– Art Review –
PHOTO: “Woman Under Arrest” is one of the art works in “The Biennial” at Gallery 210.  Photo by Hannah Sorkin for The Current 2014 ©


By Albert Nall, Staff Writer for The Current

“The Biennial” is an exhibition by members of the University of Missouri-St. Louis’ faculty in the Art and Art History Departments, presenting new work by the professors is at Gallery 210. The exhibit,which opened October 25 and runs through December 6, features a wide collection of works in varied media, including sculpture, graphic design, drawing, painting, photography and mixed media.

A creative website by Gretchen Schisla is an example of the concept art that is on display. Schisla is the co-designer of the textbook that accompanies the display. A couple of works by Michael Berle are oils on panels that is supplemented by a mesmerizing voice cartridge. Jeff Sippel is a frequent exhibitor. He has some works that are done in monotype, which is a form of printmaking. The process of etching and transferring images on a plate to be eventually reproduced using a printing press is a labor that benefits from Sippel’s deft skill on such recent works as “Champaign,” “Gray Matter” and “Mas Verde.”

Other works reflect some stirring themes that have received recent press. A poster in silkscreen by Jennifer McKnight, pays tribute to the UMSL 50th anniversary jubilee with an emphasis on news making themes and UMSL professors who advocate on them. The themes of McKnight’s silkscreen posters range from gay and bi-sexuality, to African Studies to Criminology.

One striking piece in the exhibit that represents a topic generating great interest, is “Woman under Arrest,” a work in steel by Phillip Robinson. The statuette done by Robinson in 2007 appears to be an ominous precursor to the recent unrest in Ferguson. Robinson’s work echoes the “hands-up, don’t shoot” chant being heard around Ferguson and around the world. It is a groundbreaking work that may lead the social discourse on incarceration, race and gender.

Another enticing work in the faculty collection is “Sachi con Figas” by Luci McMichael, which is done in bronze and wood. “Sach con Figas” is based on a subtle and enthralling convergence of history and literature. The figas is a brooch and a symbol of fertility, along with an aura of sexual intimacy. Depending on the legend, the figas embodies everything from karma to a protection from evil spirits. “Sach con Figas” was inspired by the Saci Pierě, a mythological character in Brazilian and African traditions. The “Sachi con Figas” is indeed a breathtaking and intricate relic that is assembled with 1,200 figas.

A work by Dan Younger, “Some Kids,” is a series of photos that takes photography and social media to a level well beyond advances in digital technology and the scope of contemporary arts. Younger allows the child subjects to narrate the scene by strongly highlighting their interactions with physical symbols. Objects in the photo collection shine like a prism. “Some Kids” definitely expands the circle of exhibits on an international level and represents Americana to the next generation of art critics.

The works by the art professors at UMSL are typically exhibited locally, regionally and internationally. Also, they have received significant honors in the arts community. The faculty artists have received grants from the National Endowments for the Arts and the Ford Foundation. The exhibits at Gallery 210 are funded jointly by the Regional Arts Commission and the Missouri Arts Council. Additional assistance for projects comes from the Center for the Humanities at UMSL. Gallery 210 hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. For more information about Gallery 210, call (314) 516-5976 or visit its website http://gallery210.umsl.edu. You can also follow Gallery 210 on Facebook.

© The Current 2014