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Contemporary Art Museum unveils spring exhibition

 Deana Lawson January 27–April 16, 2017
Deana Lawson January 27–April 16, 2017 ";

After a controversial fall season overshadowed by community outrage over Kelley Walker's “Direct Drive,” the Contemporary Art Museum will unveil a spring season this weekend.The museum’s new displays contain many firsts. They highlight work by four artists: photographer Deana Lawson, painter Nicola Tyson, muralist Katherine Bernhardt and multimedia artist Louis Cameron.

Each tackles the problem of how to represent different objects, from clouds to human bodies. But they do so in ways that likely won’t spark an uproar.

Lawson’s photography creates portraits of people from the African diaspora. In each image, a person looks directly out of the frame at the viewer.  

“To me the direct gaze is about making a statement that I know I’m being looked at and I’m looking back at you,” Lawson said. “The direct gaze is another site of power and confidence in one’s self and in the body.”

Lawson’s work also will be shown at the Whitney Biennial in New York this year.  

This is the first solo exhibit at a museum in the United States for Tyson, whose paintings and drawings explore the female form.

She creates paintings and sketches quickly and impulsively in the vein of automatic drawing and later transposes onto paintings.

“I have to get it down really quickly. I work quickly to stay ahead of that kind of rational mind that’s going to want to introduce contrivance and all sorts of things,” Tyson said.“That’s where the sort of automatic bit comes in. I’m sort of guiding it but at the same time I’m staying out of the way, so stuff appears that I don’t even recognize and I could never do if I sat down and planned to make that kind of an image.”


Two abstract female figures regard each other in a pale yellow and blue background.
Credit Courtesy of Nicola Tyson
Nicola Tyson, Self Portrait with Friend, 2011. Oil on canvas, 72 x 95 inches. Courtesy the artist; Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects; Petzel Gallery, New York; and Sadie Coles HQ, London

Cameron is showing work from two projects. In the series “Clouds,” which has never before been exhibited, he melds together multiple images of clouds that have been digitally manipulated.

The series came about through experimentation, he said.

“It’s very casual, you know, so as I’m going about my day,  dropping off my daughters, or going to the market, I always look at the sky and pay attention to what’s going on in the sky and if there’s something interesting then I’ll take my camera out and photograph it,” Cameron said. “And then I just accumulate this archive. Then when I’m in my studio, I layer these different images in different color spaces to arrive at these images.”

Cameron also displays work from his free poster series that draws on collaborations to create a body of images free and accessibly to the public online.

Abstract red, light green, and yellow clouds are overlaid upon a dark background.
Louis Cameron, Clouds #4, 2016. Archival inkjet print on paper, 39 3/8 x 29 1/2 inches. Courtesy the artist

Bernhardt’s mural “XXL Superflat Pancake” includes toucans, cigarettes, toilet paper, watermelons and more, rendered in brightly colored, spray paint. The artist has worked in a range of scale, working on traditionally-sized paintings, and painting the outside of five whole buildings.

The scrawl of a toucan rests above an emoji with sunglasses and a slice of watermelon.
XXL SUPERFLAT PANCAKE-detail. Provided by Contemporary Art Museum.

The show opens this weekend and runs through mid-April.

If you go

What: Contemporary Art Museum Spring Exhibition

When: Jan. 27-April 16

Where: Contemporary Art Museum, 3750 Washington Blvd., St. Louis

Follow Willis on Twitter: @WillisRArnold

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