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Counterpublic, New St. Louis Triennial, to Bring Activist-Minded Artworks to Everyday Spaces

Cauleen Smith, Sojourner (production still), 2018.

COURTESY CORBETT VS DEMPSEY, CHICAGO, AND KATE WERBLE, NEW YORK

In the past decade, a spate of American cities have launched biennial-style events, with exhibitions of the sort having started up in urban centers as diverse as Honolulu, Kansas City, and Cleveland. This year, St. Louis will become latest city to join their ranks when Counterpublic, a new public art initiative set to occur triennially, opens in Missouri. Organized by the nonprofit arts platform the Luminary, the first iteration is set to run from April 13 to July 13 in South St. Louis, and it will showcase more than 30 site-specific commissions situated in a variety of public and commercial venues, among them a Buddhist temple, a punk club, a tea shop, a park and basketball court, and a Mexican bakery.

James McAnally, a cofounder of the Luminary, which is based in St. Louis, told ARTnews that the organization plans to adopt a triennial model for Counterpublic, with each iteration staged in a different neighborhood of St. Louis. He said that Cherokee Street, where the inaugural edition will be held, forms a center for the city’s largest Latinx community and that it “tends to be where artists and activists gather.”

McAnally will serve as an artistic director of Counterpublic with Brea McAnally, who is also a cofounder of the Luminary; Katherine Simóne Reynolds will curate the project. According to James McAnally, the first iteration of Counterpublic was partly catalyzed by the protests responding to police brutality in St. Louis in recent years, though works in the triennial will address a range of political and social issues, including immigration.

For us, it’s really about seeing how art enters into that conversation and productively envisions alternate futures forward,” McAnally said. “We’re interested in this national and international political moment of divisiveness and inability to work through dissent productively.”

The show, which will be complemented by public programs, performances, and artist residencies of varying lengths, will span a 12-block radius, and it will be free and open to the public throughout its run.

McAnally also noted that the commercial thoroughfare of Cherokee Street “has this indigenous legacy that, outside of its name, has been mostly erased.” Accordingly, the exhibition will feature works by indigenous artists, among them Sky Hopinka and Demian DinéYazhi, “to occupy and reimagine” the surrounding area. 

Among the projects planned for the first Counterpublic triennial are a large-scale outdoor installation by Kahlil Robert Irving, a series of “fictional museums” by Jon Rubin and Joseph del Pesco, and a new film by Cauleen Smith.

“We’re interested in how art can speak to the issues in the sites where people spend time,” McAnally said. “St. Louis is really an ideal site for this kind of project.”

The list of artists participating in Counterpublic 2019 follows below.

Lyndon Barrois Jr.
Chloë Bass
Sage Dawson
Joseph del Pesco + Jon Rubin
Demian DinéYazhi
Addoley Dzegede
Jen Everett
Fidencio Fifield-Perez
José Guadalupe Garza + Miriam Ruiz
Kimi Hanauer
Jerome Harris + Serubiri Moses + Gee Wesley
Sky Hopinka
Kahlil Robert Irving
Matt Joynt + Josh Rios + Anthony Romero
NIC Kay
Ted Kerr
Thomas Kong
Yowshien Kuo
Isabel Lewis
Rodolfo Marron III
Ohad Meromi
Azikiwe Mohammed
De Nichols
OOIEE
Yvonne Osei
PWMD
John Riepenhoff
Cauleen Smith
Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste
Kandis Williams

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