Best Gallery Show

Pearls are a Nuisance: A Retrospective of Art Chantry

Art Chantry moved from Seattle to St. Louis a few years back and just kinda skulked around the weird, burned edges of the city, poking around in the crusty bits looking for crap. Crap here is not intended in the pejorative sense. In fact, "crap" is an all-purpose word in the Chantry lexicon, roughly translated as "stuff of interest." Anyhoo, Chantry quietly poked and prodded and crap-hunted. Then, late last year, he teamed with Philip Slein and M. Todd Hignite to mount a retrospective of his life's work, the elevation of crap into art via the offset press. Chantry's rough-around-the-edges, easy-on-the-eyes style of graphic design has been widely visible on album covers, tour posters and the catalog of Urban Outfitters for decades bits and pieces of it have been bubbling over from the underground since before Seattle was the hipster-doofus capital of the Western world. But to see the mass of it and realize instantly the giant, inky footprints he'd stamped on popular culture's backside was overwhelming and guilt-inducing at the same time. Overwhelming to witness the hundreds of promo posters for rock & roll shows long past and record sleeves for bands long since dissolved sharing wall space with recent theater productions and agit-prop posters about the war in Iraq; guilt-inducing because we as a city don't boast about our resident genius often enough. Somewhere in the middle of the maelstrom was Chantry himself, laughing incredulously at the spectacle. And then, not long after the show came down, Chantry was gone—split up with his wife, packed up and left, just like that, headed back to Seattle.
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