A preview of The Papercut Haggadah

Today’s edition (2/23/2012) of the St. Louis Jewish Light includes an article previewing MOCRA’s new exhibition, Archie Granot: The Papercut Haggadah. The article includes comments from artist Archie Granot, and collector Max Thurm (who with his wife Sandra commissioned the work), along with a few framing remarks from yours truly. Read the article here.

Archie Granot
Archie Granot

Granot (pictured) was commissioned to present the story and rituals of the Passover Seder in the traditional medium of papercutting. The resulting 55 pages employ intricate geometric and abstract shapes and calligraphic text to create an exquisite and unique version of the Haggadah.

Granot expresses his hope that viewers will be inspired by a labor of love that reflects much thought and introspection. “The creation of a Haggadah for Passover is the ultimate dream for any artist creating Jewish art,” he said. “I have been lucky in that I have achieved this dream.”

We’re putting the finishing touches on the installation, and look forward to welcoming visitors to immerse themselves in Granot’s realization of the Haggadah. Learn more about The Papercut Haggadah on MOCRA’s website.

— David Brinker

“Miserere” reviewed

Art critic Jessica Baran considers MOCRA’s 2011 presentation of the complete series of Georges Rouault’s Miserere et Guerre in the May 4, 2011, issue of the Riverfront Times. Baran notes that in this set of prints, “Rouault is utterly his own — creating a strange, wrought world of Christ figures, carnival clowns, kings and weary skeletons cloaked in every black shade.”

You can read the review here.

— David Brinker, Assistant Director

James Rosen reviewed

James Rosen: The Artist and the Capable Observer is the featured exhibition in this week’s “Art Capsule” reviews in the Riverfront Times. Critic Jessica Baran remarks on Rosen’s distinctive oil and wax/oil emulsion technique that results in “a work that straddles abstraction and realism.”

–David Brinker, Assistant Director

remarks on his distinctive oil and wax/oil emulsion technique that results in “a work that straddles abstraction and realism.”

A review, at l(e)ast

As noted recently, we are pleased to have received a review of MOCRA’s James Rosen exhibition in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. We are truly grateful for the coverage, but sadly, such coverage in our local daily newspaper is now the exception rather than the rule.

The visual arts community in St. Louis, like those in many other markets, has been affected by the seismic shifts in the media terrain over the past five or so years. The accustomed ecosystem, in which reviews not only stimulate public interest in an exhibition (and hopefully contribute to the public discourse about art), but also lend credibility to a venue and help attract artists and lenders–this ecosystem has been disrupted, and as happens in the natural world, the viability and adaptability of the art community are not entirely certain, yet are certainly not entirely without hope.

On the downside, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch no longer has a full-time visual arts critic, although it does still periodically publish exhibition previews and reviews. (This observation is not an indictment of the talented staff members from other disciplines and stringers who contribute these previews and reviews when they are given the opportunity.) Notably, its weekend events supplement rarely includes mention of any but the biggest of blockbuster exhibitions.

The weekly Riverfront Times, which once allotted space for full-length reviews, now limits itself to “capsule” reviews which don’t allow for much more than a quick summary of what is on display. This is a shame, since reviewer Jessica Baran is a perceptive and eloquent critic.

On the upside, there are still quarters of the St. Louis media committed to in-depth consideration of the visual arts, including independent radio station KDHX-FM’s “Arts Interview” programSt. Louis Public Radio (KWMU-FM)’s weekly “Cityscape” program, and periodic features on PBS affiliate KETC’s “Living St. Louis.” The West End Word still publishes regular exhibition reviews.

We’ve also seen some new outlets and initiatives in recent years, some from institutions and others from grassroots origins. The online-only St. Louis Beacon posts regular visual art reviews from Ivy Cooper. Two collaborative ventures include the Saint Louis Art Map blog (full disclosure: MOCRA is a founding partner), and the experiment (ever to be repeated?) of bringing in a visiting art critic to produce long-form reviews of several exhibitions at various venues, sponsored jointly by the Beacon, KETC, and KWMU. Boots Contemporary Art Space has given us five issues of the biannual Boot Print (here’s hoping that we’ll see more). Art St. Louis sponsors a blog that gives special attention to local and regional artists, while Art-Patrol St. Louis keeps current on exhibition openings and events.

While it’s an “older” format by social media standards, special mention must be made of the Critical Mass listserv, which has been going strong since February 2000. It’s an outgrowth of an earlier collaborative effort that produced a print gallery guide for several years. Beyond being a place to announce exhibitions and events, Critical Mass has seen some thoughtful, sometimes heated discussion about the state of the visual arts in the St. Louis region.

Other sources, while not focused exclusively on the visual arts, have been consistent in bringing attention to the gallery and museum scene. Where Magazine – St. Louis regularly highlights exhibitions in the area for the benefit of out-of-town visitors.  Sauce Magazine makes room in each monthly issue to feature at least one or two current exhibitions, while St. Louis Magazine‘s Look/Listen blog keeps tabs on the visual arts. Culture Surfer has established a niche by presenting video content, including artist interviews. A number of arts calendar sites help get the word out about exhibition openings, notably the Regional Arts Commission’s Arts Zipper.

St. Louis has a toehold in the blogosphere* as well. There are institutional blogs, such as the shared blog of Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis and the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, Kemper Art Museum News, and the White Flag Projects blog. On the (all-too-neglected) Illinois side of the river, the Schmidt Art Center launched a blog this past March. Of course, you are presently reading MOCRA’s own blog. There are a number of individual bloggers covering the St. Louis art scene as well.

This roll call is not an exhaustive survey of the current terrain–I haven’t even tried to explore the role of Facebook, Twitter, and other entrants in the field of social media. Feel free to mention additional resources in the comments section to this post.

At present, though, I find it encouraging that many people from varied points of origin on the visual arts spectrum are venturing into the void left by the Post-Dispatch and other media heavyweights. Institutions like MOCRA wonder what will emerge as the new “measuring sticks” of (professional) critical appraisal, and whether they will help to stabilize the arts ecosystem. At the same time, the atomization of arts criticism and discussion has opened the floor to previously unheard voices and given those voices much wider reach than they ever could have had previously. Hopefully that bodes well for renewed interest and engagement in, and moral and financial support for, the visual arts in the St. Louis region.

— David Brinker, Assistant Director

* The term “blogosphere” is credited to a much loved and much missed member of the St. Louis arts community, the late Brad Graham. It’s a shame his other suggestion, “blogmos,” didn’t catch on instead.

James Rosen exhibition reviewed

MOCRA’s exhibition James Rosen: The Artist and the Capable Observer, was reviewed in the Sunday, October17, 2010, edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Reviewer Sarah Bryan Miller notes the “mysterious and lingering” effect of Rosen’s wax and oil/wax emulsion paintings. She also touches on the central implication of the exhibition’s title: “James Rosen’s paintings make demands on the observer’s time: time of contemplation, time for consideration, time for appreciation.”

We hope that you will take the time to read the review, and to visit the exhibition.

–David Brinker, Assistant Director

MOCRA moves into the summer

Here at MOCRA we have recently closed our encore presentation of the Good Friday exhibition. As with its first presentation in 2009, we have been impressed with the positive public and critical response. We’re particularly pleased that we seem to have established a museum environment in which visitors can comfortably consider the art across a whole gamut of approaches, from art appreciation to intimate theological reflection or prayer.

We are also gratified that two articles about the exhibition appeared in print in recent months. The first, penned by MOCRA’s Director, Terrence Dempsey, S.J., appeared in America magazine, and discussed the genesis and aims of the exhibition, particularly in the context of Ignatian spirituality. The second, a review of the exhibition by Jessica Murphy, appeared in the British publication The Tablet. Murphy shared her responses to the exhibition, including the insights inspired by certain key artworks. If you haven’t had a chance to read these articles yet, you can find them on the MOCRA website.

Props to the SLU grounds crew for a great makeover of the landscaping around MOCRA!

MOCRA will be closed to the public during the summer months as we attend to some much-needed in-house upkeep. While not all the details are in place yet, I can reveal that our fall exhibition, opening in mid-September, will explore the work of painter James Rosen. Stay tuned for more details.

In the meantime, we invite you to explore the MOCRA website. We’ve been continually updating and expanding the site. For instance, we recently completed a catalog of links for almost all of the artists who have been exhibited at MOCRA. We’ve also been updating and enhancing the pages for previous exhibitions. For instance, check out the pages for DoDo Jin Ming: Land and Sea, or Gorky: The Early Years – Paintings and Drawings, 1927 – 1937. Soon we also hope to be adding additional images and installation views from past exhibitions.

Finally, if you are not already subscribed to MOCRA’s e-mail newsletter, we encourage you to sign up. It’s our best way for providing you with timely updates about what is happening at MOCRA.

— David Brinker, Assistant Director