St. Louis saw a little bit of everything the world of art has to offer in 2004. There were grand openings, sparkling gallery shows, a little bit of controversy and a lot of intriguing developments for the future. There were also some detours into Dullsville that we hope will remain isolated incidents. Overall, there was more good than bad. Sound lukewarm? Perhaps it was. But with a little help from the St. Louis art community, 2005 can be better. Art institutions, art programs, art people: Here are your Riverfront Times Resolutions for the new year:
Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis
Resolution for 2005: Keep Up the Great Work!
The Contemporary had a great year in 2004. A particular highlight was the inaugural exhibit of the Great Rivers Biennial, which promises to pump new sparks into the competition and promote camaraderie among our talented pool of local artists. Jill Downen, Adam Frelin and Kim Humphries, the recipients of the 2004 awards, all came through with stunning installations that complemented one another and yet playfully maintained their respective autonomies. The Contemporary followed up with beautiful installations by Michael Lin, Yun-Fei Ji, Polly Apfelbaum, William Pope.L and the current pop triumvirate of Yoshitomo Nara, Laylah Ali and Danny Yahav-Brown. Break out the Champers and congratulate yourself!
Laumeier Sculpture Park
Resolution for 2005: Even More Contemporary Art!
In 2004, the Kranzberg Exhibition Series at Laumeier came through with another winner in Always Almost New, the outstanding show of new works by the unstoppable Daniel Raedeke. Laumeier also weighed in with some of the better shows on view, including Robert Chambers' In Sit U and the Sol LeWitt Indoor/Outdoor exhibition (on view through January 16, 2005). Laumeier is slowly but surely changing from a sleepy, art-in-the-park picnic and field-trip favorite to a contemporary-art destination.
Mad Art Gallery
Resolution for 2005: Don't Give Up (The Media Will Eventually Catch On)!
Mad Art had a bang-up exhibition year, though you wouldn't know it from reading the local arts media (present newspaper, unfortunately, included). Between the jazz concerts, the Art Prom, the Trachtenberg Family Slide Show and Ciné16 nights (including those wacky grade-school film revivals), you might wonder how the former Soulard cop shop had any room in its schedule to show the kind of art that sits still. But there it was: Link, a show of photography with St. Louis connections; the extraordinary exhibition of Eric Nichols' large-scale ceramic creations; and the glass work of Sam Stang and David Levi, backed up by the luminous paintings of Jaime Gartelos (among other shows). Mad Art is taking an unorthodox approach to exhibiting art -- and even if you haven't been paying attention, it's never too late to join this party. Art critics: take heed.
Resolution for 2005: Return to St. Louis!
Really! We're sorry about that Old Courthouse mixup and making you cast your monumental projection on the downtown library instead. Now that we've been portrayed all around the world as a bunch of nervous philistines, the city knows just how important your work is. (It just takes people a while to catch on here; news travels slower in flyover land.) And the feds are much less uptight now -- they even allowed the Gateway Arch to be lit up in pink! So please, give St. Louis a second chance!
Saint Louis Art Museum
Resolution for 2006: Dig Out of Dullsville!
Let's face it: In 2004 the SLAM was the place to go for a nap. While no one would argue against the artistic merit of illustrations from the Missouri Botanical Garden and Books of Hours from the Morgan Library, they certainly didn't set the local art world on fire. Even the normally strong Currents series seemed to get derailed with a Francis Cape installation few could make sense of and the Anna Kuperberg photographs of south St. Louis kids, which were nice to look at but lost some of their sheen after the artist's dismal public talk. And Art of the Osage, for six months? OK, maybe, once. But guess what: In 2005 SLAM graces its halls with Hero, Hawk and Open Hand: American Indian Art of the Ancient Midwest and South. Like many major art institutions, SLAM has to plan farther ahead than just a single year -- so these tips apply to the year after next.