Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The Making of a Painting at the Contemporary Art Museum; Work in Progress: Barnaby Furnas Creates Large-Scale Painting 'The Last Flood'; VISUAL ARTS

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The Making of a Painting at the Contemporary Art Museum; Work in Progress: Barnaby Furnas Creates Large-Scale Painting 'The Last Flood'; VISUAL ARTS

Article excerpt

The main gallery at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis resembled a construction site on Tuesday night.

A 52-foot-long canvas, painted white with a few garlands of pale red, was propped up from one end to the other, sloping at a 35- degree angle and braced at regular intervals from beneath. To one side stood a bright blue scissors lift, with ladders situated down the painting every few feet. A group of young assistants bearing spray bottles hovered, awaiting instructions.

Around the second-floor balcony stood a mostly young, mostly hip crowd, leaning on the railings with an air of expectancy. They were gathered to see the making of a site-specific painting, on an unusually large scale. "The Last Flood" should be one of the highlights of the museum's spring exhibitions.

Finally, the artist arrived. Clad in plain blue work clothes, Barnaby Furnas, 42, didn't resemble the stereotype of a visual artist; he could have been a lawyer or doctor getting ready to do some work in his garage.

"This will be uneventful," he told the crowd, "unless I slip and go rolling down" the canvas.

Like a priest in some arcane ritual, Furnas instructed his acolytes to spray the canvas with water. As they spritzed, he moved to the top of the canvas and began to pour red paint across the canvas's 10-foot width and down the steep slope.

This is the fourth and last of a series of paintings Furnas has made on the theme of the Red Sea, pouring, spreading and splashing red paint, viewing a crimson flood from the perspective of a Moses. His work is reminiscent of Mark Rothko, with saturated colors in discrete blocks.

As the paint made its way downhill, the assistants kept spraying but added brushes to their repertoire to spread the color. One young woman crawled out on a board suspended from the lift over the canvas, encouraging the paint with her broad brush. …

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