Andréa Stanislav Brings St. Louis Front and Center With 'Convergence Infinité' at SLAM

By Rob Levy
In Culture

Despite being a native Chicagoan, contemporary art manipulator Andréa Stanislav has developed a strong connection to St. Louis. A recipient of the 2015 Freund Teaching Fellowship from Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts and the St. Louis Art Museum, her solo exhibition, “Currents 112: Convergence Infinité,” is a poetic assessment of the architecture of empire that initiates a conversation about our city’s past, present and future as a crossroad of civilization.

A frequent interloper to Mound City in the 1970s when her uncle worked as a brewmaster at the Anheuser-Busch brewery and later on as a young adult discovering her artistic calling, Stanislav understands how the nooks and crannies of St. Louis—from the convergence of the rivers, stops along the Underground Railroad, ancient cultural sites and diverse neighborhoods—have evolved and create a unique place where the empirical past meets the technological present.

Photo courtesy of the artist

Photo courtesy of Andréa Stanislav

She described how her frequent visits here shaped her as an artist: “When I came here at a very young age, St. Louis, to me, exuded this American apogee. I remember seeing the Arch and the Clydesdales and it was this very grand place,” she continues. “My father was an amateur history buff and he always instilled in me the importance of history wherever we went and he also taught me about the Native American people who were here before.

“Coming here on vacations and family trips was very much about embracing the natural and understanding the early civilizations and seeing the center of North American civilization in terms of ancient history.”

Stanislav cites the Gateway Arch as the emboldening creative force in her career. “I have regarded the Arch as the most amazing sculpture and architectural achievement of the 20th century. It made a huge impression on me and the fact that you could go up into the structure inspired me and gave me this very real feeling of what was possible.

“When my parents moved to Arizona, I would have to drive cross-country and I made it a point to stop in St. Louis and no matter what time it was at night I would always stop at The Arch. It really was this object that became a mecca to stop and revel in its presence.”

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Photo courtesy of Andréa Stanislav

“Convergence Infinité” features a confluence of styles including reflective paintings, taxidermic animals, Mississippi River water, otherworldly drone videos and two large sculptures—Apogee 1200 and Apogee 1969—that feature a reflective covering layered onto incomplete structures representing the Cahokia Mounds and the Gateway Arch. These pieces anchor the show, underscoring the instability buried beneath the constructs of empire with the former signifying the largest prehistoric civilization in North America and the latter representing capitalism and the crassness of Manifest Destiny.

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Photo courtesy of Andréa Stanislav

“Converger” is a filmic presentation featuring footage of St. Louis from drones and helicopters projected over four-screens, mimicking the flight of a bird, swooping high and low, along four routes from north, south, east and west with each perspective concluding at the nexus point of the Apotheosis of St. Louis statue in front of the museum.

For her audience, these installations are an indelible hybrid of confrontation and introspection. Stanislav commented on how “Convergence Infinité” has affected St. Louisans. “I think that the work I have done here has made the people who have seen it more aware of the place that they live in. It’s been interesting that, to some extent, the work that I’ve done here that deals with the social and national history of St. Louis has actually taught people to some extent,” she says. “I know people have said they’ve learned things in the exhibition that they never knew before.”

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Photo courtesy of Andréa Stanislav

She hopes the exhibition changes people’s perceptions about St. Louis. She says, “Within the artwork, the birds, the eagles and the falcon, in terms of the the video, are the metaphors in that these animals are flying over the city and they are not passing judgment. They are seeing the city for everything that is here throughout history. It is this incredibly remarkable place in the United States because at one point, this was the largest civilization in North America—Cahokia Mounds. St. Louis continues to be this kind of crossroads.”

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Photo courtesy of Andréa Stanislav

Although she has produced site-specific art in Minneapolis, New York and St. Petersburg, Stanislav has drawn a special artistic inspiration from St. Louis.“Coming here, I have been absolutely amazed at the vibrancy of the art and the music scenes. I’ve really come to fall in love with the city. It’s one of the oldest centers of civilization in North America and that’s astounding to think about.”

The city has come to mean much more to her art as well. She sayd, “In terms of the exploration of this project, I can’t stop driving around St. Louis. I am amazed by one neighborhood after another, the uniqueness of the neighborhoods, the architecture in all of its various iterations and structures,” she continues. “Physically and visually, it is a very dynamic place. I think the city has taught how to really look, listen and pay attention. The project has taught me to have a particular focus and also openness to the art-making practice as well.”

“Currents 112: Convergence Infinité” is on view at the St. Louis Art Museum through June 19, 2016. For more information, visit slam.org

For more information on Andréa Stanislav, visit andreastanislav.com

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