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Review: Sarah Frost's 'Site' grows on the senses

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - The term art installation can be used for any number of things. It sounds like something serious, though sometimes, the “installation” is a more minimalist “art object placement.” Installation is hardly grand enough a word for Sarah Frost’s complete use of the University of Missouri-St. Louis’ Gallery 210.

Frost has played with the materiality of her art media in St. Louis galleries for a while. Her ambitious repurposing of objects typically takes the materials she uses far away from the mundane uses for which they were intended (See Nancy Fowler’s 2011 article on Frost).

In her current exhibit at UMSL, Site, Frost’s materials are given their most conventional use. Frost has filled the gallery space with a complex bamboo structure. White strips of canvas hold together bamboo rods in a giant geometric swooping grid.

Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants in the world. The plant’s many uses make it vital to Asian economies. American entrepreneurs have begun, in recent years, to explore the many eco-friendly, cost-efficient uses of the wonder-plant. But most ubiquitously, Bamboo is a versatile ecological construction material and it is exactly that use of the strong, natural composite material that Frost’s installation echoes.

Frost is not the first artist to celebrate bamboo and bring it out of the practical and into the philosophical sphere. Artists (and identical twins) Doug and Mike Starn installed a bamboo sculpture on the rooftop of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) in 2010 and reused the bamboo in a sculpture they installed at the 2011 Venice Biennale.

Frost’s Site makes great use of the closed, cave like gallery space. Along with the massive scaffold construction, Frost has laid a dirt floor that cues the gallery visitor to experience the room as a fully developed -- neither inside, nor outside -- space. Shadows along the white walls are a second work of art, adding to the intricate layering of the Frost’s knotty labyrinth.

An event for this installation on Dec. 7 will rival the opening. Local artist, and Frost enthusiast, Tony Renner will play an eerie electric guitar composition generated from his repeated visits to the gallery after which will follow a panel discussion on the work.