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Jackie Saccoccio at Philip Slein Gallery's New Location

Jackie Saccoccio, Portrait, 2012; oil and mica on linen, 94 x 74 inches. photo courtesy of Philip Slein Gallery (click for larger version)
May 22, 2012
When Philip Slein first walked onto the St. Louis art gallery stage — with jugglers, fire-eaters, knife-throwers, magic tricks — he also had a brass band.

That was 10 years ago, and the stage was Washington Avenue in a historic building in the Loft District. Three years later, Slein took his show a few blocks east. But, the downtown Loft parties grew louder in the one-time small manufacturing district, now gentrified by developers into over-hyped condo heaven — just too much noise for art.

So Slein has moved into the Central West End space formerly occupied by the William Shearburn Gallery. The clean, well-lit, white-walled space on McPherson once stored old carriages for residents of stately homes on Pershing and Hortense. Then it became a Rolls Royce dealership. That was before galleries, antique shops, independent book stores, fine furniture dealers and a variety of restaurants made their appearance along the tree-lined streets and helped make the Central West End one of the most desirable neighborhoods in St. Louis.

photo by Dickson Beall (click for larger version)
Slein has had some outstanding shows over the years, and he's shown strong art — works by Jamie Adams and Michael Byron come to mind. What's changed is the music. If there was a brass band at the opening of his first gallery downtown, the fitting music at Slein's Central West End opening last week might have been a pianist and string ensemble, playing something like John Cage music, to accompany Jackie Saccoccio's extraordinary paintings.

Saccoccio is not so much an emerging artist as she is a fast-paced rocket, trailing a fist-full of great reviews from noted critics. Her recent New York show at Eleven Rivington was a sell-out, and the entire show at Philip Slein Gallery sold out opening night. Visit these five large and three somewhat smaller oil-on-linen paintings during the show's run, and see why.

Jackie Saccoccio, Untitled, 2011; oil and mica on linen, 84 x 72. photo courtesy of Philip Slein Gallery (click for larger version)
The works are stunningly beautiful. To describe them as works by a color virtuoso who pours, drips, stains and brushes paint onto surfaces that are rotated — creating chance effects that are, at the same time, highly controlled — may sound like works by any number of post abstract-expressionist painters through the end of the twentieth century. But they are not. Drawing on the art historical canon, her works move from the likes of Jackson Pollack, Morris Louis, Helen Frankenthaler and Gerhard Richter into new territory. While perhaps owing something to each one of these artists, Saccoccio innovatively weaves webs into lines of abstraction that thrust her painting headlong into the twenty-first century.

Color leads form here: acid greens, lush violets, rusty yellows, coffee browns and ultramarines, with orange sometimes peeking through puddles of paint. Compositionally, Saccoccio has played with renaissance–like perspective — permitting it and then, at once, denying it — in ways that warp and turn modern grid-painting upside down. Atmospheric clouds of paint obscure layers of masterful juxtapositions of architectural urban spaces with breathing portraits of organic life.

I like the balance here — Slein also showing the works of colorist Arthur Osver, who has strong regional ties and who won the Prix de Rome in 1952, along with New York artist Saccoccio who was awarded the prize in 2004. This pairing suggests that the Slein Gallery recognizes the importance of education, as any serious gallery should. In coming exhibitions viewers can anticipate seeing, not just New York artists, but works by emerging local and regional artists – in a setting where young viewers and collectors are nurtured and educated to the invaluable place of contemporary art in life.

"New Paintings: Jackie Saccoccio runs through June 30 at the Philip Slein Gallery, 4735 McPherson. Also showing is "Arthur Osver a Centennial Celebration: Paintings from the '80s and '90s.

View Dickson Beall's art/culture videos at StLouisan.com.

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