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Review: Pause to consider 'What Pictures Want'

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 12, 2010 - Another great show at the tiny PSTL Gallery: Daniel McGrath's "What Pictures Want" combines conceptual art sobriety with razor-sharp humor directed squarely at the self-important, snooty high art crowd.

Eleven black canvases feature white text statements worth jotting down for future use, such as "Many exhibitions are poorly labeled because they are without purpose and therefore cannot be labeled," or "You are over informed and undereducated" (that one's written in black), or -- a special favorite -- "I don't deal with artists, just the work and it's a good thing too I've spent plenty of time with artists and they are a bloody pain in the arse."

The text comes from statements McGrath has found in print and altered slightly to sound as though they are coming directly from the paintings themselves. He treats the paintings as living beings, in reference to W.J.T. Mitchell's theory on images, which gives this exhibition its title.

An addendum to the show are three small works, two in clay, and a bottle of "Really Cold Water" that was hand drawn from Antarctic Glaciers for McGrath's use, a parody of the consumerist quest to own the purest version possible of any product (quadruple-distilled vodka, anyone?)

The show is a little snarky and thoroughly informed by the very art that it sends up; but isn't that what you want out of a show like this?

Ivy Cooper, a professor of art at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, is the Beacon's art critic.