The Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (CAM) announces the opening of its spring exhibition season on January 16, 2015, featuring: Joe Goode, Jesse Clyde Howard, Ulla von Brandenburg, Barnaby Furnas, Toyin Odutola.
Joe Goode traces half a century of selected works by one of America’s most innovative yet under-recognized painters. Often identified with Southern California pop art, Goode ultimately transcends this classification, creating bodies of work with influences ranging from Midwestern iconography and environmental destruction to pop culture and the sublime.
Goode first gained international recognition following his inclusion in Walter Hopps’s seminal exhibition New Painting of Common Objects, organized at the Pasadena Art Museum in 1962. That same year, a key example of Goode’s milk bottle painting series appeared on the cover of Artforum; another commences CAM’s exhibition. In Purple (1961), Goode positions a milk bottle in front of a domineering monochrome canvas, both of which have been applied with layers of purple oil paint. The usually transparent—but now paint-encrusted—bottle foregrounds Goode’s concept of seeing through the picture plane, allowing the viewer to contemplate their own personal and cultural associations within, and through, Goode’s pictorial spaces.
In addition, the exhibition features representative works from several of the artist’s other series, including bodies of work created in large part through acts of destruction. In his Torn Cloud series (1967–76), Goode often uses razor blades to slash through compositions of illusionistic skies, forming jagged clouds. He then layers excised canvases on top of each other to allow viewers to peer through their torn surfaces. Goode’s performative surface violations increase in intensity with his introduction of firearms in the Environmental Impact series (1978–83). In these works, Goode literally draws with shotgun pellets, using a shotgun to blast through the monochromatic surface of the canvas. The bullets pierce and abrade the surface, forming seemingly chance compositions.
Tornado Triptych (1992), a monumental sumi ink painting, calls upon the lived Midwestern experience as source for the work’s iconography. Goode’s tornado paintings depict the progression of formidable natural forces, combining the visual liquidity of ink with nature’s raw energy in an uneasy relationship between beauty and violence. In his more recent body of work, titled Flat Screen Nature (2012–current), Goode uses an industrial hand saw to cut through sheets of painted fiberglass, creating allegorical landscapes of jagged edges and menacing peripheries; the artist’s visual vocabulary comes full circle to represent our environment’s vulnerable sky, land, and sea.
Joe Goode demonstrates how depictions of the sublime can speak to contentious American issues ranging from environmental vandalism to the Second Amendment. CAM’s presentation repositions Goode’s critical importance through an in-depth investigation of his concept of beauty through destruction as intrinsically tied to a Midwestern regional sensibility—milk bottles, big sky, tornadoes, and shot guns, for example—that has never before been explored in depth. In conjunction with the exhibition, CAM will publish a catalog on the artist’s work with an exhibition history and bibliography, a foreword by CAM Executive Director Lisa Melandri, and critical essays by Chief Curator Jeffrey Uslip and art historian Thomas Crow.
Joe Goode (b. 1937, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) lives and works in Los Angeles. Recent solo exhibitions have been held at Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles (2014); Texas Gallery, Houston (2002, 2004, 2010, 2012); Franklin Parrasch Gallery, New York (2009); and Manny Silverman Gallery, Los Angeles (2001, 2005). Goode’s work is included in numerous major museum collections, including the Saint Louis Art Museum; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Minneapolis Institute of Arts; the Victoria and Albert Museum; the Smithsonian Institution; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Whitney Museum of American Art; and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Jesse Howard: Thy Kingdom Come
Thy Kingdom Come is the first comprehensive museum survey of the work of Jesse Clyde Howard, a self-taught artist, evangelist, and keen advocate of “free thought and free speech” who lived and worked in Fulton, Missouri, from the 1940s through the early ’80s. Presenting more than 100 of Howard’s hand-painted signs comprising religious exhortations, political denunciations, and autobiographical details, the exhibition documents the profusion of creative energy reflected in the artist’s dogmatic faith in the First Amendment—rights that were, according to Howard, under threat from the dissemination of communism and progressivism.
In 1903, at the age of eighteen, Howard left home to pursue a variety of temporary occupations on the West Coast. These years of migrant labor exposed him to a system of vernacular signage that would later instruct his principal period of artistic production. In 1944 Howard and his wife, Maude Linton, moved with their five children to “Sorehead Hill,” a twenty-acre compound north of Fulton. Here he began crafting model airplanes, dog carts, and other curiosities before devoting himself to creating signs expounding personal dogmas and cultural perceptions. By the time of his death in 1983, Howard had constructed a landscape of sculptural and textual works surrounding his home and workshops.
Howard’s initial artistic projects of the 1940s were met with condemnation by Fulton, leading some in the community to steal and deface his works, which resulted in subsequent allegations in Howard’s later signage. For Howard, the biblical citations of “the confusion of language” and “the earth divided” found throughout his text are not simply cosmic consequences of human transgression but intimate biographical details that reflect his community’s misunderstanding and rejection. Howard projects the inequities present in Biblical literature onto his neighbors to legitimize the prophetic nature of his “signs and wonders,” and in the process reveals the problematic relationship between self-advertisement and recourse to scriptural authority.
Jesse Howard’s (1885–1983, b. Shamrock, Missouri) signs were first featured in Art in America through Gregg Blasdel’s seminal essay “Grassroots Art in America” (1968). His work was later included in exhibitions at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota (1974) and at the Philadelphia College of Art (1981). His work has been widely discussed in magazines and newspapers across the country and is included in the collections of a number of museums, including the American Folk Art Museum, New York; the American Visionary Arts Museum, Baltimore; the Kansas City Art Institute; and the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.
Ulla von Brandenburg: Wagon Wheel
Wagon Wheel is the first major museum exhibition in the Midwest of Paris-based German artist Ulla von Brandenburg as well as the US premiere of her seven-part quilt series. The presentation comprises the individual works Wagon Wheel, Bear Paw, Drunkard’s Path, Flying Geese, Log Cabin, Monkey Wrench, and Tumbling Blocks (all 2009), suspended in CAM's lobby so that visitors may walk among them. Von Brandenburg created the quilts following an extended research-based stay in Memphis, Tennessee, where she studied the traditions of predominantly female collectives in the American South (such as in Gee’s Bend) as well as the quilt patterns, symbols, and signs used by slaves to communicate coded messages plotting escape through the Underground Railroad in nineteenth-century America. Wagon Wheel demonstrates the singular power of folk vernacular to provide incisive sociopolitical commentary on a landmark episode in American history.
Working in a variety of media, including film, performance, and installation, von Brandenburg builds layered narratives that examine collective cultural experience and the construction of perception. Over the past decade, she has developed a sophisticated practice that uses elements of theater, architecture, and other historical cultural phenomena to investigate the behavioral codes and social mores of the present. Often she employs archaic strategies such as the tableaux vivant, silhouetted figure, or nineteenth-century costuming to further elucidate the connections between historical events and contemporary life.
In her installation at CAM, the artist reimagines the Underground Railroad’s coded visual language. For example, while the exhibition’s eponymous “wagon wheel” quilting pattern traditionally features a wheel surrounded by radiating spokes and ostensibly carried the hidden directive of packing one’s belongings for an epic journey to freedom, von Brandenburg alters it by zooming and then cropping it. The resulting object thus toes the line between sociopolitical imperative and colorful abstraction, obscuring the quilt’s originally subversive function.
Fabricated from old clothing, curtains, tablecloths, and other fabric remnants, the vivid compositions of von Brandenburg’s formidable objects recall folk art aesthetics and the Pattern and Decoration movement as well as the reserved elegance of modernist painting. At CAM, von Brandenburg’s quilts hang throughout the lobby in a staggered arrangement, serving as a route of rehabilitative passage. Each textile thus inhabits a space between utility and possibility, comfort and covertness. Taken on the whole, von Brandenburg’s presentation similarly proposes an experience of resolve and discovery, ultimately offering a larger rumination on history and justice to showcase the resilience of the human spirit in the face of seemingly insurmountable adversity.
Ulla von Brandenburg (b. 1974, Karlsruhe, Germany) lives and works in Paris. Recent solo exhibitions of her work include Secession, Vienna (2013); Kunsthaus Hamburg (2013); The Common Guild, Glasgow (2011); Chisenhale Gallery, London (2009); Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (2008); Stedilijk Museum, Amsterdam (2008); Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art, San Francisco (2008); Kunstverein, Düsseldorf (2007); Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2006); and Kunsthalle Zürich (2006). Recent group exhibitions include 19th Biennale of Sydney: You Imagine What You Desire, Sydney (2014); The Crime was Almost Perfect, Witte de With, Rotterdam (2014); Film as Sculpture, WIELS, Brussels (2013); 1966–79, Institut d’art contemporain, Villeurbanne (2013); and Tools for Conviviality, The Power Plant, Toronto (2012). The artist has been the recipient of numerous awards including the Finkenwerder Art Prize (Airbus-Prize, 2013), Kunstpreis der Böttcherstrasse in Bremen (2007), and Arbeitsstipendium Jürgen-Ponto-Stiftung (2006).
Barnaby Furnas: The Last Flood
The Last Flood, a site-specific, fifty-foot-long painting by New York-based artist Barnaby Furnas will be created on-site during the artist’s two-week residency at CAM in January 2015. This monumental work is the latest in Furnas’s series of Red Sea paintings in which large swaths of saturated pigments and dye gesturally traverse the picture plane and allude to diverse biblical narratives, including the parting of the Red Sea in the Book of Exodus. Here, viewers symbolically assume the subject position of Moses leading the Israelites to freedom as a once-oceanic obstacle becomes a conduit for regeneration and transformation.
Furnas’s Red Sea paintings deploy a variety of postwar art historical motifs, acknowledging the visceral and spiritual color fields of Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko, the agitated gestural patterns of action painting, and the performative ritualism of the Viennese actionists such as Hermann Nitsch. Furnas’s work refigures these historical approaches to painting through a novel approach to abstraction. At this scale, Furnas’s work is both awe inspiring and disquieting; through his use of vibrant color and sweeping brushstrokes, Furnas’s compositions take on an epic quality, engulfing the viewer amidst painterly turbulence and affording both empowerment and apprehension.
The deluge motif is often used to recall the cyclical process of destruction and regeneration. Floods destroy then ultimately reinvigorate ecosystems, and Furnas uses his aesthetic floods of paint to portray a catastrophic event that often occurs before a utopia can be realized. In these paintings Furnas acts as cultural archeologist, gathering—but repurposing—the historical narratives of both the Old Testament and twentieth-century visual art to present his apocalyptic, yet redemptive vision of human society.
Barnaby Furnas (b. 1973, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) lives and works in New York City. Recent solo exhibitions have been held at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (2007, 2012); the Stuart Shave Modern Art, London (2011); The Museum of Contemporary Art Denver (2009); and the Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York (2002, 2003). His work is represented in the permanent collections of The Saatchi Gallery, London; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; Lever House Art Collection, New York and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Barnaby received a BFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York, and a MFA from Columbia University, New York
Toyin Odutola: Untold Stories
Untold Stories is a series of mixed-media drawings—created specifically for this exhibition—by emerging Nigerian-born, New York-based artist Toyin Odutola. Featuring works on paper made with charcoal, pastel marker, graphite, and acrylic ink, the presentation considers the nature of portraiture and storytelling and includes text panels for the first time, bringing the idea of character and narrative to the fore in a new way.
Known for her heavily worked portraits, Odutola’s drawings comprise a variety of mark-making—incorporating short, repeated hatches with sinuous outlines—that build a richly detailed yet simultaneously abstracted image. Figures are surrounded by backgrounds that range from unmarked, pure paper to bold, multifaceted patterns. While the features of Odutola’s sitters are minutely rendered, the dark tones of their faces and bodies create a flattening of the image that borders on silhouette. The resulting likenesses are at once descriptive and emotionally charged.
In Untold Stories, Odutola juxtaposes closeness with distance and the familiar with the foreign. In new diptychs and triptychs, the artist places stand-alone portraits and still lifes with text-only drawings, creating narratives that rest intriguingly between the truthful and tangible and the suspect and elusive. Within the space of the exhibition, the works activate one another, and the audience is invited to create connections, piecing together their own stories.
Toyin Odutola (b. 1985, Ife, Nigeria) lives and works in New York. Recent solo exhibitions include Like the Sea, Jack Shainman Gallery, and Toyin Odutola: The Constant Wrestler, Indiana Museum of Contemporary Art, Indianapolis. Odutola has also exhibited at the Studio Museum in Harlem; the Menil Collection, Houston; and the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, Brooklyn. She was the recipient of the Murphy and Cadogan Fellowship Award in 2011 and her work is in the permanent collections of Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama; the Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii; and the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC. She earned a BA from the University of Alabama in Huntsville and an MFA from California College of the Arts.
Image: Joe Goode, Untitled (Commissioned Work) [Blue], 1979. Oil on canvas (3 parts), 60.5 x 127.5 inches. Collection of the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation.
Ida McCall 314.535.0770 x311 firstname.lastname@example.org
Opening: 16 Jan.
Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis
3750 Washington Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63108
Hours: Wednesday 10am–5pm,