Past Perfect, Present Tense

Past Perfect image by Ryan Fabel

The Des Lee Gallery presents Past Perfect, Present Tense, an exhibition of art works by the twelve students enrolled in the eponymous course offered in Fall of 2009 at Washington University in St. Louis, taught by Lauren F. Adams.

The interdisciplinary course “Past Perfect, Present Tense” investigates the use of historical research as a strategy within contemporary artistic practice. The structure of the course follows the trajectory of delving into one archival topic, or set of topics, and making a series of works in that arena. Henry L. and Natalie E. Freund Visiting Artist Allison Smith interacted with the class over several sessions, including student involvement in a collaborative sewing bee and a provisional photo studio to assist in the production of Smith’s work. This mode of research and production is inspired by the art works Smith will be producing for her exhibition Needle Work at the Mildred Lane Kemper Museum in the spring of 2010.

This course invited students to select a research topic and create a variety of works using various media strategies, culminating in final projects resulting from semester-long explorations. Participants in the course include a range of BFA and MFA painters, performance artists, sculptors and photographers. The semester’s thematic sections were broken into “The Visible Collection,” “Making Meaning,” and “Performativity and Process.” Shadowing Smith’s studio practice has allowed the students to see up close and firsthand the opportunities and challenges of this working method.

Examples of the students’ research include investigations of the 1904 Olympic games, the history of television and media violence, the evolution of electron technology, underground cultural ephemera, handwriting’s relationship to painting, and Bloody Island, a historic no-mans-land in the Mississippi river. The students interviewed professors and academic archivists, and their research took them to the Missouri Historical Society, newspaper archives, the Museum of Broadcast Communications, the frescoes of Pompeii and beyond. In every case, the importance of diversity and depth of research is key. This approach is evident in the final works on display at the Des Lee Gallery.

Student artists exhibited in Past Perfect, Present Tense: John Early, Virginia Eckinger, Ryan Fabel, Danielle Kantrowitz, Zak Marmalefsky, Emily Moorhead, Kathryn Neale, Katherine Osburn, Donna Smith, Alexander Vitti and Bridgette Zou. The exhibition is organized by Assistant Professor Lauren F. Adams and the Des Lee Gallery. Join us at the Des Lee Gallery for the opening reception Saturday, December 12, 2009 from 6-9 pm. The exhibition runs from December 11 – 13, 2009.

The Des Lee Gallery is located at 1627 Washington Ave., St. Louis, Missouri 63103. 314.621.8735. Gallery hours are Friday through Sunday from 1 until 6 pm.

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