Artists’ Guild explores ‘Elements of Abstraction’

“Arch Abstraction” by Garry-McMichael.

By Sarah Weinman

I didn’t know what to expect when I went to see Elements of Abstraction at the St. Louis Artists’ Guild’s new location in Clayton. The walls are white, the floor concrete, the few windows high up. These surroundings perfectly complement the abstract art in the current show. I was impressed by not only the artists’ talent and quality of work but also in the multilayered concept of “abstraction” in general. Many pieces (an underwater photograph, carved marble, a straightforward photograph) are not what they seem at first glance, which results in a delightful viewing experience.

Di Sun’s ethereal photographic print, A Shimmer of Hope 01, is one of three in the series. The bubbles and shifting shades of blue easily convince viewers that the image was captured underwater. In a way, it was. The artist exposed photographic paper to light and then treated the paper with developer and cold water, resulting in beautiful aquatic images. Sun says, “My work tries to challenge basic rules of photography and is a metaphor of seeing accidental beauty.”

The sweet sculpture titled Embrace, created by Elizabeth Conn, appears to be smooth gray-green marble. It tenderly depicts the abstracted figures of a parent and child. Their heads touch; the child’s head is tucked under the parent’s chin. The parent’s arm becomes that of the child. But the label reveals the illusion: the medium is papier-mâché. Conn explains, “I’m exploring the use of papier-mâché made from junk mail.” She makes a lovely statement by transforming unwanted ephemera into a masterfully worked sculpture with a timeless theme. 

From a distance Garry McMichael’s Arch Abstraction looks like a photograph of the Arch brokenly reflected in the windows of a tall building. Closer up, it becomes clear this is a painting (acrylic on canvas) executed with impressive technical skill: precise lines of the windows, expertly rendered fractured reflections, and spot-on colors. McMichael sums up his piece in one sentence: “I’ve always wanted to be a photographer, but I loved…painting too.”

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Elements of Abstraction is on view at the St. Louis Artists’ Guild through Jan. 2, 2016. The gallery is located at 12 Jackson Ave. at the corner of Forsyth in Clayton. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call 314-727-6266 or visit http://www.stlouisartistsguild.org/new/