Review: All That Fort Gondo Allows
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 24, 2013 - Galen Gondolfi’s Fort Gondo Compound for the Arts -- Cherokee Gallery Ground Zero -- drew a delightfully diverse crowd to Benjamin Edelberg and Brandon Anshultz’s exhibit, All That Heaven Allows. Men in suits less often seen in St. Louis’ southeasterly galleries were observed. Perhaps the creative winds will draw ever-larger crowds in future.
The Fort Gondo exhibit takes its title from the eponymous 1955 Douglas Sirk film in which (Ronald Reagan ex-wife) Jane Wyman plays a wealthy widow who falls for her young gardener, played by Rock Hudson. The gallery guide describes the film as a vividly coded melodrama, which Edelberg and Anschultz then use as interpretive muse.
The suggested art-film pairing offers inspiration for analysis of the artwork now on display and of the relationship between the overt or sometimes subtle, but still relatively accessible, messages within a movie narrative and the often difficult to read messaging of contemporary abstract art.
In contrast to Edelberg and Anschultz’s sculpture and paintings, the complex social commentary within Sirk’s film is rooted in discursive technique that today’s audiences are familiar with and can readily discern. The artistic renderings at Fort Gondo, on the other hand, require a leap into less charted territory. It is in work like this that art becomes the playground for philosophy. The coupling of these two forms of expression (the Hollywood movie; the multimedia art work) allows for a channel to be formed between a story told in a familiar way and one that requires attention because of its unfamiliarity.
Brandon Anschultz’s sculptures take ambiguous forms that could and could not be found in nature. They are constructed from combinations of unexpected materials that do not match with any previous experience. What is it? In this case can mean: “What is this made of, its material attributes are so strange to me?” “Is this meant to be something I can recognize – animal, vegetable, mineral?” “What does this object mean -to me? -to the artist?”
Mirrors within some of Anschultz’s work create further obfuscation, transmitting reflected realities. The center gallery sculpture, Open Plain, becomes something altogether new when viewed looking down its core into the mirror on the floor below it.
Benjamin Edelberg assembles collage from what appear to be1950s black and white photographs. The themes are heady with emphasis on disjointed cut-out body parts that are made active by the presence of a leg or arm too many or the layering of patterned pieces. As within Sirk’s film, sexuality is present but obscured. While Edelberg’s imagery is not straight-forward, his formal approach is. Though, like Anschultz, Edelberg teases more from his materials than pure function, using “red tea,” a traditional stain, to create a subtle second layering element of his paper transfers.
Though Fort Gondo is open only by appointment outside of opening events, the exhibitn is always open to the public during Fort Gondo’s Poetry Series readings. Nick Demske and Stephanie E. Schlaifer will read selections of their poetry at 7 p.m., Friday Jan. 25.
Sarah Hermes Griesbach is a freelance writer.