Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Immediate Touch of making art

The big-ticket item at last year's Experiential Auction was "The artist Kevin Belford paints your pet as The Mona Lisa." This year, Kevin is in the middle of several book deals, as artist and writer, and just doesn't have the time to meticulously paint anyone's pet as Napoleon (maybe next year - as Napoleon or Abe Lincoln).

But we do have a number of art experiences on auction, and I'll write about them one by one as an excuse to revel in art, which is good for the soul, or so I once read as an inscription on the back of The Saint Louis Art Museum.

The St. Louis artist and musician Tony Renner has donated an experience based around the Art Museum. I thought to ask him after starting to follow his blog, where he was documenting a class he was taking at SLAM. Students were assigned various points of close contact with The Immediate Touch special exhibition (closing this Sunday!), then prodded to make new work reflective of new approaches or techniques learned from the show.

The subtitle of Immediate Touch is "German, Swiss and Austrian Drawings from Saint Louis Collections, 1946 to 2007." Artists featured include Anselm Kiefer, Sigmar Polke and A.R. Penck. I've not been down there to see the show yet (!), but I will before it closes this Sunday, and you all should know the special exhibits at SLAM that cost cash money to see are free on Fridays. Yeah, I'll see you there Friday.

The picture I have posted above, poached from Tony's Photobucket site, is from Class #3 at the Art Museum devoted to the art of the collage. He describes his process well on that there blog:

"I had hoped to find a news-magazine to get some photos from but all that was at hand was a Sotheby's catalog of African folk art. It was cool but I couldn't see how I could use it until I came across the portrait of the guy who had collected it. I feel bad that I was more interested in doing the work than taking notes so I didn't make a note of the collector's name. In an instant, I decided to put a weapon in his hand and to cover the collectors face except for his eyes with a ritual mask. I found a nice object that I could tear up and use to cover the text that appeared on at the bottom of the collector's portrait. Finally, I found the "mug shots" of the Sotheby's staff. It felt wrong to have their names appear so I cross them out with India ink and then decided to further their anonymity by blacking out their eyes."

He titled it: "Red Sotheby's Faction."

"As I was finishing the piece," he writes, "I realized that it could be read as a statement about the appropriation of African folk art by the western art establishment. The mug shots reminded me of the Baader-Meinhof group of the 1970's, who carried out a series of kidnappings and killings in Germany. As I told the instructor, if I were the members of the Sotheby's staff in my collage I would be very frightened."

Tony got so engaged in the experience of the show up at the Art Museum, and in the experience of testing himself as an artist in response to the show, that he seemed like a natural donor for The Experiential Auction. The experience he has agreed to donate is "Local artist Tony Renner tours you around the modern art collection of The Saint Louis Art Museum and makes a painting in consultation or collaboration with you that you get to keep." Bidding starts at $10 and is open now; just drop a Comment, below, or email me at brodog [@]

The 2008 Experiential Auction will be held 5-8 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 21 at Atomic Cowboy, 4140 Manchester Ave. Procceds will benefit Poetry Scores, a St. Louis-based arts org that translates poetry into other media, such as music, paintings, film and lived experiences.

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