Nothing brands this fall's visual-arts season more remarkably than the fact that it's taking place alongside the presidential election. And whether or not the hardcore gore of our self-cannibalizing government is too obscene to hold anyone's attention, the election's proceedings and ultimate results will inescapably fling a little mud, blood and bitten flesh on us all. This, too, is timely — for Halloween. Beyond that, the season marks the traditional beginning of the arts calendar year, so institutions re-emerge after several languid summer months with a fresh sense of themselves. Here's what a few of them have come up with.
The Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis goes the political route with three solo exhibitions opening on Friday, September 7: Leslie Hewitt: Sudden Glare of the Sun, Rosa Barba: Desert – Performed and Jonathan Horowitz: Your Land, My Land: Election '12. Hewitt, a New York-based artist, will present sculptural photographs that incorporate politically trenchant imagery, while the Berlin-based Barba will install sculptural films that investigate the American desert as a cinematically fabled and policy-disputed locale. The New York-based Horowitz, meanwhile, will create a bipartisan fantasia in the museum's lobby, coloring one side red and the other blue, and airing nonstop CNN and Fox News (in their respective color zones) until, ultimately, a portrait of the newly elected president is hung. Debate-night parties will be hosted in the museum's performance space.
Down the street from CAM, the Sheldon Art Galleries will host the first major local retrospective of St. Louis-born caricaturist best known for his willowy line drawings of New York jazz and theater glitterati, Al Hirschfeld, with Al Hirschfeld's Jazz and Broadway Scrapbook, also opening Friday, September 7. That same evening, Craft Alliance at Grand Center presents the group show CLASP, curated by local artist Robert Longyear, in which seven artists engage jewelry-making as a sculptural form based in connectivity.
Later in the season, Saint Louis University Museum of Art presents Wildwood Press. The exhibition, which opens Friday, September 28, includes works created via Maryanne Simmons' celebrated local fine-art press of the same name. Then, on Friday, November 16, the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts will unveil its new exhibition, The Progress of Love. This ambitious and compelling group exhibit will examine, yes, the inscrutable phenomenon of love as it's defined and embodied in yet another profoundly misunderstood subject: contemporary Africa. Such a theme and global purview suggests a poignant effort toward expanding art's social conscience and, again, feels like a vote.
Elsewhere in the city, Good Citizen Gallery will focus on sculpture in two successive solo shows. University of Alabama professor Craig Wedderspoon will display a suite of seemingly woven cast-iron works, Biotextural Landscapes, opening Friday, August 31.
At White Flag Projects, another solo exhibit of sculpture opens on Saturday, September 8, by the New York-based artist B. Wurtz. Noted for his way of translating diaphanous consumer refuse (such as plastic bags) into minimalist, formal sculpture, the artist will present a selection of recent work.
The Screwed Arts Collective — which consists of nine local graffiti artists — will create a massive wall-size, chess-themed mural at the World Chess Hall of Fame. Called Screwed Moves, the piece will be viewable in production beginning Thursday, September 13 (to open on Friday, September 28). The Saint Louis Art Museum, meanwhile, focuses on the Renaissance, with two overlapping exhibitions, Drawn in Copper, Italian Prints in the Age of Barocci and Federico Barocci: Renaissance Master, (opening Friday, September 14, and Sunday, October 21, respectively) devoted to printed and painted works by the sixteenth-century Italian artist Federico Barocci and his peers.
Moving just outside the city limits, two group exhibitions, opening Friday, September 14, at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum — Notations: Contemporary Drawing as Idea and Process and Design With the Other 90%: CITIES — will no doubt prove engaging. The first explores the tradition of drawing as practiced by modern and contemporary artists, while the other — a traveling exhibit originally organized by the Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum — focuses on architectural strategies and projects tailored to developing economies.
This year's installment of the annual Exposure exhibition series at Gallery 210, which celebrates the work of notable local artists, will be titled Re-Domestic and feature new work by Heather Corley, Deb Douglas and Gina Alvarez. It opens Thursday, August 23. Laumeier Sculpture Park also focuses on local talent with its annual Kranzberg Exhibition Series, opening Saturday, October 27, which will feature artist Juan William Chávez and his recent community-driven ventures and exploration of the former site of the Pruitt-Igoe housing project.