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Review: 'Love & Theft' makes compelling connections

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 22, 2010 - Matthew Strauss has come up with another intriguing theme connecting work by some of the most serious contemporary artists working today.

"Love & Theft" features art by Mike Bidlo, Dutes Miller, Asher Penn and Sara Greenberger Rafferty, none of whom you're likely to have heard of unless you regularly thumb through ArtForum, but all of whom make work that involves appropriation and complex cultural commentary.

Penn fills a wall with photocopied images of Kate Moss, covered in red Rorschach-style blotches (all of which look like uteruses, but maybe that's just me ...).

Miller's collages of homoerotic magazine images are beautifully fractured, frustrating the gratification usually afforded by pornography but offering up instead a titillating prismatic view of lusty flesh.

Bidlo appropriates an appropriation, remaking versions of Robert Rauschenberg's famous "Erased de Kooning Drawing" from the 1950s and zeroing in on the fetishization of the absent.

Rafferty's C-prints are sublime: they present B-grade idols of the 1970s (Joyce DeWitt, Vicki Lawrence, Valerie Harper) looking worked-over and water-damaged, like those magazines and record albums that get soaked in flooded basements.

All of these works engage in appropriation, but more than that, they point up what appropriation's good for: revealing the economics of desire, possession and loss that mark both high art and popular culture.

Ivy Cooper, a professor of art at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, is the Beacon's art critic.

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