Thursday, April 11, 2013

The End is Near

Posted By on Thu, Apr 11, 2013 at 8:57 PM

Really, the end is near. The end of the “Present Tense” exhibition at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens, that is. The biggest event to happen in Memphis in several years finishes up its successful run this Sunday. Go see this show one last time. Or, most likely, go see this show for the first time because you always thought there was plenty of time to see it. While, that time is now. See what Memphis artists have been up to over the last ten years before the work comes down and goes back in the storage units from whence they came.

One a side note, as a participating artist, the best part about this exhibition for me is that I had a free place to store my painting for several months. Storage that just happened to be in a public place is an added bonus!

No, I kid. The free storage was only the second best part of the exhibition. The best part was that this exhibition got people talking about almost every single aspect of the visual art scene in Memphis. The only thing that did not come up in all the discussions is the fact that Memphis does not have an actual arts district.

No, really, there is no such thing as a real arts district in Memphis. There are areas that call themselves an arts district, but, the city does not designate or label any street, block, or neighborhood as such. The residents and business owners of certain areas are free to label whatever, whomever and whenever they wish. I can say one thing. Being able to call something an arts district sure can help the property values and the panache of a particular area, areas such as the South Main Arts District.

There has never really been much art in this particular arts district. Sure, MCA’s Hyde Gallery is there now. Sure, there are some boutique shops that also sale art. Sure, there have been many galleries to have a limited presence in the area (and then to close relatively quick afterwards). Sure, once a month during trolley night the retail stores put some artwork up around their real products and people walk around the streets drinking wine. Oh well.

Broad Ave is not an arts district for sure. Okay, every two or three months they have an arts walk where thousands of people walk up and down the sidewalks drinking beer. Sure, all the empty storefronts and vacant buildings are turned into makeshift art spaces for this special night. But, it is just for the one-day event and then they go back to being empty buildings. Oh well. At least you can always see paintings hanging in The Three Angel’s Diner. Yes I know there is an alternative space that recently opened. But I also know that the other alternative space is in a building that is for sale.

Speaking of the paintings hanging in the Three Angel’s Diner. Sunday, April 14 from 2-4pm Bobby and Mel Spillman, husband and wife artists who each have paintings at Three Angel’s, will exhibit new work at the Nathan and Dorothy Shainberg Gallery at the Jewish Community Center, 6560 Poplar Ave. Titled “Noir,” the exhibition runs through May 23, 2013.

Bobby Spillman
  • Bobby Spillman

Melanie Spillman
  • Melanie Spillman

The title is a reference to the color black and the illustrative art of storytelling. Bobby is mostly known for his oil paintings of humorously depicted animals and architecture of the fictional town of Spillmanville. Melanie makes work of blank open figures as depicted in a variety of fashion magazines created with a range of thick and thin ink washes. For this exhibition they each focused on what the term Noir means to them. With each artist having an interest in classic illustration and narratives, work that was created, for the most part, with only different values of black, they decided putting together an exhibition highlighting their affinity to this material makes sense. According to the press release, “the works in the show discuss a variety of subjects from editorial, non-fictional, and just downright satirical. The exhibition represents years of dedication to these themes and mediums.”

It will be a fun show with some good work. Go see it. It would be better after checking out the exhibition at the Dixon after having brunch at Three Angel’s Diner conveniently located in the self-designated Broad Ave. Arts District.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Future is Now

Posted By on Fri, Apr 5, 2013 at 11:27 AM

The upper level administration of the Art Department at the University of Memphis reads this blog. In particular, this post where I state that the BFA exhibitions for their students have to be on view longer than the opening reception. It is an absolute disservice to the graduating students to be given only one night to exhibit work after four or five years and paying an exorbitant amount of money to the U of M. They responded by having the next BFA exhibition be on view for a week. “Reclaimed” opens tonight 6-9pm at the new Fogelman Contemporary Gallery at 3715 Central Ave and runs through April 12, 2013.

I have many more suggestions on how this administration can improve the Art Department. But, I will save that for another post. Today’s post is all about the future and that future is now.

It is that time of the academic year when the area schools holds their BFA exhibitions. It is a great chance to see what the future holds for the visual arts in Memphis. With this U of M exhibition in particular, I was ecstatic to see that there was not one figurative painting, not one more painting of a landscape, and not one black and white photograph of the Hernando-Desoto Bridge. Instead, this exhibition offers non-traditional subject matter and processes, contemporary ideas, examples of new media, and a post-modern take of Bauhaus design and aesthetics. These students are thinking not only about how their works fits into a contemporary arts dialogue, but how they themselves can dictate that dialogue.

Dictating this dialogue is foremost on the mind of Brit McDaniel. She is excited about the all of the creative energy that is happening now in Memphis. With the “Present Tense,” “Contemporaries,” and the “Super-Epic Memphis Unicorn Magical Exhibition Show” exhibitions she states, “this excitement makes it possible to make a living as an artist in Memphis.” She wants people to stick around Memphis after they graduate. So, she plans on starting a retail space with a modern storefront to exhibit and sale the works of other artists. She has experience with such spaces having her work in similar spaces in New York and Austin. Her pieces are concerned with the idea of functional work as an art object saying that, “craft is the highest form of art because we use it everyday.”

Brit McDaniel
  • Brit McDaniel

Brittney Boyd also deals with issues and objects that we use everyday. Her work specifically deals with beauty, the perceptions and fixed characterizations people place on each other everyday. She is interested on the assumptions people make about others just by looking at them, by what they wear, by certain features. Boyd creates fashion pieces that are not necessarily functional that are made out of beauty and fashion magazines such as Vogue and Cosmopolitan and created to intentionally look ridiculous on the model. Boyd and Brantley Ellzey should collaborate on fashion show made entirely out of rolled up magazines. That would be incredible.

Brittney Boyd
  • Brittany Boyd

Speaking of collaborations, Elizabeth Joy Greene exhibits work that is concerned with mutualism in nature. Mutualism is the way two organisms of different species exist in a relationship in which each individual benefits. Examples of this relationship are the bee and the flower, the alligator and leeches, and in the Greene’s case, the oxpecker and the rhinoceros. The oxpecker, a type of bird, lands on the rhino’s back and eats the ticks and other parasites that live in their skin. The oxpecker gets the food and the rhino gets pest control. She is interested in continuing this type of work and hopes to partner with animal biologists and zoologists for future projects. I would love to see her take on a Damien Hirst formaldehyde piece showing the relationship of a great white shark and a remora. Also, that would be incredible.

Elizabeth Joy Greene
  • Elizabeth Joy Greene

Lisa Pendleton’s work deals with all the issues the above students deal with individually, fashion, relationships, and function. Her “purse monsters” are women’s purses and bags that are rendered non-functional. She creates these monsters by repurposing materials and objects found around her home. She wants to blur the lines of the monster and beauty stating, “anything can be beautiful to anyone.” She has installed the work on hooks similar to those that are found under the bar at a restaurant. Pendleton has plans to leave these purses on hooks at bars and wait around to see what reaction they elicit from unsuspecting patrons.

Lisa Pendleton
  • Lisa Pendleton

Another artist thinking about repurposing traditional materials in contemporary ways is Angela Morgan. She has three large-scale pieces that created from cut out paper, handmade wall paper, and fabric that are woven and pieced together. Morgan does not begin with any sort of source material, other than commenting on processes that traditionally associated with “women's work” like weaving, sewing and the use of fabric. Instead, it is initially a free association of materials and intuitive mark-making until she sees a pattern or combination that inspires her. These are some very laborious pieces, one of which I cannot help but think of as anything other than the Les Misérables poster.

Angela Morgan (detail)
  • Angela Morgan (detail)

Other artists with work in the exhibition are Lauren Cook Sarah Crase, Angee Montgomery, John Morgan, Joseph Tschume, and Felecia Wheeler.

Go out and see the future tonight. Then go watch Marc Gasol dunk on his older brother.

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