By now, everyone should know about the “Present Tense” exhibition opening this weekend at the Dixon. Everyone is talking about this show. Everyone. I have received no less than 40 emails from selected artists wanting me to interview them about their work in the exhibition, emails from artists complaining that they did not, somehow, make it in the show, emails from friends making fun of the other artists who were or were not selected to take part, and emails from people recalling stories of past visual art events from the previous decade. (My work is included.) The group of artists that I think are severely under-represented are art professors from University of Memphis and Memphis College of Art. Maybe, perhaps, they spend all their time and efforts educating future art stars rather than working in the studio and having a presence in the community. Maybe.
Regardless of what you think about the exhibition, who was or was not included, one thing is for certain: People are talking about the visual arts in Memphis. And that, if for no other reason, makes it all worth it.
There is a new alternative space opening on Broad that people are all excited about, Nu Gallery. They are having their inaugural one-night only exhibition this Friday, February 1st, 5:30-8 p.m. Titled “Co-Lab”, the exhibition is collaborative works from artists such as Hamlett Dobbins and Tad Lauritzen Wright, Ariel Claiborn and Leanna Hicks, and Jay Crum and Kong Wee Pang. Artists in Memphis love doing them some collaborative exhibitions. Marshall Arts is showing the second installment of their collaborative shows, “Memphis Connections” in April. We can thank, Hamlett Dobbins for getting everyone excited about working together and having collaborative exhibitions.
Since I am presently on a writing-about-murals kick, I thought I would mention the one by Cedar Lorca Nordbye. Norbye has created this mural in conjunction with the Winter Invitational exhibition at Gallery 56 that opens tomorrow night. The mural, next door to Gallery 56, will be temporary as it was created on the building scheduled to be demolished in a few months to make way for the new Casablanca Restaurant. Spending only about $100 in materials, Nordbye states the mural “brings to mind the Middle-East, or “The Orient” from 19th-century Orientalism to Disney’s Aladdin. Other artists in the Winter Invitational are Greg Bowden, John Sadowski, Mike Coulson, Evan Lebaroff, Terry Kenney, Katie Dann, Bien Howard, Paula Kovarik, Juan Rojo, Gary Parisi, and Shamek Weddle.
It is another busy weekend for the visual arts in Memphis. Check out our Art listing page to get the lowdown on the rest of what is happening and go see some art. If you see me out and about, we can talk about how Memphis just lost a legend. Hamed Haddadi, you will be missed!
A new semester is beginning for area colleges and universities. This always means that each of these institutions will be having an art opening and/or an artist lecture to take advantage of their students being back in town. It also means that people in the community begin to complain about how three interesting lectures are happening at the same time in three different locations. Bringing up these questions once again: “Why don’t these institutions communicate with each other?” “Why do they always schedule things at the same time?”
With Friday-night art openings this is not really an issue. One can simply spend 15 to 20 minutes at each venue before going on to the next one. If they somehow are unable to visit each show, they can simply go the next day or the next week. This is not the case with artist lectures. One cannot bounce around location to location during these types of events. It is disruptive to the other attendees and speakers. Plus, it is just stupid.
The above questions are valid, however. Just not practical. It would be a scheduling nightmare to coordinate between the institutions and the visiting artists. Each would want the “prime” time and we would need up having to go to a lecture at MCA at three in the morning. Also, how would this information be collected and distributed? Who would do it? I can say with absolute certainty very very few people at these institutions would be willing to take the time and effort to put together a booklet or website that contains such information, regardless of how beneficial it would be to their students and the public.
Oh well, until then, all we can do is hope that people will attend at least one of these lectures. And tonight, January 24th, there are three good ones to choose from.
First is Sarah Marshall in the Orgill Room of Clough Hall at Rhodes College at 7:30 pm. The Orgill Room is where the refreshments are served during the openings at the Clough-Hanson Gallery. Marshall is an associate professor of art at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Her work is focused on the processes of printmaking and drawing resulting in organic forms that become portraits and characters. The lecture will focus on the work for her exhibition at Material Art Space. The show runs for one night only, Friday, January 25th, with an opening reception from 6-8 p.m.
Second is Io Palmer in the Callicott Auditorium at the Memphis College of Art in Overton Park at 7:30 p.m. Palmer’s work is featured in the exhibition, "Singular Masses: An Examination of Racial Identity," which is currently on view at the Hyde Gallery, Nesin Graduate School at 477 S. Main. The opening for this exhibition will be during tomorrow's Trolley Night, 6-9 p.m. Palmer, an assistant professor at Washington State University-Pullman, creates mixed-media installations that explore issues such as class, race, and identity with materials such as photography, ceramics, drawing, and cleaning products.
Third is Haejung Lee in the new Arts and Communication Building, room 250, at the University of Memphis at 7 p.m. Lee is this year’s juror for the 30th Annual Juried Student Exhibition, opening February 1st, 5-7:30 p.m. at the Art Museum of the University of Memphis at 142 Communication and Fine Arts Building. (Do not confuse the Arts and Communication Building, where the lecture is tonight, with the Communication and Fine Arts Building, where the opening is next week, which are next door to each other.) Lee received her MFA from Louisiana State University in ceramics. Originally from Korea, she integrates traditions of her Korean culture with aspects of Western culture, which she considers her second home.
As always, there is more than plenty to do in Memphis when it comes to visual arts. You just have to take the initiative to actually go and participate. Speaking of the visual arts in Memphis, here is a link to a great new blog Commercially Unappealing. I do not know who is responsible for this genius of a thing. But be sure to check it out and submit your own!
Nothing Ever Happens in the Memphis Art World — this is what I hear from people all the time, even from some artists. They wonder why Nashville gets all the credit and has all the money.
Whatever. Nashville has no soul. Nashville wishes it had the visual arts energy that Memphis has, dreams of having the type of thought-provoking artists that Memphis has. They wish they had the cool people Memphis does to make things happen. But, we will save that for another blog post for another time.
Last week I wrote about a diverse range of events that were taking place in Memphis over the course of one weekend. These were just the events that opened last weekend and did not include all of the activities and exhibitions that were already open and on view to the public. There is the same diverse group of exhibitions and events that are happening this weekend.
There are two exhibitions that open at MCA’s Rust Hall Gallery in Overton Park tonight from 6-8 p.m.
The first is "Once More With Feeling: A Founders' Day Celebration" by Murray Riss and Dolph Smith. Riss and Smith have been fixtures at MCA and the Memphis art scene for years. According to the press release, Cat Pena, coordinator of exhibitions and lectures, states “Our Founders’ Day Exhibitions carefully weave threads of talented and pivotal individuals in MCA’s past with the current fabric of students and faculty. These opportunities are not only a celebration of the culmination of two successful careers in the visual arts, but a way for students to become more familiar with the work of fellow members of the MCA family” — a statement that has much more meaning with the recent passing of Margaret Metz, trustee and part of a family that has long had a significant role at MCA, acquiring the naming rights of Metz Hall, a dormitory and studio for MCA students.
Also opening tonight at the Memphis College of Art is "I Am America: Memphis Musicians" by alumna Siphne Sylve. Sylve is a recent graduate and current project manage at the UrbanArt Commission. She asked several artist and musicians in town — Phantom 9, Tame, Eso, and others — their top 10 influences. She then researched this list, created a body of work, and the results are on view in the Alumni Gallery. Sylve states that the list from each artist she asked was unexpected in diversity and range. The paintings became about the study of the relationship of the M.C. vs DJ and the early generations of hip-hop.
For the last 15 years, I have been a vocal and active proponent for the visual arts in Memphis. Since I began writing for the Memphis Flyer, I have advocated the importance of the visual arts in Memphis over just about everything else, including music and food. (But not the Grizzlies, Tony Allen in particular.)
During my time in Memphis, I have seen significant artists, such as Virginia Overton and Leslie Snoke, come and go. The same is true for significant exhibitions that were internationally competitive for their acuity, aptitude, and ambition, such as the MAX and Perspectives exhibitions. I think the greatest asset the visual arts in Memphis has is that while these artists and exhibitions are no longer around, there is plenty of each. Usually, these capable artists and exhibitions that speak to the vast range of abilities and subject matter shown in Memphis cycle over the course of several months or even years. Fortunately for us Memphians at the beginning of 2013, we can see this broad range during the course of one weekend.
First, you can see art that is presently in the collection of Memphis College of Art that will be auctioned off at a private, invitation-only auction Thursday, January 16th. The Premier Selection Exhibition is currently on view at the Hyde Gallery at the Nesin Graduate Center on South Main, through January 12th. Featured artists include international stalwarts; Ellsworth Kelly, Larry Poons, Robert Indiana, and Andy Warhol, along with local art stars Veda Reed, Dolph Smith, and Ted Faiers. The proceeds from the auction will benefit various programs at the Memphis College of Art. The work in this temporary exhibition has not been on view to the public like this ever. There are many important artists in this exhibition, go see it now before it disappears forever from public view and into the private sector.
Second is the Memphis Urban Sketchers exhibition at ANF Architects , 1500 Union. The opening is Friday, January 11th, 5:30-7:30 p.m. The Urban Sketchers is a group of artists of all skill levels that meet on the first Saturday of each month at various locations to practice on-location drawing. Elmwood Cemetery, the Peabody Hotel, and Collierville Town Square are just some of the locations the group meets to draw and sketches from these locations will be on view. Artists included in this exhibition are Mel Spillman, Lindsey Overbey, Derrick Dent, and Mary K. VanGieson. The talent, specialties, and diversity of this group is a great example of the potential of working together in a visual art context. There is no overpowering manifesto, they simply just want to draw together from direct observation and show the work of their surroundings to the world. You can see more of their sketches and activities by checking out their blog, urbansketchers-memphis.blogspot.com
Third is "Flora, Fauna & Dwellings, Mountains, Rivers, and Seas: The Drawings of Michael Bogle" showing for one night only at Material Art Space Friday, January 11th 6-8 p.m. The exhibition is organized by Libby Pace-Humphries, an artist herself, who has been trying to organize an exhibition of Bogle’s work since she first saw the drawing over 20 years ago. According to Pace-Humphries, “Michael is autistic - not asbergers, but autistic. As far as I know, he is self-taught ” She says Bogle is very prolific, creating thousands and thousands of drawings. “He once copied the entire Tennessee drivers manual (illustrations and text) in hopes of memorizing it in order to get his license.” The drawings are mostly taken from photographs and emphasize simple sceneries. We should take example from Michael Bogle. If every artist were as prolific, think of it as the 10,000 hour rule, imagine where we would be as artists and as a visual art city. Goodness.
Lastly, Saturday January 12th from 6-9 p.m. is the opening reception for "Based on a True Story" at Marshall Arts, 639 Marshall, through February 9th. The exhibition is curated by Joel Cerreiro and includes multi-media work from Yeon Jin Kim, Christopher Miner, and Matthew Garrison. Miner, co-director of Crosstown Arts, will show a selection of video works that are an intimate autobiographical view into his life. One such piece, Right Here is the Place to Be, shows the artist sitting with his son and singing him a lullaby. It is a very sweet moment until you realize the lullaby is actually Mystical’s “Shake Your Ass,” then is becomes just that much better.
Garrison has spent an untold amount of time on the Internet searching chat rooms for empty rooms. The result are thousands of photographs assembled together to form one large huge print. I found the images to be quite unsettling, but curious at the same time, peering in to the private places of people that are not there. A very interesting comment on the nature of “social media” today.
So, as you can see from the above list, there is not only a lot to see, but a lot that is a part of a larger dialogue, that Memphis is a visual arts city and always will be. Go participate in the past, present, and future generations of Memphis visual art and find out for yourself.