Sunday, March 23, 2014

Mound City Highlights

Mound City refers to the ancient man-made mounds that were part of the complex culture created by the Mississipean peoples at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers 1,000 years ago, and whose epicenter is celebrated at the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site and Museum in Collinsville, IL, just across the Mississippi River from downtown St. Louis. The Mound City exhibition at Laumeier Sculpture Park explores the remnants of the succession cultures that exist in the St. Louis region.

Geoffrey Krawczyk Recess Project is a hybrid home that uses the red clay bricks that typifies the 19th century emigrant enclaves of North and South St. Louis to create a modern mound that has collapsed on Laumeier’s grounds.

Sam Durant for Free Hanging Chain has taken as his touchstone the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, the Gateway Arch, to trigger his work at Laumeier. Durant strung five metal catenary arches (like those used by architect Eero Saarinen in the Arch), upside down on the Whitaker Woods Trail. These works are flexible, not fixed, embedded inside the disturbed landscape of Laumeier.

Marie Watt’s sculpture Earthmover, 2014, commemorates the tools for the movement of earth to create the great mounds at Cahokia. A partially buried recycled 12 foot mega mining vehicle tire weighing 5,000 pounds creates a monumental rubber archway. It is believed that the Cahokians hauled 50-60 pounds of earth at a time from borrow pits and carried them to mound construction sites. 

Beverly Pepper’s Gromlech Glen, 1985-87, is found along the park art trail where visitors come upon her densely planted green amphitheater as if it is a recently discovered ruin. Pepper created this earthwork, one of Laumeier’s earliest site specific commissions, to evoke “myths and archaeological associations” that conjoin humans together across time and space.

Jackie Ferrra’s Laumeier Project, 1981 draws from ancient building forms to create her first open step temple. Ferrara use of wood, a natural material, also recognizes that all human constructions can, and will, disappear.

Richard Fleischner’s five-part work St. Louis Project, 1989, uses stone, another natural ancient building material, looks like ancient building fragments left in the landscape. Fleischner scattered his work so that it “jumps” Laumeier’s Northern Grove to a site across Rott Road, allowing for the ancient associations of his work to be interrupted, and animated, by our modern car culture.

Alison Saar's Leelinau 1997 is worth seeking out. It is another site specific installation. Only this work is up a tree along another art path at Laumeier. Made of wood, copper and steel wire, it represents the legend of a North American Indian girl.   

Alexander Liberman’s The Way, 1980, is made of battered, used oil drums to create a “ruined” Greek temple slumping from its abandonment.

Juan William Chávez, for his 2012 show at Laumeier, grappled with the evidence of a contemporary colony collapse in our midst. Chávez created a modern Woodhenge using old telephone poles to outline a block from the notorious Pruitt-Igoe, one of the first planned housing developments in the United States.

Visit Laumeier Scupture Park from April 11 to August 24, 2014 to view the Mound City Exhibition that includes events, activities, the artists included here and more.

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