7 Takeaways From the New 'Currents' Exhibition at SLAM

By Krystin Arneson
In Culture

On Oct. 23, Saint Louis Art Museum’s ongoing contemporary arts series, “Currents,” shined a light on two artists from St. Louis (now practicing in Brooklyn) who work together to explore memories of the childhood they shared growing up as brothers. We checked out the mixed media exhibition last week. Here’s seven things to know about “Currents 111: Steven and William Ladd,” which runs through Feb. 14, 2016.

Steven and William Ladd | Photo by Nick , courtesy of the artists

Steven and William Ladd | Photo by Nick Lee, 2015, courtesy of the artists

1/ The titles of the works in the series “Sports or Scouts?” reference specific memories and allude to either sports or scouts through their color schemes (the “sports” ones are brighter, like colors of grade-school team jerseys; the “scouts” ones are more subdued, calling to mind earth and nature). “Cardinal Nation,” for instance, refers to the hometown baseball team the Ladd brothers idolized growing up.

2/ Get up close and personal to “Dad-n-Lad,” a new performance sculpture comprised of 48 boxes. The tented lids lift up to reveal landscapes that mimic the Missouri topography the brothers covered on scouting trips.

"Cardinal Nation," 2015; paper, glue, wheat starch, metal beads, metal trinkets, glass beads, crystal beads, pins, screws, dye, mesh, staples, and wood, 59 ½ x 39 ½ x 1 inches | Photo courtesy of the artists. © Steven and William Ladd, all rights reserved, 2015.

“Cardinal Nation,” 2015; paper, glue, wheat starch, metal beads, metal trinkets, glass beads, crystal beads, pins, screws, dye, mesh, staples, and wood, 59 ½ x 39 ½ x 1 inches | Photo courtesy of the artists. © Steven and William Ladd, all rights reserved, 2015.

3/ Anti-ant visitors, beware: A strong memory from the brothers’ childhoods involves opening a box of toys only to find ants streaming out of it. That trauma manifests itself in some strange ways throughout their artwork.

4/ The brothers are super passionate about working with youth in the communities they live in and visit as artists. “Scrollathon,” happening later in the exhiition’s lifespan, will bring together school children to make fabric scrolls like the ones the brothers use in their artwork (and will later be turned into artwork as well).

5/ Working together runs in the family: Their dad was an electrician, as were their uncles, and often the men would work together on the same job.

6/ If you’re ever stuck for artist inspiration, go back to the things you collected as a child: In this case, a childhood collection of beads finds a home in the brothers’ artwork, which also incorporates glass, fabric and paper on the canvas in unique and visually alluring ways.

7/ Head downstairs to check out the Alexandria and Charleston period rooms—and, in them, the brothers’ insect interventions.

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