On a cold evening this past February, I paid my first visit to Southfork: a single-room gallery in Midtown and something of a sleeper among the city’s house galleries. Southfork is also (and more usually) the home of Lauren Kennedy, whose work with Ballet Memphis was recently spotlighted in the Flyer’s 20<30 issue.
Kennedy’s apartment is modestly sized and warmly decorated. The Southfork space occupies its own room, but Kennedy encourages artists to respond to as much of her apartment as they like. The signage for the Southfork’s current exhibition of two Texan artists — a tableau illustrated with portraits of the collaborators and their pseudonym, “Chuck + George” — hangs in Kennedy’s dining room next to unrelated posters and tchotchkes.
Kennedy founded Southfork in 2012 with the idea of a running a space where her daily life and her work with art can interact. “For the last show,” Kennedy says, "the artists worked a photo of my grandmother that means the world to me into their installation. I really love that.”
Which is not to say that the Southfork project is entirely dictated by the home-gallery aspect. Rather, Southfork, like Adam Farmer’s GLITCH or Joel Parsons’ Beige, provides artists who otherwise would exhibit at white box galleries or sterile museums with the opportunity to create and show work in an environment activated by a living space. Southfork has recently hosted micro solo shows by up-and-coming New York- and Chicago-based artists Jay Shinn and Heyd Fontenot.
The current Chuck + George (monikers of Brian K. Jones and Brian K. Scott) installation was originally created for a space at the University of Arkansas but was modified to fit Southfork, and will run there until the end of April. Kennedy says, “I love how [this show] fits kind of awkwardly in the space because it wasn't made for Southfork … because the images are all self portraits and the work really does feel reflective of each of their personalities and the nature of their long standing relationship.
"And,” she adds, “I love how Beetlejuice-y it feels."
It is hard to say what the work in "Inspired Resistance," the group exhibition currently on display at Crosstown Arts, is resisting. The show features paintings by Nick Pena and Alex Paulus (among others), as well as ink drawings by Bobby and Melanie Spillman and mixed-media work by Joey Slaughter—all talented, if not particularly transgressive, local artists.
Following the success of this past summer's Material Retrospective, "Resistance" continues Crosstown's streak of hosting some of Memphis' strongest group shows. The 55 works included take full advantage of the spacious Crosstown gallery. In the far right corner of the gallery, Paulus' vertical grouping of his sparse acrylic paintings span from floor to ceiling. Nick Pena's Through the Moulin, centered on a back wall, achieves a mirrored depth that does much to balance the surrounding works, many of which employ a flat and illustrative style.
A friendly, graphical note runs throughout the exhibition. Paulus' paintings— each of which feature a line of colorful race flags at the top— constitute about half of the featured work. His flag detailing serves to inexpertly advertise the paintings' central elements: a steak, a woman's bottom, a psychedelic cube. Paulus' useless objects have a zero-sum feeling that contributes to the work's sense of science-fictional groundlessness. This sense is echoed, but treated more deeply, in Pena's paintings, where objects and horizon lines are not abandoned but are endlessly refracted.
Carl E. Moore's works also stand out as smooth but somehow corrupted adverts. In Latex Love, a condom with a broken wrapper sits smoothly beneath two unembellished figures who seem about to kiss each other, in profile. Of all the featured pieces, Moore's work does the most to depart from "Resistance's" somewhat airy headspace.
Ian Lemmonds, the exhibition's curator, writes that the exhibition is about artists being good at being bad at things and that "if you are inspired enough by what you do, that inspiration turns into a kind of resistance." This sounds a bit like a low-brow call to arms; a defense of funny and colorful "bad" work in a perceived fine art world that favors somber abstraction.
"Inspired Resistance" is largely a painting exhibition, so it is possible that the titular "resistance" refers to the particular existential quandaries of 21st century painters. Paulus' sparkly paintings of Barbara Streisand wearing a smiley-face mask may not make you question your human residence in the maw of time, but they do ask you to consider the use of celebrity and pop iconography as interesting heirs to some of painting's traditional concerns.
There will be a gallery talk at Crosstown Arts on Saturday, February 22 at 1:30 pm.
Architecture is supposed to be the most accessible art form. As New York Times critic Allison Arieff wrote in 2012, "Architecture…carries a burden that the other arts don’t — it must reconcile aesthetics and ideas with user functionality. A painting or a novel need only please or provoke its audience; it doesn’t then also require setbacks, parking minimums and LEED certification." Buildings are everywhere. Not everyone collects oil paintings, but everyone uses buildings.
Arieff's op-ed ("Why Don't We Read About Architecture?") goes onto criticize writers for using words like "demassification" and "attitudinally" to describe architecture. These words are inaccessible for the majority of people (who, assumably, didn't have four+ years of theory education at the College of Their Choice.) Instead, she suggests writers use clean, simple, action-driven language to describe the functional arts.
But what to do when the architecture is not functional or accessible? Or, in the case of "Protoplastic," Igor Siddiqui's recently-opened exhibition at TOPS Gallery, when an architect has architected…well, art?
Siddiqui, a professor at the University of Texas in Austin, is a Yale-educated architect and the principal of Isssstudio, an architecture and design firm responsible for projects like "Mas Moss" (a curtain made from soy-dyed biodegradable cable and ball moss) and Ceramic Tesssseltile (an irregularly shaped tesselating tile that "produces the greatest degree of variation when multiplied across the larger field.") His design work is mathy and techy and Green, and the online descriptions of his projects throw around terms like "morphogenesis."
"Protoplastic" can be understood as a flexing of the same design muscles that shoulder the architect's professional work. The installation, designed particularly for TOPS, involves custom acrylic moulds and biodegradable reliefs. Sheets of bright-white plastic are impressed with radial patterns of lines. The sheets are arranged in a free-standing pattern around the space. In the small basement gallery, the viewer could conceivably feel as if she were in the middle of a large, elegantly executed rodent maze.
It is difficult to confess. Confessions can be genuine, but the "confessional" is a codified genre, with all the perks and failings of a genre. Starting with St. Augustine and perhaps continuing to James Frey, the confessional has seen some high and low points.
Chris Miner, the video artist and director of Crosstown Arts, knows this well. The artist's latest show, "The Gospel According to a Young American" is a comprehensive retrospective of almost 15 years of video art. Over 40 videos, broadcast on 20 boxy televisions, comprise a record of Miner's confessions— about marriage, faith and understanding. The pieces vacillate between Miner's raw, un-ironic self-professions and deftly ironized portraits of his surroundings.
At its best, the work is both on-its-knees and conscious of that well-worn pose. At its weakest, (and, perhaps, in the most genuinely vulnerable pieces, such as when Miner critiques his Mississippi heritage) the work seems to not know to whom it is addressed: God? Fellow men? The artist himself?
The exhibition, open through February 15th at Rhodes' Clough-Hanson Gallery, is loosely arranged like a church: pew-length tables and TVs are arranged in wings around the gallery, while a single alter-like television sits centrally in space. There is a small side-gallery with humble fabric benches and several televisions placed on low pedestals.
The televisions loop Miner's grainy clips, all shot on a camera and in a style that the digital generation has dubbed, reductively, 'VHS.' Miner favors a slow pace— single frames with minimal action, shots of old photographs, or frames of an unmoving landscape. If there is action in the shots, it is only to show the minuteness of human movement in an otherwise unerring stillness.
Hayes uses steel and "altered books" to form his works. The steel is exactingly cut to form parameters for old book pages. The pages are arrayed so that attention is drawn to the mass of their edges— gilded, watermarked or tiered, drawn from antique reference books. The steel pieces that support the pages could be seen as parabolic book covers, but the visual analogy is not a heavy-handed one.
Two very different exhibitions currently on display in Memphis galleries share a formal attention to shape, light, and color. Huger Foote, a photographer of the understated, makes work that matches something in the character of Holly Cole’s rhythmic, geometrical sculptures.
Foote, a Memphis-born and New York-based artist, is showing a new collection of color photography, “Sixteen,” at David Lusk Gallery. The show runs through November 16, with an opening reception tonight, October 18th, from 6 to 8 p.m. Displayed alongside is work by painter Libby Johnson.
Foote’s lens is focused on moments of long-lit quiet. In one photograph, a metal fence casts an array of shadows. In another, grass grows patchily near the lip of a sidewalk.
The work pays clear tribute to William Eggleston, but is less atmospheric and more formal. In many of Foote’s photos, a single, vertical element divides the frame. Spare instances of saturated color are noted against pale backgrounds, a technique that serves to emphasize shape and line within the composition.
It’s a week of oppositions in Memphis galleries: high-brow meets low-brow, the natural meets the plastic, and the old meets the new. At David Lusk Gallery, the paintings of Leslie Holt and sculptures of Wayne Edge are (respectively) cynical and stoic; hot pink and earthtoned. At Memphis College of Art, the main Rust Hall Gallery is devoted calming depictions of the Gulf Coast, while the neighboring Alumni gallery is full of Chloe York’s bright, cartoonish paintings. At Five in One Social Club, artists have revisited oldtime woodcut printmaking with new(ish) heavy machinery.
Memphis College of Art is displaying "Horn Island 29." The Rust Hall Gallery is packed out with student, faculty, and alumni work— all inspired by a May 2013 trip to Horn Island, off the Gulf of Mexico. This is the 29th year that MCA has sent a group to the island. The resulting works run the gamut from traditional painting, to cartoons, to metalwork and conceptual sculpture.
The best work this year comes from Slade Bishop, whose linocut prints of various forms of crustaceous life seem an appropriate reflection of the Island’s creative environs: meditative, simply executed, serious without being somber. Bill Nelson’s careful paintings and Adam Hawk’s fabricated steel-framed sculpture/painting also stand out.
Luke McDowell showed three enigmatic photographs that he shot at night from the actual inside of a dead jellyfish, using a waterproof camera. McDowell, a recent grad in illustration, said that he never expected to take photographs from the innards of sea life but, when he found the jellyfish on the beach, he thought, “Why not?” The results are as painterly as they are photographic, echoing a cross-media note that is repeated throughout the exhibition.
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.
Dwayne Butcher: How did you first become interested in tracing the archeology of your art studio?
Clover Archer Lyle: Conceptually, I'm using this installation to continue the exploration of ideas that I've been working with for some time. The specific idea for this project started percolating last summer when I was in the first days of a month-long residency, trying to stave off the anxiety that comes with starting a new project. I was occupying a well-used studio space with walls that reflected years of art making and I started thinking that these “blank” walls were actually quite dense with the invisible experience of supporting the creative process. These marks, scuffs, holes and blemishes are simultaneously important and insignificant. The focus of this time is the artwork, not the residue of installing or making it. I became interested in tracing the archeology of art spaces because I wanted to reify this time and these histories.
Check out some great new art shows if the spring weather has you in the mood for fine art, or if you just happen to be out East tonight.
L Ross Gallery is opening a two-person show for Memphis oil painter Pamela Hassler with Light in the Wetlands and Nashville watercolorist Butler Steltemeier with Spring and Sheep, through March 31st. Hassler’s beautiful oils portray spiritual landscapes, while Steltemeier's animal portraits combine dreamy settings with dead-on realism.
Artreach will host the work of Dawn Whitelaw, a Franklin-based oil painter who specializes in landscape and portraiture. All openings run from 6 to 8 p.m., so start early! Free wine!
Moments of Reverie, Lauren Coulson's show on display now at the new Playhouse on the Square, captures an interesting conversation between paint and print, between consciousness and abstraction.
In 2001, Mary Cashiola sat down with Mahaffey White as she reflected on the past 90 years of her life. An avid photographer, White is still at it 9 years later, and this time her work is on display alongside that of her great niece, Ashley Kuhn.
Wings Gallery, 100 N. Humphreys Blvd, www.wingscancerfoundation.org
Each year students from Memphis College of Art take a trip to Horn Island off the Gulf Coast, following in the personal tradition of Walter Anderson. There they isolate themselves, become immersed in the island life, and, ideally, produce work to bring back and put on display. Tomorrow is the reception for the Horn Island 26 show— featuring work from the 26th annual trip. (Read more about the trip in John Branston's cover feature, Endangered.)
Now on display at Askew Nixon Ferguson is New Work by Ann Fitzgerald Bailey and Kathy Williams. Combining Fitzgerald's watercolors and mixed media and Williams' acrylic dyes on silk and bamboo, the exhibition makes an elegant addition to the gallery.
The show will be up until September 24. Askew Nixon Ferguson Gallery is open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Askew Nixon Ferguson Architects, 1500 Union Ave, 278-6868, www.anfa.com/gallery.aspx