Saturday, February 2, 2013
The Kind Artists opened a group show at Mad Art last night. I follow most of these artists pretty closely in social media, so sort of thought I knew where they all are. That's not a bad thing about social media, getting to share your friends' artistic process very casually.
So I knew Jay Alan Babcock has been doing repetitive, detailed drawings and paintings based on school Yearbook photos from a more socially conformist era. That didn't make his work any less exciting to see in person and to scale, since a couple of these paintings are just enormous. I found myself transported mentally to some offbeat public space, like a gym at a monied private school or a cafeteria at Google corporate, where someone had the sense to invest in one of these giant pieces and leave it standing there in front of people all the time.
I have seen Deb Douglas' work in person fairly recently (for an overcommitted parent like me) so knew what to expect from her, but enjoyed seeing a long line of these pleasing mixed-media pieces she is doing that mix archival images with her own drawings and then titled in ways that often introduce a conceptual component. I was personally gratified to see her showing again my favorite in this line of hers, "We have no quinces," which Deb did for the Poetry Scores invitational to Embirikos. That piece is the first sight when you enter the show, so I felt a part of this kindly community.
I also get out of the house to see Jeremy Rabus shows better than most, and he engages with his process fairly openly in social media, so I wasn't surprised by his part of the show either, but was again delighted to see it played out to scale. He had what must have been dozens of small, oddly shaped, brightly colored paintings arranged in a scattered way on half of Mad Art's long western wall. I thought of Guided By Voices and all of their endless, brilliant two-minute songs, all of them somehow different than the others -- and beautiful -- no matter how many you hear. Jeremy's little paintings were like that.
With Timothy Meehan, I was less sure what to expect. What I see from Tim's work at a glance on social media is all over the map, and I don't think I have seen a good grouping of his art in person before last night. I just loved his work in this group show. These blunt paintings had compositional elements from some of my favorite printmakers -- Melina Rodrigo kept coming to mind. His titles tried a variety of conceptual approaches to what seemed to my eye a very connected body of work with primitive, natural, earthen patterns and tones. If I had $400 to spend on art and a wall to hang something on, I was a Meehan buyer last night.
I didn't know what to expect from Amy Bautz either. I have known her for years and collaborated with her for the first time when we were both what I would now call "kids," but we haven't been as closely connected in recent years and, from what I have observed, she seems to change things up a lot as an artist. In this show she has intricate, eccentric drawings of natural forms, though when she happens to be drawing a natural form that hangs suspended from a plastic clip, the plastic clip gets the same electric, kooky, adoring attention from her.
The scale of Mad Art, I appreciated last night, is great for a small group show, because everyone really gets to stretch out. In their own ways, each of these artists stretched out in this ample space and aggressively demonstrated what they were up to. That's exciting of itself, but there is the added dimension that they are pointedly doing this as a group with a brand, as it were, that suggests kindred spirits who are kindly disposed. That suits me, and the St. Louis creative community, just fine.
They even went so far as to pose for a really handsome portrait, in matching suits and obviously made-up for the camera. They treat themselves as the early Beatles. And why not? Why should musicians be the only artists who get that unique kick that comes from being in a band?
Imaged, poached from Jay Alan Babcock's online photos, is I think one of the pieces in this show.