The Saint Louis Art Museum next month will open “Catching the Moment: Contemporary Art from the Ted L. and Maryanne Ellison Simmons Collection,” an exhibition celebrating the 2020 acquisition of more than 800 works of art that has elevated the museum’s holdings of postwar American prints.
Opening June 26, 2022, the exhibition presents more than 190 objects from this collection—a rich variety of prints, drawings, collages, artists’ books, photographs, a painting and editioned three-dimensional objects by a diverse group of 39 artists, predominantly active in the United States from the mid-20th century to today. Key works on view include Bruce Conner’s “BOMBHEAD,” Helen Frankenthaler’s “Savage Breeze,” Wayne Thiebaud’s “Candy Apples,” Kara Walker’s “Keys to the Coop” and H. C. Westermann’s “The Connecticut Ballroom.”
Ted L. Simmons is the former St. Louis Cardinals catcher and switch hitter, who was named to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2020. Maryanne Ellison Simmons is an artist and a printer-publisher who established her own fine-art printing press, Wildwood Press, in St. Louis in 1996. The acquisition is a partial gift and partial purchase: the married couple donated 50 percent of the value of the entire collection and the museum purchased the remaining stake.
As collectors, the Simmonses focused on art and artists of their own time, and the couple was particularly drawn to works that addressed social issues and historical moments that were important to them, including the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War and the AIDS crisis. “Catching the Moment” explores artists’ responses to these and other issues while helping visitors understand the many connections between works from artists across the Simmons collection.
Peter Hujar, Paul Thek and David Wojnarowicz were friends and peers of Smith, and they worked within the community of artists that coalesced before and during the AIDS crisis. H. C. Westermann’s nightmarish evocations of the Pacific chapter of World War II appear alongside Bruce Nauman’s often biting socio-political commentary and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith’s forceful foregrounding of Native American history. The exhibition also highlights the appropriation of historical and contemporary visual material found in the work of Jane Hammond, Roger Shimomura and Tony Fitzpatrick.
Catching the Moment will remain on view through Sept. 11. Tickets are available in person at the museum or through MetroTix, which charges an additional fee.
The exhibition is curated by Elizabeth Wyckoff, curator of prints, drawings, and photographs; Andrea L. Ferber, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellow for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs; and Clare Kobasa, assistant curator for prints, drawings, and photographs. “Catching the Moment” is accompanied by a 172-page, hardcover catalogue that includes an interview with the Simmonses and essays by the co-curators, as well as Sophie Barbisan, the museum’s associate paper conservator.