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Review: Artists plumb their unconscious for Bruno David

Matisse's Window I Acrylic, oil on canvas 31 x 44 1/2 inches (framed)
Provided by the gallery

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 20, 2013: Shakespeare’s Romeo finds hope in the candle-lit glow of Juliet at her window: “What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.” Carl Sandburg used the window to symbolize hopeful waiting, while Emile Bronte used windows to suggest a limited vision, a separation between viewer and viewed.

Leslie Laskey’s Windows at Bruno David are all these things and more.

Laskey paints windows as frames for displaying a visual tableau; windows as portals through which one can access the outdoors and boxes to compartmentalize the nature found there; windows as geometries and as conceptual devices to suggest looking. He riffs off Henri Matisse, Salvador Dali and Kazimir Malevich. All in all, Laskey presents 23 views for the otherwise windowless Bruno David Gallery.

David Wild and Lulu Gargiulo take Laskey’s tally, double it and add one. Their film, Forty-Seven Views of Leslie Laskey, reveals the artist in his garden, in his studio, at the table. Laskey has, in his 92 years of life, provided an extensive array of perspectives on the world. He seems unbound by the psychological restrictions that might tie him to a singular art practice. Wild and Gargiulo’s documentary, shot over 11 years, shows moments from the artist’s daily life like scenes before a window.

The Front Room at Bruno David holds physical evidence of Jill Downen’s art practice. Her art on display is also a catalogue of the materials she uses to construct installations such as those concurrently showing across the street at the Contemporary Art Museum.

Downen’s Three Dimensional Sketchbook offers a glimpse into the artist’s urge to line up stacks of gleaming white plaster and pile gold leaf. Gallery visitors are encouraged to open and shut a filing cabinet’s clean metal drawers, revealing uniformly shiny white, blue, gold, or wood fragments. The process feels like peeking. The drawer’s contents are both consequential in their role as building materials for Downen’s large and small installations and made precious by their containment and discovery.