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Stumbling in the Dark, Gladly

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For the blind man in the dark room looking for the black cat that isn’t there is an unwieldy title, but it tells you everything you need to know about the new group exhibition at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (3750 Washington Boulevard; 314-535-4660 or www.contemporarystl.org) -- maybe it tells you too much. The general idea of art is that art is important because it explains the world in a non-verbal fashion; you intuit what that artist means from his or her work. This leads to quite a bit of critical interpretation, intellectual fortress-building and the eventual disinterest of potential viewers who feel that strenuous mental gymnastics are a prerequisite for gallery-going. For the blind man … posits that the most important element of art appreciation is curiosity: There is no meaning other than what you ascribe to a piece or find in the moment of viewing it. And so we get such works as Marcel Broodthaers’ Musee d’Art Moderne, Departement des Aigles, a recording of his 1970 interview with his cat, wherein he asks the cat to explain what a painting means. There’s also Flash in the Metropolitan, the Nashashibi/Skaer 16mm film of a tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art lit by strobe light, so that only snippets of the art are visible; the work is still intriguing, even if we’re not seeing the whole picture. For the blind man … encourages you to embrace art because there are some things you can’t explain -- nor should you have to try. The show opens with a free public reception at 7 p.m. Friday, September 11, and the work remains up through Sunday, January 3, 2010. Regular gallery hours are Wednesday through Sunday; admission is $3 to $5, but free on Wednesday and Saturday.
Wednesdays-Sundays. Starts: Sept. 11. Continues through Jan. 3, 2009

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