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.