Matts Leiderstam, Once Seen (The Moving Panorama), 2013.
The River Between Us
April 13 – August 25, 2013
Curated by Marilu Knode, Executive Director, Laumeier Sculpture Park
and Joe Baker former Director, Longue Vue House and Gardens
Thomas Easterly, Courtney Egan, Matts Leiderstam, Donald Lipski, Ken Lum, Allan McCollum,
Jenny Price, Alec Soth, Robert Stackhouse, Mel Watkin, Bernard Williams, Keith Williams
St. Louis and New Orleans have many issues of common concern and are physically linked by the mighty Mississippi River. The River Between Us, will showcase works that reflect how the lives of people in both communities have always been intertwined with the river’s role in US history.
The exhibit is the second collaboration between Laumeier and Longue Vue House and Gardens in New Orleans. Marilu Knode, Laumeier’s executive director said, “this is the first time the connections between our two cities have been explored through the visual arts. We’re excitied to expose Laumeier and Longue Vue guests to the artists’ interpretations of the social evolution of St. Louis and New Orleans.”
The River Between Uswill be the fourth in a series of projects Laumeier has organized around the rubric “archaeology of place.” Laumeier’s 105 acres, Longue Vue’s eight acres and Estate Homes at both sites provide unique backdrops to works that focus on the history of land usage. Theexhibition will feature commissions by artists, inspired by the two locations, and historical documents culled from local institutions. Some of the commissioned works will travel to New Orleans in the fall, opening at Longue Vue in September and closing February 2014.
While there are many cities that have grown along the Mississippi, St. Louis and New Orleans are linked through trade and social and cultural exchange dating from the pre-historic Mississippian cultures to today. The series of indoor and outdoor commissioned works responds to the past as the past impacts the future.
Swedish artist Matts Leiderstam,whose work focuses on “seeing” our layered landscapes in new ways, is using as inspiration John Banvard’s text for his 1840s panorama painting of the Mississippi River. In his narrative of the painting, which has been destroyed, Banvard wrote about 38 sites along the river. Leiderstam will also produce, for both sites, a scale model viewfinder based on the performance space Banvard would create for optimal viewing of his panorama.
While Leiderstam connects our two sites conceptually through the river, Canadian artist Ken Lum connects through people. Dred Scott and Homer Plessy were both men of color (as defined then) whose challenge of laws in St. Louis and New Orleans allowing segregation—both before and after the Civil War—gives them an important place in the annals of American history. In his work, The Space Between Scott and Plessy, 2013, Lum memorializes the two men in the arch-traditional form of a three-quarters bronze bust. This work has also been purchased by Laumeier for its permanent collection.
American Bernard Williams’complex history drives his creation of new symbols for the people who have not been part of the American dream. Williams mined the historical landscape, embracing a complex physical and emotional geography by retelling American history for the past 15 years using sculptural forms. Williams is creating a “stock car” sculpture, evoking a conversation referencing speed and consumption. Williams, who is the product of a mix of African American and American Indian ancestry, takes on the sweep of American history. Part of an ongoing series, the artist becomes the designer and maker and the iconic symbol of the car becomes a container for complex historical, political, social and cultural content. The artist’s cutouts mimic decals and sponsor logos of NASCAR inserting his own historical consciousness into the mix (beadwork designs from the Great Lakes tribes and the word LaSalle, the French explorer who claimed the Mississippi River for France).
American Mel Watkindraws on secondhand surfaces because she likes materials that come with a certain amount of embedded history and automatic association. Cartography provides a predetermined structure, a map of history and culture and a window into the mind of the original drafter. For The River Between Us at Laumeier, Watkin has created a “period room” with a drawing installation of river-like trees or tree-like rivers around the windows and doorways, using outdated river navigational charts following the course of the Mississippi from St. Louis to New Orleans. The installation is inspired by the remaining architecture of Laumeier’s 1917 home that is now a museum gallery, with additional formal and literal references to the perfectly preserved rooms of Longue Vue House and Gardens in New Orleans.
Laumeier’s 2013 Residential artist expert is Dr. Jenny Price, an Environmental Historian originally from St. Louis living in Los Angeles. Price was the co-founder of the LA Urban Rangers, a group of artists / activists using the visual and literary vocabulary of the National Parks Service to dig into the history of landscape use. For Laumeier, Price is developing an “alternative” series of nature trail signs to highlight the infrastructure put into place as part of our wresting the land away from its functional status as a watershed for the Meramec and Mississippi rivers.
In addition to the borrowed works is a checklist of artworks, artifacts and objects titled Loans That Don’t Move: a curatorial addendum to The River Between Us exhibition at Laumeier Sculpture Park. Organized by Dana Turkovic, Curator of Exhibitions, these resources function as appendix, bibliography and glossary to the thesis of the exhibition. This “outsourced” show endeavors to move the topics beyond
Laumeier’s105 acres. Loans That Don’t Move encourages an experiential personal trip through the ghostly remnants and relics of our past and in so doing, encourages the viewer to participate in the discovery of the dead souls and creative acts that litter and enliven local geography.
Laumeier Sculpture Park’s mission is to be a living laboratory where artists and audiences explore the relationships between contemporary art and the natural environmentThe River Between Us has received support from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Arts, The Trio Foundation of St. Louis, the Regioanl Arts Commission, Missouri Arts Council and the Arts & Education Council. Mel Watkin’s participation as the 11th Kranzberg exhibition series artist is generously supported by Ken and Nancy Kranzberg.