St. Louis & SGC

Ok so I know it’s been a few weeks, but I still think it is worth it to share some highlights from my most recent art adventure.  March 16th through the 19th I journeyed to St. Louis where Washington University hosted the Southern Graphic Council’s (SGC) International Conference.  SGC is the largest printmaking organization in North America thus the conference is a monumental event for contemporary print.  The conference theme this year was Equilibrium which according to the brochure “address[ed] printmaking’s timeless ability to absorb constant change and to balance complementary forces within the shifting landscape of the field”.  While there were some great panels like The (Dysfunctional?) Marriage of Reason and Squalor and From Spit Bite to Stop Motion: How Printmaking Knowledge Translates to Animation I have to say I didn’t attend most of that stuff.  Like always, local artists and art organizations pull out all the stops when a conference is in town so there was enough to see/do without hanging around the Wash U campus.

I have a few favorites from the weekend which include the Evil Prints studio party Thursday night, Cherokee Street gallery hop, Cosign Project “House Coat”, and the Pulitzer Foundation‘s Do Ho Suh installation.

Tom Huck, St. Louis woodcut artist, hosted a plethora of events over the weekend most of which were party related (and why not…all your printmaking buddies visiting at the same time, heck yes there will be a party).  I attended Thursday’s “The Grudge Match: The Dirty Printmakers VS The Bastards of Printmaking”.  He opened his Evil Prints studio to the public, hosted a print exhibition, and demonstrated some interesting printing processes including a teeter-totter powered press (definitely the highlight from that event).

On Friday night various galleries and studios opened their doors on Cherokee Street, an area in South City known for its authentic Mexican restaurants and interesting antique shops.  That night, the streets were transformed into an art fair/block party.  Lining the sidewalks were Cherokee Totems depicting whimsical animal spirits a la Native American artwork from the Northwest Coast made by Wash U students.  Within the three main blocks there were three letter press studios ranging in size and expertise (Paper Boat Studios, All Along Press, and Firecracker Press).  Even shops new to the area put on their arty pants with window displays and wonderfully designed take-aways.  One of my favorite stops was PigSlop, the latest studio/gallery/commune in St. Louis.  The space, located above an Alpaca clothing factory, featured an exhibition of its tenants in various collaborative vignettes and live music all night long.  If you are in town, Cherokee is the place to check out.

The best artwork of the entire trip was Elizaveta Meksin’s “House Coat” project at Cosign.

At the corner of Arsenal and Iowa sits a house, covered in gold chain emblazoned spandex.  There are few windows exposed, a red ladder hangs from one side, and gold flags flap in the wind.  The print design, an appropriated motif from hip-hop culture, both decorates the building surface and creates a bound or constricted feeling.  The craft and execution were impeccable.  This work’s sheer magnitude creates a presence in the site specific, underprivileged community.  The chains can resemble the shackles of slavery, flashy jewelry, or a really gaudy towing chain and while these various readings can cause political tension, it becomes the power of the piece.  It is every artist dream that viewers will see their work and think about it later.  There is no questioning the effectiveness of Meksin’s project.  Not only has the piece created a stir in its neighbors, but it has also generated conversations about public art regulations in St. Louis.  The work was taken down this week so I regret to say that you cannot visit the work yourself.

While St. Louis seems like any other midsized Midwestern City, it was obvious from this trip that the art community is on an up swing.  It is definitely worth a visit.

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