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Review: UMSL offers minimal exposure

The three works in Exposure 13 at UMSL's Gallery 210 are decidedly minimal in style and scale, though not in content. This is a good thing, give that they are exhibited in Gallery B, the smaller of the spaces at 210.

The first work one encounters in Exposure is Martin Brief's "Nine Drawings" from 2009-10, part of an effort to outline the text on each of the 2,662 pages of the 1966 Webster's Third New International Dictionary. Here we are treated to the shape of the text -- minus the text itself -- on some of the "A" pages: "alphabet - althi," "americanist - amical," "altitude chamber - alveolocondylean." The clean black lines register the jagged edges of the columns, reading like an etymological seismograph. In previous projects based on the journal Artforum and Amazon.com, Brief reordered language found in those sources into evocative new visual configurations; with this project, Brief focuses on the visual configurations found on the dictionary's pages, but drains them of language. In all his works, Brief reveals texts to be codes that offer an array of visual as well as linguistic messages.

Nearby a sculptural installation by Joe Chesla occupies two adjoining walls. "Reveal: from the Accordance Series" is comprised of an enormous sheet of Plexiglas applied to the walls, supporting a grid of hundreds of water-filled plastic bags. Ropes connected to the work's two lower corners pull the Plexiglas from the wall, revealing arcing patterns of light and shadow beneath. The work employs an economy of means to set into play contrasting effects of flatness and depth, refraction and reflection, light and space.

Asma Kazmi's work is shown in an adjoining space, and provides its own contrast to the nigh-clinical precision of Brief and Chesla. "Kashkol (Begging Bowls)" is a collection of dozens of ceramic bowls occupying a simply plywood table. Their colors are earthy -- smoky gray, ruddy browns -- and they bear the imprint of the fingers and hands that formed them. They evoke the essential human gestures of receiving and offering alike.

The annual Exposure exhibition is meant to showcase the best of St. Louis emerging local talent. This installment, though relatively small, does not disappoint.

Ivy Cooper, a professor at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, is the Beacon art critic. This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon.

Ivy Cooper
Ivy Cooper is the Beacon visual arts reviewer and a professor of art at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.