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Review: Philip Slein has another hip, street-smart show

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 27, 2010 - "Westward Expansion" at Philip Slein Gallery is the kind of hip, street-smart show we've come to expect from Slein's gallery. Yet many of the works are beautiful, contemplative and expressive, making them undeniably appealing to both casual viewers and collectors of contemporary art. The show was curated by Justin Giarla, a San Francisco gallery owner with keen insight into the edgy aesthetics of contemporary California practice.

The show opens with a Shepard Fairey print titled "Rise Above (Fist"), which may not be affordable but nonetheless establishes why Fairey is such a force in contemporary graphic arts (he is the artist responsible for the "Hope" image of Barack Obama that became familiar during his presidential campaign).

Other highlights in this exhibit include a group of acrylic-silkscreens of Lindsey Lohan and Mischa Barton against chaotic, tabloid-infused backgrounds by Greg Gossel; photographs of graffiti work by Bleck le Rat; seductive semi-nudes by Aaron Nagel; and an extraordinary painting by Jessica Hess, depicting a graffiti-covered wall beneath railroad tracks.

For my money, the two paintings by Ian Johnson make the show worthwhile. Johnson has established himself as a visual documentarian of 1960s black musicians; the two works on view here bring that subject to life.

I also love Casey Gray's graffiti-inspired works, "Her Fume" and "Miss Conception 2," which wittily render traditional icons within a spray paint aesthetic. "30/30: Small Scale Work by 30 Artists" concludes the exhibition in Slein's rear gallery.

Together, these shows represent a fantastic opportunity for collectors to acquire affordable, enjoyable works by local and national artists that will only increase in value.

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

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