Arts & Culture » Arts

In the Galleries - Spirit and History CLOSES March 4 at the St. Louis University Museum of Art

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Born in 1896 in a cottage on the campus of the Tuskegee Institute (his father was the first dean of the English department), Nathan B. Young Jr. earned his law degree at Yale and practiced in Birmingham before landing in St. Louis, where he cofounded The St. Louis American and became the city's first black municipal judge. Oh, and he also painted. Working primarily in acrylic on artist board (with occasional bits of newspaper collaged in), Young chronicled with searing wit the ongoing narrative of black culture. Cobbling together imagery from Time magazine and other popular publications, he assembled dense, quilt-like compositions of words and images, which he would meticulously translate into paint. As this selection from Young's prodigious output (400-plus paintings) attests, the results rival the work of the most celebrated American folk artists — with the added twist of the judge's fearless editorial eye. Grant Wood's American Gothic is re-imagined as American Gosherie, wherein the farmer has taken an African American wife and both grin ear to ear. The All-American Stereotype takes in minstrel shows, Tin Pan Alley, Birth of a Nation, Show Boat and Al Jolson in the 1927 opening of The Jazz Singer at the Fox. In other works, Malcolm X, Satchel Paige, the ghost of John Brown and the artist's father make appearances; on the flipside, in Jungle City Apartments, a three-story tenement crawls with black and white monkeys. It was a mad world out there — and it still is. The other half of the exhibition consists of religious-themed works by a white artist, the late James Hasse, whose other vocation — the priesthood — took him to black communities throughout the Midwest. Through March 4 at the Saint Louis University Museum of Art, 3663 Lindell Boulevard; 314-977-2666 or www.slu.edu/x16374.xml. Hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Wed.-Sun.

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