CAM Kicks Off 2013 Summer Exhibition Series

By Christopher Reilly
In Culture

 

Kerry James Marshall: “Garden of Delights”

The Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis launched its summer exhibition series Friday, May 24, featuring three internationally renowned artists whose collected works fit into the Brad Cloepfil-designed building as though they were always destined for the space. That is literally the case with the site-specific creation of Kerry James Marshall’s “Garden of Delights,” which transforms the Front Room into a three dimensional work of art. Large sunflowers with tinted, semi-translucent leaves stretch towards the ceiling while a colorful walking path draws viewers in. Other garden-like features add to the illusion. The piece, according to Marshall, “tells the story of how lives are lived in an everyday kind of way.” As with most of Marshall’s work, there are strong elements of African-American life and history, including liberal use of red, green and black—the colors of the Pan-African flag. It’s no accident that Marshall is being exhibited at CAM right now. The exhibit was intentionally scheduled to coincide with the June opening of the Saint Louis Art Museum’s new East Building expansion, where one of Marshall’s most significant works, “Watts 1963″ (1995), will be on view as part of the new permanent art exhibit, “A New View: Contemporary Art.” (Through July 7)

Lari Pittman: Untitled #17

The Center Gallery opens with Lari Pittman: “A Decorated Chronology,” consisting of thirty large-scale paintings and a 24-part works on paper series in his first solo U.S. museum exhibition in nearly 20 years. Known for exuberant color and intricate, meaningful detail, Pittman’s art explores sexuality, desire and violence in a feast for the eyes and mind. His work “Untitled #17” (pictured) represents his reaction to having been a victim of gun violence. How do you respond to being shot, Pittman asks? The answer comes in the inscription on the painting, “2 Love, 2 Work, 2 Live.”  Pittman’s work is complex, impressively nuanced, and features details that can intrigue or cause the viewer to blush, containing as they do images of general lasciviousness, including copulation and phalluses aplenty. Paintings that appear flat from a distance reveal unexpected depth and textures up close.  Several of the works feature depictions of both night and day. “It’s a form of realism,” Pittman said of his work. “But slightly above.” (Through August 11)

Rounding out the CAM show is Finnish artist Mika Taanila: “Tomorrow’s New Dawn,” who uses the documentary form to explore humanity’s drive towards advancement and examine the true cost of progress.  In what is surely the grand installation of the exhibit, Taanila’s “The Most Electrified Town in Finland” (2012) takes up the entire wall in the main gallery with three videos running simultaneously showing scenes from his documentary of the same name.

Mika Taanila: The Most Electrified Town in Finland

The videos show the construction of the world’s most powerful nuclear power plant in western Finland. Significantly, it’s the first to be built in the West since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. Taanila uses contrasting film and video technologies to emphasize the contrast of the high-tech power plant—shot in high-definition video—and the bucolic Finnish town where the nuclear facility is being constructed, which Taanila recorded on 16mm film. Moreover, high-def is harsh with zero subtlety, whereas 16mm film records images that are rich and luxurious, which makes a further statement about old versus new, adaptability versus precision and human versus machine. (Through August 11)

For more information about the artists or CAM, including special events, visit camstl.org.

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