critic.