Soulard gallery showcases St. Louis icons

Impressionistic St. Louis by Rich Brooks

By Sarah Weinman

I hadn’t been to the Soulard Art Gallery (formerly Soulard Art Market) in several years, and as soon as I went in a couple weeks ago, I realized I’d missed the quality of work and helpful staff. The current exhibition, City Limits, is an all-media show that incorporates a wide range of St. Louis landmarks. 

Of course the most iconic landmark here is the Arch. Rich Brooks’ acrylic painting on canvas titled Impressionistic St. Louis depicts the Arch and St. Louis skyline as seen from the Illinois side of the river. Brooks’ layered impressionistic technique consists of a background of large swathes of color (blue and green for the sky, lavender and black for the river) on which the artist dabs layers of paint dots (white on green, yellow on orange). The Arch and buildings are outlined in gray and black, then filled in with a rainbow of colors. The river is full of shifting colors as well. This beautiful technique lends the painting a shimmering, dancing, cheerful sensibility.

Printmaker Bruce Toulin chose a smaller but perhaps equally famous landmark: the Eat-Rite Diner on Chouteau. Toulin’s stylized print Eat Rite Ride features the white square restaurant with a red and white Coca-Cola sign on top. The red in the sign is picked up in the jacket of a pedicab driver as well as in his vehicle next to the building. Because Toulin raised the color saturation, this image recalls a vintage advertisement, a fitting tribute to the old diner. 

Garrett Roberts decided to represent St. Louis’ past with his photograph titled Robert E. Lee. This sepia image of a riverboat on the Mississippi, emerging from white mist, appears grainy and aged. The original Robert E. Lee steamboat was built in 1866 and operated for only 16 years before a fire destroyed it in 1882. In 1969 a stern wheel steamer, also named Robert E. Lee, was built and permanently docked on St. Louis’ riverfront as a floating restaurant. It wasn’t built as a replica of the original, but strangely it suffered the same fate: destruction by fire in 2010. Roberts’ photograph may evoke one or both fires by emphasizing the white mist, which could be seen as smoke.

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City Limits is on view at the Soulard Art Gallery through Sept. 4.  The gallery is located at 2028 S. 12th Street at Russell, catty-corner from McGurk’s Pub. Gallery hours are Thursday and Friday, 6 to 9 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and closed Monday through Wednesday. For more information, call 314-258-4299 or visit