Mid-summer is a notoriously slow time in the art scene. People leave town to go to Sandestin, or else they watch high-budget, low-content movies in the safety of air-conditioned megaplexes, or else they read fiction about wealthy cliquey teenagers. Or else they buy Icees. I don’t know.
What I do know is that if a light summer novel were to take its plot points from current Memphis art shows, the main character would be “somebody’s cat from Facebook” (Paul Edelstein, at Java Cabana), the love interest would ride custom-painted motorcycles through a 1960s pop underworld (Nosy42, Gasoline Gallery), and the conflict would happen when all electronics across the world break down and everybody has to look at a new universe of unimaginable static (Gregg Haller, Gallery Fifty Six).
At Gasoline Gallery, on Broad, the unavoidable Memphis street artist Nosy42 has a show of pop collages: stenciled bombs and guns and pictures of what your mom looked like in 1959, classic film regalia, newspaper bits, compiled and decoupaged under thick layers of shellac. Nosy42 is also responsible, in his more recognizable street art style, for a purple, airbrushed painting/sign outside the gallery: the name “Gasoline,” stop-ended by a sketch of the Broad Ave water tower.
Steven Williams, Gasoline’s proprietor and the show’s curator, told me that he personally doesn’t like graffiti, particularly not the uninvited tags that crowd the walls surrounding his property. Steven is a custom automotive painter, and, when his mammoth workspace (located behind the gallery) isn’t hosting some graphically enflamed motorcycles, it is the makeshift home of his stylistically similar paintings.
At the David Perry Smith Gallery, “Green,” curated by gallery intern Natalie Brashear, is all over the map: rough, cheese-grater abstracts by Collierville-based painter Mike Coulson, some miniature, meticulous, thick-framed paintings called “Treescapes” by Andy Reed, as well as canonical Southern landscapes by painter Jeanne Seagle. The gallery’s back room, which, happily, is painted a pale metallic green, holds some rather beautiful Charles Ivey encaustics, and one toxic-event-looking abstract by Paul Vinsonhaler.
At Gallery Fifty-Six, on Central, a no-holds-barred incredible show called “Causal Momentum,” opened last weekend, featuring work by local artist Gregg Haller. Haller, a self-educated painter and lay mathematician, produced a body of 18 paintings over the past year, working steadily on several canvases at a time in his small apartment. Haller doesn’t have a home phone or computer, and his paintings look like the work of someone whose focus developed in under semi-hermetic conditions. Which is to say, the cumulative product of a lot of uninterrupted labor, and obvious, singular focus.
Haller’s paintings appear, to me, like a direct transcription of the breakdown of a thought process: frenzied, black, white and grey marks, half-symbols, thick-layered, voiding each other in the canvas’ static grounds. He told me that he considers this body of work to be anterior to his previous works: hand-drawn, mathematically reasoned variations on the form of the cube. He describes his previous, mathematical/visual processes as tantamount to piling single granules of sand together, one after the other, until the resultant mountain of sand capsizes under its own weight. The process of making these latest paintings, he says, felt like that avalanche.
Paul Edelstein also has new paintings on display amidst the Java Cabana bric-a-brac. Among the works: loose figurative pieces, a wall of folk artsy flowers (which fit nicely next to Java’s teal wall color), and one glaring, white cat.