Exhibit aims to highlight artists who 'anchor' St. Louis art scene
Most people probably don’t think artists develop their exhibits by meeting for coffee, walking through the park, and talking. But that’s exactly how the Daniel Burnett-curated show, “Anchors,” came together. Burnett said his initial approach wasn’t about finding the biggest names in St. Louis, but finding out how artists might fit together to represent the visual art community.
Burnett intends "Anchors," which opens this weekend at Concrete Ocean Gallery, to make a statement about the St. Louis arts scene: It’s a place where artists are able to find recognition on a national scale but are approachable and invested in their community.
“I even tried to prolong the asking of the question of whether they would participate or not, and just sort of talked life,” he said.,
The show will feature artists who have more than 164,000 Instagram followers, have shown work in some of the country’s taste-making art fairs, or have representation with commercial art dealers. For Burnett, the show’s not about yelling St. Louis’ accomplishments from the top of a tower, but about highlighting artists’ commitment to each other and the work being made here.
“It’s like having these artists who show in more heavy duty galleries and sort of sell work, but then you also should be putting into a different kind of currency, a sort of intellectual currency, or a cultural currency of the city,” Burnett said.
So he selected artists he felt represented that ethos, and would be interested in challenging themselves to produce work both unexpected and approachable. He asked each artist to make something slightly outside their comfort zone. It was an idea that took hold. All of the artists he approached agreed to participate in the show.
Everyone in the show has a background in illustration or takes a non-traditional approach while painting. Yet each artist’s style is uniquely theirs.
Pushing past painting
Painter Alicia LaChance has shown her work nationally and been a part of major satellite art fairs to the Miami Biennale ,as well as traveled there with the gallery, Hoffman LaChance, which she runs with her husband. LaChance walked around Forest Park and talked with Burnett, to get know him. She welcomed the opportunity to be part of the "Anchors" show.
“I’m approaching it through this lens of honor and friendship — this idea of being with artists who I’m really getting to know and artists that I respect — that’s how I’m approaching this,” she said.
LaChance responded to Burnett’s suggestion that artists allow themselves to make work outside their usual style and is creating an “altar” that involves both a flat work to be hung on the wall as well as a sculptural element that involves a viewfinder.
“Sometimes when you go to exhibition you have these expectations where they want a particular body of work but I feel like in this case, we’re really going to try and duke it out with this one, and really try to stretch,” she said.
Making text more than words
Stan Chisholm, who exhibits work and performs music under the moniker 18andCounting, also took the chance to produce work that differs from much of his previous paintings. Over the past year he’s concentrated on producing work with his recently formed group, The Only Ensemble. Through that experience, he became more interested in how language can enter the visual arts. His work will focus on displaying a direct phrase that’s been tweaked graphically to engage the viewer’s attention.
“I kind of like that challenge,” Chisholm said. “It’s like how to stop someone in their tracks with something that we see all day everyday, reading emails, and street signs, and businesses, I’m trying to pull of some of those more mundane applications of language and compete with it and create my own world around it.”
For Burnett, the artists’ commitment to his challenge and their influence in the community gave him that chance to create an opening event of which he’d be proud. The show opens tonight from 6 to 11 p.m. at at Concrete Ocean Gallery, 2257 S. Jefferson Ave. It will feature custom cocktails and music by Crucial, DJ Makossa, 18andCounting.
“What I wanted to shoot for is having something that stands out completely from the rest of those openings — where there’s this collective experience that happens where it’s not only the art on the walls and the people there, “ Burnett said. “And the other elements that are sort of involved within the event but it’s this sort of magic moment that was like brief in time and utterly unsustainable and impractical.”
Follow Willis on Twitter: @WillisRArnold