– Art Review –PHOTO: Gallery 210 visitors perused and discussed the art in “Exposure 17: Notions of the Grotesque” at the opening on August 23. The exhibit runs through October 11, 2014. Photo by Hannah Sorkin for The Current 2014 ©
By Cate Marquis, A&E Editor for The Current
University of Missouri-St. Louis’ Gallery 210 opened its fall season with the annual “Exposure” exhibit series. “Notions of the Grotesque” features drawings and paintings by artists Travis Lawrence, Heather O’Shaughnessy and Edo Rosenblith. The free exhibit, which opened with a lecture and reception on August 23, runs through October 11.
The title is “Notions of the Grotesque,” but that seems a bit of a misnomer. The images evoke the dark side of three diverse styles of art- medieval, Victorian and graffiti. However, as the exhibit notes point out, the meaning of the word “grotesque” has changed over time. Now it usually means ugly, distorted or repulsive, but the original meaning of the word derived from an Italian word for grotto or cave and referred to frescos on the ceiling of Nero’s unfinished palace that was rediscovered in the 15th century. The title of this exhibit harkens back to that original meaning.
The exhibit is a perfect way to get in the mood for Halloween. As you enter the Gallery A space, you see the works of Travis Lawrence, images that suggest medieval religious art heavy with symbolism and done in dark, ominous tones. Images reoccur throughout the 19 relief prints. Elephants, snakes, skulls, crowns, raindrops or tears, boats, castles and trees appear in intriguing combinations in the various prints, inviting one to puzzle out their meaning. The images evoke woodblock prints, illuminated manuscripts and stained glass windows. The images’ suggestions of hidden meaning are enhanced by the evocative, often Latin-esque, titles like “Axis Mundi.”
The mysterious, dark compositions are laden with the suggestion of myth and meaning. An example is “Exodus,” which features a wooden boat carrying three castle towers with flames sprouting from the windows and perched atop a giant green snake. The snake’s head seems to be confronting the elephant head on the ship’s bow. In the sky above, a hand descends from a stylized cloud with raindrops falling from the downward pointing fingertips.
Next, one encounters the works of Heather O’Shaughnessy. Where Lawrence’s works are presented in plain square wooden frames, all O’Shaughnessy’s works, many untitled, are displayed in elaborate oval frames. The works are bas or high relief works that suggest Victorian cameos, and are also images infused with symbolism. However, these images in oil paint and beeswax are more brightly colored, but still use repeated images like skulls, hands and snakes. O’Shaughnessy presents cut-ways of heads suggesting medical texts, where we see skulls and flowing ropes of color which could mean nerves, blood vessels or snakes. “Forget Me Not” is a stylized image that has the orderly restraint of a cameo pin. Yet, upon closer examination, that image is made up of multiple snakes in green, blue and black, which are intertwining, swallowing or emerging from the mouths of other snakes.
The third artist featured in the exhibit is Edo Rosenblith, whose pieces reference street art, ’60s underground comics and modern printmaking. Rosenblith has the largest work in the exhibit, “The Gathering,” a reversed black and white graffiti-like mural that covers all of one gallery wall. The negative-like images drip white, rather than black, blood and are packed with visual references to violence and pop culture. All Rosenblith’s works in this exhibit seem to have some homage to ’60s underground comics artists, R Crumb in particular. Rosenblith’s other works in this exhibit use comic-like line drawings, but are printed in bright monochrome, such as pink or blue. “Low Spectrum Series” is a succession block print-like image, gouache on wood pane arranged according to the color spectrum.
The style of the three artists varies, but the effect as a whole is eerie, haunting and intriguing. All of which means that a trip to “Exposure 17: Notions of the Grotesque” is a perfect way to get in the mood for Halloween.
© The Current 2014