Laumeier Sculpture Park is one of those surprising cultural gems of St Louis, a 98-acre open-air museum with a collection of more than 80 impressively sited modern and contemporary sculptures. Works by Mark di Suvero, Jackie Ferrara, George Rickey, Robert Stackhouse, Ernest Trova, Sol LeWitt, Robert Chambers, and others spread out throughout the gorgeous sloped and tree-filled park in a careful dialogue with the landscape.
The Laumeier also has an excellent program of contemporary exhibitions. On Saturday, Tobias Putrih opened in the indoor museum at the park (through Jan. 14).
In Studio at Laumeier, Tobias Putrih uses modular wooden components to create a changeable site-specific installation that encompasses three rooms. Each piece is a building block which can be moved to form a new structure. In the corners of the room are extra pieces in piles, waiting to be activated.
Putrih, a Slovenian artist now living in New York, makes work that is modular and democratic. He creates systems that anyone can use to a fairly consistent aesthetic result. His work is expansionist, waiting to occupy as much space as possible, and the effect is highly enjoyable. Wooden planes bridge overhead, wrap around corners, create crawl-spaces, make an elaborate playset of lincoln logs or tinker toys with interesting conceptual convictions.
His other works operate on much the same principle of multiplicity and modularity. SpaceScriptSet is an aluminum work that can move in many variations, which create paths that intersect and change and invite viewer participation. The optical illusion of rippling lines on the move has that pleasing Bridget Riley trickery of the eye, which is enhanced by three-dimensionality. Macula A/+2 is a cardboard freestanding sculpture on a pedestal which has the same effect of changeability depending on the viewer’s perspective.
Often when artists work in one multiplied media, the formula can start to feel a bit too formulaic, but Putrih manages to be relevant while working within a created and imaginative system with simple elements used to surprising effect.