The Saint Louis Art Museum and the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts have announced the selection of artists Sarah Oppenheimer and Claudia Schmacke as Henry L. and Natalie E. Freund Teaching Fellows for academic years 2007-08 and 2008-09 respectively.
The Freund Fellowship consists of a yearlong residency in St. Louis, during which time fellows teach in the Sam Fox School’s Graduate School of Art and create exhibitions for the Saint Louis Art Museum’s Currents series.
Oppenheimer holds a bachelor’s degree in semiotics from Brown University and an master of fine arts from Yale University, where she is assistant professor. Her work has been featured in solo exhibitions at the PPOW Gallery, Momenta Art and the Drawing Center, all in New York, and at Youkobo in Tokyo.
Her work has also been featured in group exhibitions at Galerie der Kunstler in Munich; Midway Contemporary Art in Minneapolis; Skulpturens Hus in Stockholm; and the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York. She has received fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts (in the category of Architecture/Environmental Structures), the Japan Foundation, the Rema Hort Mann Foundation, the Sharpe Foundation, Yaddo and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.
Oppenheimer’s work combines artistic practice with elements of performance and behavioral studies. For example, a project undertaken during a Japan Foundation Artist’s Fellowship in Tokyo (and later realized as a video) studied the newspaper folding habits of subway commuters. Meanwhile, recent installations at PPOW and the American Academy of Arts and Letters have explored phenomenological studies involving the reconfiguration of interiors.
Reviewing the PPOW exhibition for “Art in America,” critic Nancy Princethal explained, “In her first solo show at this gallery, Sarah Oppenheimer played up the drama of an entrance.
Using standard sheets of plywood cladding that she bent like heavy paper, Oppenheimer transformed the space literally wall to wall.
A waist-high, barrel-shaped plywood-covered barrier near the front door shunted visitors to a narrow corridor, one wall of which was punctured midway by that barrier, here revealed as a hollow whose terminus framed part of a usually obscured window to the street. The payoff was a bracing glimpse of real life in what is otherwise a hermetically sealed interior, but Oppenheimer held it at arm’s length — the plywood-covered column both let you see fresh air and sky and kept them at a distance, a surprisingly powerful visual tease.”
Schmacke — who holds a bachelor’s degree from Kassel University and a master of fine arts from the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, both in Germany — creates works that are often site-specific or site related.
She has received a Lower Manhattan Cultural Council/World Trade Center residency as well as residencies from the Aldrich Museum in Ridgefield, Conn.; Smack Mellon Studios in Brooklyn, N.Y.; and the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas, among many others.
Schmacke’s solo exhibitions have included numerous German venues, notably the Westfälisches Landesmuseum in Münster and the Kunstverein Drensteinfurt, as well as North Utstillingssted in Copenhagen and the Goethe Institut and Plane Space, both in New York.
Her work also has been featured in several international group exhibitions, including Prosjekt I Gamlebyen in Oslo, Norway, and the Lodz Biennial in Lodz, Poland.
Water is a recurring theme in Schmacke’s videos and environmentally scaled installations. For example, “Lights Spots,” an installation of hundreds of clear plastic bags containing fluorescent-dyed water, absorbed ambient light during the day and glowed in black fluorescent light at night. For “Quintet for Washtubs,” galvanized tubs were placed beneath water funnels suspended from the ceiling, creating an eerie concert of drips and echoes.
Reviewing one of Schmacke’s exhibitions for “Art in America,” the critic Gregory Volk commented, “As one watched all that water and air on its journey, it took on complex metaphorical significance, suggesting the circulatory system of the body or the phloem of plants, but also data moving through networks and, more implicitly gradations of experience, ranging from frantic to serene.”
The Freund 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.
The search for 2007-08 and 2008-09 fellows was led by Michael Byron, associate dean of the College & Graduate School of Art; and Robin Clark, associate curator of contemporary art at the Saint Louis Art Museum.
The Saint Louis Art Museum is one of the nation’s leading comprehensive art museums with collections that include works of art of exceptional quality from virtually every culture and time period. Areas of notable depth include Oceanic art, pre-Columbian art, ancient Chinese bronzes and European and American art of the late 19th and 20th centuries, with particular strengths in 20th-century German art.