I always enjoy the exhibitions at the CAM because they often introduce me to artists I am unfamiliar with. And if I do know the artist, after visiting I often learn something new and look at his/her oeuvre in a whole new light. While I was pleasantly surprised by the main exhibition of David Noonan’s works, I really found the video work by Aneta Grzeszkowska to be my favorite piece.
In 2008’s Headache, a naked woman stands in profile and the viewer watches as she lights a fuse. As the flame gets closer to her mouth, the vantage point changes to a head on shot and then, POW. She explodes. (We don’t see anything but the noise tells us all we need to know.) In the next shot a disembodied arm seems to reawaken and search for other parts. Over the course of the eleven minute video it encounters another arm, a leg, another leg and then those four come across a head that they poke and prod, eventually slapping and punching the head until it submissively passes back into unconsciousness. They then drag it back to a torso that sits alone. Once a whole human again, the arms and legs move however, they are ironically in each other’s places on the human body. Choreographed like a ballet, the work is discomfiting, but also humorous at times as the appendages search for homes. The unsettling score comes from Krzysztof Penderecki who is best known for his music in the films The Shining and The Exorcist. This work as well as others by Grzeszykowska “explores the complicated relationship between personal identity and bodily existence in contemporary society.”
Australian artist David Noonan’s recent work fills the main galleries of the CAM. Noonan’s work explores how alternative forms of theater and subjects are often engaged in ritualistic activities that do not have context. He is interested in “how photography and other visual media define the way we experience and understand cultural and historical events.”
In one gallery, screen-printing is used to layer black and white photographs onto oddly shaped sections of linen and other fabrics. These works are influenced by Japanese Boro textiles and have a wonderful tactile quality. They have a real Asian feel. One work reminded me of a geisha or a character in a Beijing opera. In another side gallery, smaller collages and works on paper are on view and in the third space, cutout figures in various poses help to make the viewer feel like part of the performance. I noticed that he repeats figures by flipping images 180 degrees and many of the works have dotted lines radiating out from the bottom corners adding a decorative element to the works (taken directly from the patterns of Boro textiles). I found it interesting that all of his work has a 70s feel to it. He likes to keep the material anonymous so that it is mysterious and hard to place.
CAM is located in Grand Center, just west of the Fox Theater, at the corner of Spring Avenue and Washington Boulevard. For additional information, call 314.535.4660 or visit CAM St. Louis.