Passion & Pain 

Contemporary quartet: Lukova, Evelyn, Broughel, and Inscho.

Luba Lukova’s Water, at the Memphis College of Art;

Luba Lukova’s Water, at the Memphis College of Art;

Memphis College of Art's current exhibition, "Drawing Comment: Illustration and Social Commentary," includes internationally noted artist Luba Lukova's stunning portrait of love and loss titled Water. Although the work is semi-abstracted, we can just make out a mother's expression, still see the pride and concern she feels for the fire-engine-red baby that lies on her chest and cries. The mother is armless. Her body is as cracked and gray as parched earth. Instead of statistics regarding rates of mortality, instead of discussions about drought and its impact on the African continent, Lukova's in-our-face, one-on-one work of art asks us to feel, really feel, what it's like to love a child then watch it die.

Through March 27th

A New Yorker for years, now living in Nova Scotia and exhibiting across Europe, Canada, and the U.S., Leya Evelyn paints like she lives — experimentally, with daring, and open to new possibilities.

The nuanced, layered, scumbled, and scraped surfaces of Evelyn's "Recent Paintings" at Harrington Brown Gallery allow us to see her visions unfold as sunlight moves across a weathered facade in Wilder By Far, no. 2, as almost impenetrable darkness falls across the right panel of the triptych Chance Meetings, and as passions are laid bare on the scraped saturate-red surface of I Knew About It Anyway, no. 5

The circles and ovals that often appear in Evelyn's work are not geometrically exact symbols suggesting eternity or cycles of nature or elliptical orbits of planets that change little over millennia. Somewhere between line and form, between object and abstraction, Evelyn has developed a highly personal language of gesture that feels inflected with emotion and new ideas: frayed rope-like lines hang loosely then knot up in I Knew About It Anyway, no. 1, uncoil and reach up in Tell Me the Reason, no. 2.

Along the edges of many of Evelyn's paintings tiny pieces of fabric are collaged next to equally small swatches of color. You may find yourself moving into and stepping back from these paintings again and again as you explore works so rich and evocative, each centimeter of their borders is a fully realized work of art.

Through April 5th 

For "Lied, Tied & Dyed," artist and activist Suzanne Broughel has filled Jones Hall Gallery with incredibly soft materials and colors. As we step in close to enjoy her subtle textures and tones, we're also drawn into an exploration of what the artist describes as "white skin privilege and economic racism" and "serious inequalities that still exist."

Broughel's mix of the conceptual and visceral, her nuances of meaning as well of texture and tone, and her inventive, sometimes unnerving, use of everyday materials — including skin bronzers that simulate bullet wounds in ribbed cotton T-shirts, basketball hoops tied into knots used for lynching, and Martha Stewart bedsheets tie-dyed and titled White Confidant of a Black Panther (Self-Portrait of David Horowitz) — make her explorations of privilege and prejudice particularly powerful. 

Hundreds of rows of beige-toned Band-Aids tilted Forty Acres of Bandaids (Every Shade of Bandaid For Sale Within Forty Acres of the African Burial Ground, NYC) not only address the presumption that flesh tones are beige instead of deep-brown or black, they also evoke the stone blocks out of which slaves in Egypt and in 18th-century New York City built huge edifices that housed and entombed the rich and powerful.

Many of Broughel's works radiate in all directions in sometimes celebratory, sometimes chaotic, sometimes explosive ways. In our overpopulated and high-tech world, millions of people, no longer needed for backbreaking labor, are jobless and destitute. Their basic needs are unmet, their desire for opportunity is profound, and their energy is coiled and also ready to explode.

Through March 25th

James Inscho's paintings bring us full circle. Memphis attracts noted artists from around the country and world, and our city sends out prize-winning artists like University of Memphis fine arts major, James Inscho, whose works can now be seen at the U of M's Communication and Fine Arts Building.

Stand close to Inscho's large oil-on-canvas The Condition IV, and it nearly overwhelms with undulating fields of burgundy, crimson, and opalescent orange. Stand back several feet, and you'll see a portrait of humanity that is at once existential, sardonic, and seething.

Near the center of the work, a full set of teeth, tinted blood-red, smiles at us with what looks like a warning and a welcome, a grimace and a grin. Inscho's shape-shifting pool of roiling blood and emotion in this work confronts us not with a portrait of disease but some truths about the human condition that can't be cured or overridden or high-teched away.

Through April 15th by appointment

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