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Out of the Box: Artists Play Chess


To inaugurate the contemporary gallery in the newly minted World Chess Hall of Fame, Bradley Bailey has curated a thoughtful yet cacophonous exhibit of 21st-century artworks that exploit the cerebral game's sculptural and conceptual possibilities. Drawing on chess' militaristic identity, the exhibit abounds with warring audio tracks -- Liliya Lifanova's expertly stitched costumes from an interpretative live performance of the game may hang empty and mute, but video footage of the event booms with moans and growls. Barbara Kruger's Untitled (Do you feel comfortable losing?) chess set is literally chatty: When moved, the game pieces shout everything from insults to metaphysical queries. Diana Thater restages a famous 1920 match between chess showman Georges Koltanowski and conceptual artist/chess enthusiast Marcel Duchamp (the artist won): Two female chess novices re-enact the moves on four video screens, the action and audio twitching at a frenetically sped-up pace, the twice-bisected image nearing abstraction. Looking on as a mute foil, Yoko Ono's all-white chess board, Play It by Trust, suggests there's an antidote to all the heady antagonism: communication and collaboration. And St. Louis native Tom Friedman offers another pacific salve: sheer absurdity. His fantastically bizarre and meticulous set — composed of 32 unique pieces that come in such divergent forms as a can of Michelob and a booger — confounds any attempt at studied fastidiousness, even as it creates the most impossible game of all. Out of the Box is on display through Sunday, February 12, 2012. The gallery at the World Chess Hall of Fame (4652 Maryland Avenue; 314-367-9243 or is open Wednesday through Sunday.
Wednesdays-Sundays. Starts: Oct. 20. Continues through Feb. 12, 2011

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