‘Documents: contemporary lens-based art’ exhibition opens at Gallery 210@FAB

by | Sep 2, 2022

The new exhibition presents the work of four artists who use photographic and lens-based processes to explore different themes.
Documents Exhibit at Gallery 210

The exhibit features the work of four different artists, including Tiff J Sutton, a portrait photographer who draws upon Black feminist thought to create abstracted portraits of Black women. (Image courtesy of Tiff J Sutton)

The Department of Art and Design at the University of Missouri–St. Louis is kicking off the new semester with a brand-new exhibition.

“Documents: contemporary lens-based art” presents the work of four artists who use photographic and lens-based processes to explore topics such as place, identity, history, perception, power structures and time. The exhibition, which is the first to be held in the newly relocated Gallery 210@FAB, opened on Aug. 22 and runs through Sept. 30.

In his curatorial statement, Michael Behle, associate chairperson and interim director of Gallery210@FAB, notes that the exhibition plays off multiple interpretations of the word “document.” You might explore the exhibition through the common understanding of the term, which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as “a piece of written, printed or electronic matter that provides information or evidence or that serves as an official record.”

Or, he says, you might look to history. The “documenta” exhibition held in Kassel, Germany, every five years, for instance, was founded in 1955 as a means to bring the country back into conversation with international contemporary art practices after decades under Nazi rule. The origin of the exhibition, Behle notes, “demonstrates and reminds us of the importance of presenting art as a cultural document.”

He hopes visitors to this new exhibition at UMSL, which features a mix of still photography and video, will consider how these artists are “creating and delivering important documents into our world that contribute to the grand discourse of exploring the human experience through various lenses.”

“Documents” features the work of four different artists, three of whom are based in the St. Louis area and two of whom are UMSL alumni:

  • Allena Marie Brazier is an artist, art administrator, curator and collaborator from East St. Louis, Illinois. She earned a bachelor’s of fine arts from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in 2021 and is currently pursuing her MFA at the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis. Brazier has exhibited works throughout the Midwest including at Jacoby Arts Center in Alton, Illinois and Valade Family Gallery in Detroit. In addition to her artistic practice, Brazier is currently the inaugural curator-in-residence for the Lewis Collaborative Center at TechArtista, and recently curated an exhibition of 23 local artists, “Belonging: Cross River Art Exhibition.”
  • Tasha Nicolé Burton is a St. Louis-based self-taught photographer and visual artist who uses various mediums to interrogate, examine and re-imagine social issues such as race, mobility, access and equality. She uses images and tangible objects to reveal a genesis and how we utilize self-awareness to unlearn or course-correct our social interactions. Along with research and a study of the human mind, her work can be very literal for ease of understanding and aims to provide a viewer with an alternate perspective. By looking deeper, her practice’s goal is to activate change by telling a story that challenges what we have been conditioned to. She hopes to generate an appreciation and respect for another person’s struggles, successes, livelihood, agency and spirit. She received her bachelor’s of arts in psychology from UMSL in 2007.
  • Shabez Jamal is an interdisciplinary artist based in New Orleans. His work, rooted in still portraiture, experimental video and performance, interrogates physical, political and social-economical space by using queerness, not as a means of speaking about sexuality, but as a catalyst to challenge varying power relations. Jamal earned his bachelor’s of interdisciplinary studies from UMSL in 2019 and received his MFA from Tulane University in the spring of 2022, where he was also awarded a Mellon Graduate Program in Community-Engaged Scholarship fellowship. In 2020, he was also an inaugural member of Harvard University’s InTheCity Visual Arts Fellowship.
  • Tiff J Sutton is a portrait photographer based in St. Louis who draws upon Black feminist thought to create abstracted portraits of Black women. In early 2022, she received $10,000 through a grant from Black Women Photographers and Nikon and was a recent resident at the Gullkistan Center for Creativity in Laugartvn, Iceland. Primarily self-taught, Sutton has attended local community colleges and WUSTL and was recently featured in NPR, Rangefinder Magazine and the Humble Arts Foundation.

“Connected by the use of the lens, these four artists reinforce that there is great power in seeing, that perspectives matter and that documents can hold power,” Behle said.

He adds that in addition to Gallery 210@FAB continuing to function as a forum to exhibit contemporary art and engage the community, it will also begin to serve an important role in the Community Arts certificate he is working to develop.

The gallery’s next exhibition, in partnership with Laura Miller, the Eiichi Shibusawa-Seigo Arai Endowed Professor of Japanese Studies and Professor of History, will examine popular culture in Japan, from anime to Hello Kitty. The show will run Oct. 14 through Nov. 18, with a public reception scheduled for Oct. 14 from 5 to 7 p.m.

Heather Riske

Heather Riske