Critics’ Picks

View of “In the Still Epiphany,” 2012.

View of “In the Still Epiphany,” 2012.

St. Louis

“In the Still Epiphany”

Pulitzer Arts Foundation
3716 Washington Boulevard
April 25–October 27, 2012

In this installation-exhibition, “In the Still Epiphany,” artist Gedi Sibony enlists some fifty works from the Pulitzer Collection as props and players in a romantic drama about relationships—formal, art-historical, and personal. The show marks the tenth anniversary of the Pulitzer Foundation with references to the domestic in general and, by inference, the wealth and connoisseurship of Emily and Joseph Pulitzer Jr., the couple who amassed the collection.

Known for messing with Minimalism, Sibony stages the foundation’s Zen-elegant interior as an intimate home. Portraits commune in the entryway like guests. A small gallery becomes a boudoir where African healing objects, a dreamlike surrealist oil painting, and a photo of Walter and Ilse Gropius’s dressing room manifest private nighttime rituals. In the main space, Picasso’s Fireplace, winter, 1916–17, and Lichtenstein’s Curtains, 1962, create a salon with a witty hostess: A multilevel case of Sibony’s design arranges ancient vessels to suggest a woman’s body; her white marble head, carved by Giacometti in 1930, wears a Colombian copper diadem more than a thousand years old.

Such whimsical mixing of high modernism with the so-called primitive that inspired it is an exhibition theme and a highlight. Equally fun is how Sibony uses artworks as guides toward discovery. A Vuillard portrait of the artist’s mistress lures visitors down a hall to an elevator, which takes one to the mezzanine level where a sheaf of Xeroxes includes a 1966 letter to the late Joe Pulitzer about the Vuillard itself. This typed gem could sum up the whole show with its chain of affectionate connections—painter and muse, dealer and client, and, ultimately, collector and the art he has the good fortune to possess and the largesse to share.