This review originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon on April 18, 2011.
When Minoru Yamasaki's Lambert air terminal opened in St. Louis in 1956, travelers and architects alike recognized it as a singular accomplishment, embodying in its weightless vaults and sleek detailing the very spirit of air travel—the chic sense of belonging to the jet-set, the heady élan of taking to the sky, the future as experienced now.
Ian Monroe's Currents 105 exhibit at the Saint Louis Art Museum—developed as part of the 2010-11 Freund Teaching Fellowship—is an equally impressive accomplishment, for it reformulates Yamasaki's bracing modernist design in a series of works that allow us to appreciate it anew.
Employing vinyl on acrylic, Monroe has made a series of sleek, nearly abstract paintings depicting Lambert from a variety of perspectives, including the architectural design process, the heavy traffic on opening day, the views of the jet engines, and the excitement of preparing to launch.
Monroe's color scheme derives from a Harry Bertoia metallic screen that formerly graced Lambert's terminal—and has mysteriously disappeared. Indeed, Monroe's entire enterprise—the paintings and the sparkling central sculpture, "ambassadors club," which recreates a sense of the chic design and cocktail-spiked glamour of TWA's early days—works like a haunting reprise of a lost time when traveling by air was chic and exhilarating, in stark contrast to the brute annoyance and crass mundanity that characterizes the process today.
We still have Yamasaki's Lambert terminal, but who stops to appreciate it fully anymore?
Monroe, who as a Washington University undergraduate passed through its sparkling spaces more times than he can likely remember, was impressed enough to do something about it, and to remind us to slow down and breathe in the glorious, promise-filled past.
About the Freund Teaching Fellowship
Curated by Tricia Y. Paik, Monroe's exhibition showcases the new body of work he developed as the 2010-11 Henry L. and Natalie E. Freund Teaching Fellow. A collaboration between the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts and the Saint Louis Art Museum, the fellowship consists of two monthlong residencies in the Graduate School of Art, and a Currents exhibition at the Saint Louis Art Museum.
The fellowship is supported by the Henry L. and Natalie E. Freund Endowment Fund, which was established to support both the exhibition and acquisition of contemporary art at the Saint Louis Art Museum as well as the teaching of contemporary art principles in the Sam Fox School.
Previous recipients of the Freund Teaching Fellowship, established in 1995, include Matthew Buckingham, Michael Byron, Ellen Gallagher, Angelina Gualdoni, Cameron Martin, Catherine Opie, Sarah Oppenheimer, Claudia Schmacke, and Bruce Yonemoto.