Missouri Visual Artists' Biennial
Where: Art St. Louis, 917 Locust Street (St. Louis Design
When: Through June 30
Hours: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday
THE three artists selected for the 1994 Missouri Visual
Artists' Biennial present completely different work. William
Hawk's paintings are representational; Janet Hughes' sculptures are
conceptual; and Marilyn Mahoney's drawings are abstract. Yet all
three, the two women from Kansas City and Hawk from St. Louis,
incorporate meaning in their work beyond the purely formal.
The Biennial was created by the Missouri Arts Council to
exhibit the work of important state artists throughout Missouri and
to grant them a stipend. Four state arts professionals and one
out-of-state expert chose the winner. This year Amanda Cruz,
assistant curator of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in
Washington, D.C., served as the guest curator and wrote the catalog
Hawk uses oil paint to apply glazes over underpaintings of
forms rendered only in light and shadow. This creates a surface
deep in glowing color and lacking in visible brushwork. His
landscapes and his human figures seem archetypal and expressive of
concepts that can barely be put into words. You will find yourself
drawn in to weird worlds, wondering, "What does this mean?"
In "Passover," 1992, a naked man kneels in front of a naked
woman under a structure of poles, like an extended chuppa, the
canopy used in the Jewish wedding ceremony. Both wear red
blindfolds as they leave paradise to "renegotiate their
relationship," in the words of the artist. Surrounded by flames,
she is the source of energy. As she touches his shoulders, her
power galvanizes him as well. Behind them, in the beautiful
landscape, a small fire spurts up.
What to make of this combination of ideas in one image? Hawk
explains: "The intent is neither to illustrate nor narrate, but
rather to tap some ineffable aspect of our existence."
Janet Hughes combines sculpture, photography and collage to
create works exploring the ironies of self and relationships from a
feminist point of view. She sculpts books, immobile with pages
unturnable, yet freighted with all the associations of reading.
These she covers with collages of phrases and faces. Relying
heavily on the word, she twists and recombines cliches so they take
on new and arresting meaning.
In "Double Vision," for example, her book contains two images
of the same woman. It reads: "She looked in the mirror and saw the
other woman." The other woman generally means the husband's
mistress, but in this case it means the strangeness of the self.
In addition, the book carries two series of resonant phrases -
"double talk, double vision, double meaning, double standard" and
"reflects, reflected, reflective."
While the Hawk paintings are beautiful but strange, the Hughes
works are not lovely to look at. It is their concept, the meanings
they convey, that intrigues the mind. Working counter to the
historical concept of the female as symbol of the beautiful in art,
Hughes focuses on an intellectual interpretation of the feminist
condition. "Woman has been constructed by patriarchal tradition as
a permanent object of scrutiny rather than as a speaking subject,"
Marilyn Mahoney draws huge abstractions of three-dimensional
forms that relate to architecture, industry, motion and music. …