Chicago Art Review

Built @ Laumeier Sculpture Park by Steve Ruiz
August 18, 2009, 8:58 pm
Filed under: Reviews

I was touring through St. Louis this weekend and stopped by Laumeier Sculpture Park to walk and sweat and see their collection, which includes a killer Tony Tasset and a friendly Vito Acconci and many others. I was also very happy to find their indoor space filled with a group exhibition from the Kranzberg Exhibition Series, a project which supports and exhibits local St. Louis area artists. Entitled Built, the show brought together six installation artists to run free in the space with sound and light and paint and sculpture and thousands of keyboard keys.

Sarah Frost

Sarah Frost, QUERTY

Sarah Frost’s two installations White Wall and QUERTY are very intense recycled or recollected constructions. QUERTY features untold numbers of keyboard keys from floor to ceiling on four walls of a small room. Like many resale/found object artists, Frost’s main focus seemed to be giving new and functionless purpose to objects whose have had a history of function (sort of like Walmart greeters), however there’s more life here than just that. Between the history present in the discoloration and wearing of the keys, their obsessive scope in display, and the tightness of the room in which they were installed, I could feel a more claustrophobic, overwhelming blankness.

Sarah Frost, White Wall

Sarah Frost, White Wall

That same disquiet was brought through with White Wall, another floor to ceiling self-supporting construction that seemed to have arranged itself by itself like a magnetic and sentient game of Tetris. I was creeped and glad for it.

Stan Chrisholm

Stan Chisholm, Mobile Homes

In another room, street artist and SAIC graduate Stan Chisholm had installed a three dimensional mural called Mobile Homes made of mostly paint and painted polystyrene foam with clothed strawmen emerging from and interacting with the work. Displaying either a great floor or tornado or stony disaster, the mural had color and graphic thundering along together. I have a feeling Chrisholm is snappable, someone to watch for.

Stan Chrisholm, Mobile Homes

Stan Chrisholm, Mobile Homes

St. Louis outsider artist Chris Norton (who is white) installed in his room a Darfur horror tale through a series of Bic pen and wallpaper drawings. The disjointed portraits stood beside unsettling first person narratives of victims of the civil war, set against harsh red walls and what could either be an unlit pyre or a thin-legger equestrian constructed along one wall and across the floor.

Chris Norton, Genocide in Darfur

Chris Norton, Genocide in Darfur

Probably the most challenging installation in the group, Norton’s Genocide in Darfur came off as a very sincere and earnest and concerned work, but I found the narratives uncomfortably unconvincing. Something in the language seemed off. I couldn’t tell if they were translated directly from the individuals shown beside them, or whether they were invented or imagined to pair with the portraits’ source photographs. Though it presents a whole number of strange conflicts about purpose and invention, I would guess the latter.

Craig Norton, Genocide in Darfur

Craig Norton, Genocide in Darfur

The first room seen on entering the gallery features Michael Behle, with his large flower and speakers audio/visual installation titled Disintegration and a small painting (Your gentleness towards me) across from it.

Michael Mehle, Disintegration

Michael Behle, Disintegration

I like Michael Behle. I think his paintings are great, and am glad we in Chicago are fortunate to have access to them at the Peter Miller Gallery. I thought his sculpture was awful. The construction and execution was just too weak to support an idea – the artist’s function of absorbing nonsense from his audience and vomiting beauty in response – that isn’t interesting or convincing. The painting Behle chose to hang was much more interesting, but it would have looked better alone.

Michael Behle, Your gentleness towards me

Michael Behle, Your gentleness towards me

And finally, the largest installation room was occupied by a very atmospheric collaboration between Cameron Fuller (work buried in Flash here) and Sarah Paulsen. The pairing was too fun, with Fuller’s sculptural stagecraft and Paulsen’s excellent video and animations fitting perfectly together. With colored light and the dancing lines of a Django Reinhardt tune, the installation felt like an arm in arm carnival at terror twilight o’clock. As fun as it was, I bet it was more fun to put together.

Cameron Fuller and Sarah Paulsen

Cameron Fuller and Sarah Paulsen

The whole show was a happy break from the traditional heat and humidity of a middle mid-west August sculpture romp, a well put together, cohesive group show that might not be worth the drive for the average Chicagoan, but which was a great exhibition none the less. If you’re in that corner of the states, you have every reason to stop by and make a day of it.

I give it a:


Built: Kranzberg Exhibition Series runs June 6th, 2009 to September 6th, 2009 @ The Laumeier Sculpture Park‘s Indoor Galleries, 12580 Rott Road, St. Louis.

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2 Comments so far
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I love chrisholm’s installation, i saw another one of his pieces on a blog somewhere and lost the link, thanks for sharing! got to go see it now….

Comment by Cassie

Thanks for checking out the work at Laumeier while you were in St. Louis. I have the same questions about Norton’s work. And your right we do have fun but as any creative process, its also slightly agonizing.

Comment by Sarah

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