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Pulitzer Arts Foundation Opens 'Chloë Bass: Wayfinding' Outdoor Exhibition
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Pulitzer Arts Foundation Opens 'Chloë Bass: Wayfinding' Outdoor Exhibition

UPDATE: The “Chloë Bass: Wayfinding" exhibition has been extended and is now scheduled to close on Nov. 14. It was previously scheduled to close on Oct. 31.

On Saturday, April 17, the Pulitzer Arts Foundation will unveil an intriguing outdoor exhibition, a sculptural installation titled “Chloë Bass: Wayfinding,” scheduled to run through Nov. 14.

The website of the cultural landmark in St. Louis’ Covenant Blu-Grand Center neighborhood describes Bass as “a New York-based artist who works in performance, publications, installation and social spaces, using daily life as a subject for deep research into scales of human intimacy.”

“Wayfinding,” that background expands, “takes inspiration from public wayfinding signage,” before continuing that Bass “wrote the texts and sourced the edited archival images presented on more than 30 sculptures that will be installed across the Pulitzer’s outdoor spaces.

“The works comprising the exhibition are organized into four ‘strands,’ each anchored by a billboard that poses a question by the artist concerning human emotions, from intimacy and desire to anxiety and loss.”

“Wayfinding,” which originated conceptually at a Harlem museum, marks the first institutional solo exhibition by Bass, an assistant professor of art at Queens College, CUNY. In addition to the features previously noted, it incorporates a site-specific audio element accessible via a call-in telephone number, according to the museum background.

Joining Bass in narrating that element are three metro area talents: artist Damon Davis, poet/storyteller/podcaster Cheeraz Gormon and theatrical powerhouse Ron Himes, the founder and producing director of The St. Louis Black Repertory.

Kristin Fleischmann Brewer, the Pulitzer’s deputy director of public engagement, organized the installation with Joshua Peder Stulen, the museum’s assistant curator of public projects and engagement. Brewer relates that the motivation for bringing “Wayfinding” to the metro area from New York City, where it launched in 2019, “was to install a public art exhibition that can offer space for reflection and joy. As a museum, we are committed to supporting artists whose work is meaningful and relevant to our time and place.”

The sculptures, poetic texts and images that constitute “Wayfinding,” Brewer continues, “intensify everyday moments. Emerging out of Bass’ third phase of research on patterns of human intimacy, which investigates the scale of immediate families, the images and texts have taken on new meanings one year into a global pandemic.”

In short, reflecting the dire impact of COVID-19, the installation involves not only an aesthetic inspiration but also a humanitarian one: “Statements like ‘How Much of Care Is Patience?’ resonate more now than ever. Installing an outdoor exhibition will also hopefully increase accessibility for individuals who may not necessarily feel comfortable seeing art indoors just yet. Our hope is that the exhibition will offer a moment for visitors and residents in our neighborhood to pause, contemplate and find respite.”

In a mind-boggling fashion, according to Bass’ website, the Pulitzer installation constitutes just one of three subsidiary components of a project titled Obligation to Others Holds Me in My Place. “Wayfinding” and the other two subsidiaries operate at the familial level, as noted; two precursors centered on the self and on pairs. Moreover, Bass’ curriculum vitae notes that the artist plans to continue increasing the overview of Obligation to Others till she’s “working at the scale of the metropolis.”

Also as noted, “Wayfinding” debuted in New York City, in the storied Manhattan Island neighborhood of Harlem. More specifically, the installation (then sited in the almost 23-acre St. Nicholas Park) originated at The Studio Museum in Harlem, where Legacy Russell serves as associate curator of exhibitions.

“The response to ‘Wayfinding’ in Harlem was deeply inspiring,” Russell relates. “Pre-pandemic, people traveled from all over to see the exhibition and found new ways of making connections between their lived experiences and the lyricism, longing and desire bound up within the querying and framework of ‘wayfinding’ as a form of personal journeying.”

Russell adds that the installation proved a genuine balm in one of the nation’s states most brutalized by the novel coronavirus: “Across 2020, ‘Wayfinding’ became one of a select number of ‘open’ art projects to visit in New York when institutions were at limited capacity or closed entirely in response to COVID-19.

“The acuity and vision of this monumental project were timely and intersected with great care with what so many were thinking and feeling throughout the year. Chloë’s prompts, questions and insights posed by the project created poetic and resonant intersections with the ongoing cultural, social and political landscape.”

Pulitzer Arts Foundation, 3716 Washington Blvd., St. Louis, 314-754-1850, pulitzerarts.org

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Bryan A. Hollerbach serves as LN's copy editor and one of its staff writers. He loves to read, write, impersonate an amateur artist and research all things bibulous.

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