ST. LOUIS.- The St. Louis Art Museum presents the exhibit Remote Viewing (Invented Worlds in Recent Painting and Drawing). In adapting a term used to describe the psychic spies, or remote viewers, hired by the CIA in the 1960s, this exhibition begins with a reference to the limitations of technology and the power of creative minds. The notion of remote viewers as intuitive mappers of space and experiences is present in the work by eight artists featured in the exhibition.
These contemporary artists share a goalto wrestle the chaos and information overload of our daily lives into a highly personal narrative of invented worlds. In contrast to artists of the recent past, these artists absorb the data of everyday life into their personal maps. They draw on systems such as science, technology, religion, even personal mythologies, and incorporate them into a subjective world that exists somewhere between abstraction and representation.
Alexander Ross begins a painting by sculpting a clay model of organic shapes, which he then photographs. He edits and collages the photographs to create a source image for a painting. The resulting paintings look like detailed renderings of living organic forms, but not necessarily forms found in the natural world. These unidentifiable forms suggest anything from cells to deep-sea vegetation or even algae-covered rocks. Ross considers his work a fusion of biology and abstract visual thinking.
Ati Maier paints jewel-toned frontiers onto tiny squares of Manila paper, confusing the grand scale of her imagery with the intimate nature of viewing her work. The fantastical and exuberant imagery of works like Drop Your Gun come together as a montage of imagined galaxies, dream-like worlds full of possibility. In Le Vent Nous Portera, swirling white galaxies rotate around kaleidoscopic black holes, while planets are held in compositional tension.
Several motifs recur frequently in Carroll Dunhams work, including rotating planetary bodies and small sketches of densely abstracted landscapes. In his paintings, Dunham creates a topsy-turvy, cartoonish other-world. Frequently violent, his compositions often pivot around a large central form. The amorphous main figure floats in empty space, suspended in a mess of seemingly casual doodles. Dunhams aggression is often humorous. In Solar Eruption, a giant yellow sun is ringed with menacing protrusions.
The idea of art as a window into an artists personal world is celebrated in the travel-related creations of Franz Ackermann. His Mental Mapssmall, postcard-like drawingslink the artists emotions and perceptions to recollections of the places he has been. In works such as Untitled (mental map: Lost IV), Ackermann shifts between abstraction and representation, presenting a plan of an urban landscape. Patterns of slick, bold, psychedelic color reveal figurative images of a city and an abstract map composed of dots, dashes, and lines.
Julie Mehretus panoramic canvases are layered references to structural systemsmaps, plans, charts. In Immanence, fragments of calligraphic landscapes drift apart from each other as if compelled by a force inherent to the composition. A Baroque sensibility is evident in her Caravaggio-inspired painting entitled The Seven Acts of Mercy, in which Mehretu layers swift diagonals, expansive gestures, and compressed spaces over an architectural grid. Like the Italian master, she condenses a complex narrative into a map of worlds past and present, real and imagined.
Matthew Ritchie takes the language of science as a point of departure in his four-part series The Measures. Ritchie posits a direct relationship between thought and matter, creating complex diagrams to explore the origins of the universe. His use of oceanic forms appears also in the swirls of his wall drawings and in The Universal Cell, a sculpture that Ritchie describes as a three-dimensional drawing. Ritchies jungle of primordial imagery reflects his belief in the interpretative character of both art and science.
Steve DiBenedetto uses the octopus as both a symbol of creative energy and as a form to structure his compositions, which often refer to vortices, radials, and other circular modes of organizing space. His imaginary worlds, with their thick webs of paint, disturb as much as they enchant. In the drawing Darkopter, small strokes of indigo-colored pencil render a ghostly image of a helicopter hovering against a marbleized sky. The kaleidoscopic sky thwarts our gaze and fractures our perception of space. Yet, these contrived worlds of fractured space can offer a new mode of perception.
Terry Winterss art explores and charts biological systems and natural processes. Layers of successive markingsat first suggesting a clear image and then receding into a gestural morassembody his method for visualizing natural forces. In Display Linkage, Winters references genetic mapping techniques to create an image of interlaced networks that appear to erupt from the center of the canvas.