Grief, gender blurring, and metaphorical wallop.

Jenny Holzer, Lustmord (detail), from the show “Anguish”

Jenny Holzer, Lustmord (detail), from the show “Anguish”

Curator Cynthia Thompson has gathered together artworks by 10 internationally noted artists for "Anguish," MCA Graduate School Gallery's inaugural exhibition that runs the gamut of grief.

Polly Apfelbaum's huge, floor-covering Funkytown is made out of hundreds of hand-dyed and hand-cut pieces of synthetic velvet that range from soft-edged pastels to more tightly stitched pieces of fabric to large swatches of deep-blue and deep-burgundy velvets that appear to puddle and flow across the gallery floor toward a wall where two beautiful young women are sobbing.

Words written in black ink across vibrant pink flesh in Jenny Holzer's 17 Cibachrome prints titled Lustmord (sex murder) cut deep into the psyches of women ravaged by war and into the collective consciousness of wartime Bosnia as Holzer records the actual words of victims, family members who witnessed the atrocities, and perpetrators who seem concerned only with whether or not their sexual appetites have been satisfied by the women they raped and murdered.  

"Anguish" covers grief but never wallows in pathos and speaks to truth so powerfully that this show may change forever the way you look at life and art.

Through November 7th

Under the direction of its new curator, Lester Merriweather, Jones Hall Gallery at the University of Memphis is also mounting some daring, strikingly original shows such as "Objectify Me, Woman!" in which Tam Tran explores "gender blur" and "the gray areas of sexuality" by applying makeup and women's clothing to young men posed in traditionally feminine postures.

In Hello Monroe, a man with white-gold hair, porcelain skin, dreamy expression, and chin cupped in hand strikes a pose recalling Marilyn Monroe and the Hollywood glamour shots of the '50s. The same man, wearing an unbuttoned translucent blouse in Me Again, thwarts our soft porn expectations with his Adam's apple, flat muscular chest, and the thick black hair surrounding his navel.

A touch of color added to the lips of a svelte young man with long brown hair who holds his arms above his head and grasps the metal bars behind him in Pretty Jesus blurs boundaries by exploring the thin line between gentleness and passivity, sexual and spiritual passion, and sainthood and sadomasochism. 

In Close Call, a man looks down the barrel of a rifle. His expression is brooding instead of dreamy, and his wrinkled cutoffs augment the shape of his penis positioned directly beneath the barrel of the rifle. Red lipstick makes the portrait even more unsettling. This could be a story about cross-dressing or testosterone in overdrive or sexual identity so conflicted that passion turns to rage.

Tran's explorations of sexual identity come at an especially poignant moment. The teenagers who committed suicide recently after being taunted for their sexual orientation tragically remind us that shaming can also lead to self-loathing and violence directed against self.

Through October 22nd

Bring your children, your Peter Pan sense of play, and your Jane Goodall empathy for life when you visit David Lusk Gallery's current show, "The Liberated Landscape," which features some of Tad Laurtizen Wright's wryest, most original, and poignant artwork to date.

Feel the vibes emanating from the radiantly radioactive tree titled A Cautionary Note. Pay homage to a fallen giant as light bends and blurs through a liquor flask raking across sawdust in Urn for a Dead Tree. Do a two-step with Buzz Saw Retirement, the large jagged-edged circular painting hanging from the ceiling.

Even Lauritzen Wright's smallest works pack a physical and metaphysical wallop. A white median strip propels the viewer's perspective straight up a black-topped highway in Heavy Metal Rainbow. Instead of racing toward a pot of gold, we soar toward a skull tinted pink and red, suggesting fresh road kill. Or perhaps this is a fierce Hindu god or a memento mori whose still intact, perfectly white, perfectly straight teeth provide no secret potent for immortality no matter how often we brush our pearly whites.

Through October 30th

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Speaking of Jones Hall Gallery, David Lusk Gallery


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