Philip Slein Gallery's Latest Exhibition An Opening Night Success

By Krystin Arneson
In Culture

Philip Slein Gallery’s latest exhibition, “Other Ways; Other Times: Influences of African-American Tradition From St. Louis Collections,” opened Friday night to a an impressive turnout. Rather than attempting to define African-American culture, the show instead draws on pieces from the city’s private collections to showcase a variety of media, styles and commentary on various aspects of African-American lived experience and culture.

This exhibition, carefully assembled by gallery partner Jim Schmidt of Schmidt Contemporary Art, provides an open window for audiences to engage with art and culture through accessibility and dialogue, rather than a glass partition.

“We have a rich tradition of collecting artworks by African-American artists in St. Louis,” says art and fashion consultant Susan Barrett in the gallery’s statement. “African-American art has never been mono-thematic and this exhibition is designed to portray its diversity, as well as to honor local collectors who are preserving its rich history.”

The exhibition was notable for its photography, which provides an almost documentary-like look at lived experience: The powerful photos frame reality in various ways, providing a snippet, a glance—be it a political commentary formed by a grid of close-up lips, or everyday scenes. Local photographer Adrian O. Walker also had four color portraits for sale—of which two sets and two individuals were snapped up by collectors.

A centerpiece of the exhibition is Ellen Gallagher’s “DeLuxe,” a 60-unit grid of advertisements targeted to African-American women, modified with glitter and Plasticene to provoke a dialogue about aesthetic ideals. Part of the Tate’s permanent collection and originally considered for William Shearburn Gallery’s “Pathology of Glamour” exhibition, the piece finds a home here, offering a unique commentary on imposed notions of beauty and the constructs that this creates both within and outwith a culture.

The exhibition runs until Nov. 22 at Philip Slein Gallery, 4735 McPherson Ave. in the Central West End.

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