Who among us doesn't struggle with the "anxiety of everyday existence"? For his curatorial debut, recent Webster University grad William Gass (not to be confused with the local literary elder statesman) attempted to confront this universal theme, and the result was widely resonant despite its brief run in the intimate Front Room of the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis. Aiming to tackle people's everyday desire to overcome the mundane, Gass chose three artists who, in his words, deployed "transcendental strategies in the face of contemporary banality." Brooklyn-based Paul Lee's pieces consisted of stitched-together swatches of towel; Steve Van den Bosch projected a video of the empty space that makes up a spectator's gaze at exhibition openings; and Breyer P-Orridge contributed gold leaf-haloed photos of surgically modified eyes, ears and a mouth. The beauty of this material conversation between a household fabric, the ether of art stardom and the perfectible body was its poetic rewriting of the American Dream — an assertion that art, too, offers a way out of anonymity and proposes a kind of faith in meteoric individual progress. The exhibit was a highlight in this significant, nimble series, in that it seemed not merely to address the notion of golden opportunities, but actually to provide one.
Correction published 9/30/09: The original version of this item incorrectly identified William Gass as the local literary elder statesman. The William Gass who curated the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis exhibition is another William Gass entirely -- a recent Webster University grad who last year won Frieze magazine's Writer's Prize for art criticism. The above version contains the corrected text.