Month: May 2015

More on Memphis: Crosstown Arts

CrosstownArtsAnother stop on my tour of Memphis was Crosstown Arts. This nonprofit arts org is located in the shadow of the old Crosstown building, the 1.5 million square foot Sears Roebuck & Co. distribution center that’s been empty since 1993. It’s now in redevelopment to become a “mixed-use vertical urban village” and slated to open as such in 2017.

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Crosstown Arts is a performance site, a gallery, an after-school youth arts and literacy program, and a flea market. I met staffer Emily Harris Halpern there and she was kind enough to show me around. Crosstown is totally community focused. Halpern says that one of their goals is neighborhood revitalization, and they’re playing a part in the renovation of the Sears building as founding tenants. When Crosstown Concourse opens, they’ll move in with expanded programming, including artist residencies. They now hold an open crit each month and invite artists to bring in their work for participatory critique.DSC02990

They also rent a low-cost performance space to Memphians. Coming up, they’re hosting a book release party, a hip hop listening session, and a poetry reading series. They also make field trips. On May 31, for example, Crosstown is taking a bus full of people to Arkansas Art Center in Little Rock to see 30 Americans, the stunning, important exhibition of African-American artists that came to the Frist in 2013. Crosstown offers a bus ticket and guided tour of the exhibition for $25.

While I was there, I caught Between the Eyes, an exhibition of abstracts curated by Laurel Sucsy. It features Marina Adams, Rob de Oude, Joe Fyfe, Rubens Ghenov, Iva Gueorguieva, and some of Sucsy’s own work. Together, they demonstrate the many ways to communicate through abstract painting. I liked the work as a whole and individually. I hadn’t heard of any of the artists, and I’ve been investigating each since my trip. Sucsy chose an international roster with very different styles: from the supple, sensual bold shapes of Marina Adams (anyone else totally turned on by these?) to the dizzying geometry of Rob de Oude.

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Marina Adams, “Four Worlds,” 2013; oil and acrylic on panel, 74 by 74 inches.

 

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Rubens Ghenov, “Leafe Verse,” 2015; acrylic on linen, 20 by 16 inches.

Seeing two by Iva Gueorguieva was a real treat. “Scarlet Squall” (2012; pictured third below) got my heart pumping with its sharp shapes that crash into each other and splinter, united by a central energy that pulls everything inward. In contrast, Rubens Ghenov‘s “Leafe Verse” is a minimal and solitary beauty with great visual depth. Joe Fyfe has four pieces in the show. Constructed from materials like wood, cloth, rope, and styrofoam, Fyfe’s pieces call into question the nature of painting and prioritize process over image. In using diverse materials, Fyfe is bound by constraints, and you get the feeling that in all of his works, he’s trying to solve a puzzle. Keep scrolling for some more images of this compelling exhibition.

 

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Iva Gueorguieva, “Vanishing )after Perugino),” 2013; acrylic, collage and oil on canvas, 76 by 81 inches.

 

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Rob de Oude, “Fanning a Recurring Past,” 2012; oil and acrylic on panel, 16 by 16 inches.

 

Joe Fyfe, "Vihn Apricot Kite," 2014; object, wood, cloth, 64.5 by 40 inches.

Joe Fyfe, “Vihn Apricot Kite,” 2014; object, wood, cloth, 64.5 by 40 inches.

Laurel Sucsy, Untitled, 2015; oil on linen, 20 by 16 inches.

Laurel Sucsy, Untitled, 2015; oil on linen, 20 by 16 inches.

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The Mayoral Candidates Talk Arts at Last Night’s Forum

Last night, all seven of the mayoral candidates discussed their vision for the arts in a forum hosted by Nashville Arts Coalition. All agree that arts and culture must be grown and sustained. Many discussed the fact that Nashville trails its peer cities in arts spending. The national average is $5.44 per capita spent on the arts and Nashville falls behind at $4.10. Cities like Charlotte and Austin are way ahead. Here are my take-aways from the forum.

Howard Gentry stressed arts programming in traditionally underserved communities, calling for revitalization districts. He says that “the arts and cultural aspect of the city has flatlined since 2000,” and he won’t shy away from dedicated funding. All of the candidates focused on affordable space. One of Gentry’s solutions is looking into unused and underused commercial spaces, especially in traditionally underserved neighborhoods.

Charter School founder Jeremy Kane mentioned moving forward with Envision Cayce, a revitalization project for the Cayce homes in East Nashville off Shelby Avenue. Kane talked the most about education and looking for innovative ways to involve artists with Metro schools. He also talked about the possibility of crowdfunding for the arts and noted improving public transit on his list of priorities.

Councilwoman Megan Barry discussed the Artisan Manufacturing Zoning bill that’s just been filed with council. Gentry and Charles Robert Bone agree that re-zoning is necessary to allow artists and artisans to have live/work spaces where they can legally manufacture. Barry also wants to expand the THRIVE program and is looking to Barnes Housing to continue providing affordable housing.

Bone also said he wants to provide more affordable loan options for artists: “If you’re an entrepreneur in this city and you want to start a new business, there’s 50 individual investors that I can tell you to go see; there’s 25 different funds. I think we have to be better and more creative at how we provide the same type of funding for those in the arts and those who want to pursue their creative interests,” Bone said.

Developer Bill Freeman predictably discussed his plans for building 10,000 affordable housing units over his four year term. This is a cornerstone of his campaign. Freeman favors involving the private sector and reaching out to developers across the country for affordable housing ideas. He also noted that expanding the budget for Metro schools will allow for more arts programming.

Linda Eskind Rebrovick touted her work in the technology sector as a natural bridge to the arts. She’s interested in co-housing plans that will encourage collaboration and networking amongst artists and musicians. She also wants to look into involving the city’s community centers in more arts programming.

David Fox is hesitant to promise funding without knowing where it will come from but agrees that it has to be stepped up. Barry mentioned putting more sales tax toward the arts and Kane wants to look into crowdsourcing, but no substantial plans for dedicated funding came up. David Fox also favors focusing on more incubator programs like Casa Azafran and Periscope to heed longterm results for artists and the public alike. He left early for another engagement.

If you’re interested in a rough transcript of the forum (mostly direct quotes, some in note form), let me know. 

The Memphis Chronicles: Tops Gallery and Dale McNeil

Next up in my coverage of art in Memphis: Tops Gallery is located in a basement in downtown Memphis, but like I saw in the city’s home galleries, the best art is found in the most unlikely places. Photographer Matt Ducklo cleaned out the basement a few years ago; it was no easy task. He had to remove a lot of debris and get this funky, deep dark space clean. He topped it off with a white epoxy floor that’s just bonkers. Tops is a labor of love, and any art lover’s visit to Memphis is incomplete without a tour of this singular space.

I published a short review and interview with artist Dale McNeil, who is showing Material Will – Force in Form at Tops through May 31. Head over to Country Life to check it out. Here’s my favorite photo from the visit.

Dale McNeil's Material Will - Force in Form is showing at Tops Gallery in Memphis through May 31.

Dale McNeil’s Material Will – Force in Form is showing at Tops Gallery in Memphis through May 31.

I Heart Memphis Home Galleries

This week, I drove 200 miles to Memphis to check out their art scene. I was inspired by LOCATE Arts, an initiative launched by two Knoxville artists to bridge the gaps among Tennessee’s art scenes by organizing a TN biennial and creating a centralized website of exhibition listings. (Read more about it here.) Modeled after Texas’ Glass Tire, LOCATE Arts would unify artists, galleries, and all exhibition spaces in Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville, and Chattanooga.

I loved being in Memphis. I looked online and asked around for places to go, but some of my favorites were spaces I was led to once I arrived. In two home galleries, people are eschewing the confinement and exclusivity of commercial galleries to show work that’s relevant, hip, and local.

GLITCH is the home and gallery space of artist Adam Farmer. Although he was between shows when I visited, he was kind enough to let me take a look around and hang for a bit. The two front rooms were empty, but the walls were painted — some like outer space, another with light geometric shapes, another like wallpaper. They change for pretty much every show. Farmer curates solo exhibitions and group shows — sometimes with a huge roster of artists — of everything from paintings and drawings to cigar boxes and book arts.

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In Adam Farmer’s bedroom in GLITCH – Memphis, TN

Making your way to Memphis for a GLITCH opening would be worth the trip in itself. Farmer invites musical guests and performers for an all out party. Most opening receptions are the second-to-last Friday of every month, but you can always check the GLITCH Facebook page to see what’s coming up. The rest of his house — his studio, bedroom, kitchen, and even bathroom — is a funky museum of Farmer’s work, artistic collaborations, and work by his peers. Well, it’s more like the collection of someone’s weird, hoarding great aunt than it is museum, but that’s all the better. In the backyard, I checked out Farmer’s assemblages, which he says are shrines to important turning points in his life. Follow Farmer and GLITCH on Instagram @glitchmemphis.

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Inside GLITCH in Memphis, TN

 

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Inside GLITCH, in Memphis, TN

 

Farmer pointed me in the direction of another home gallery, Southfork, in the residence of Lauren Kennedy, and she was kind enough to invite me over on half-a-day’s notice. Kennedy’s apartment changes with each installation — many branching out to different rooms. I got to check out the current exhibition, hilariously titled Old Man Study Group, a collaborative show from Hamlett Dobbins and Douglas Degges. The two have been passing notebooks back and forth for years. I’m excited to dig into their process.

“Old Man Study Group.” Hamlett Dobbins and Douglas Degges at Southfork – Memphis.

Douglas Degges.

Douglas Degges. “Old Man Study Group,” Southfork – Memphis.

In the dining room, I discovered Carroll Nikkila’s creepy baby wall sculptures. I’d love to fall asleep to some of these beauties watching over me.

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Carroll Nikkila. Southfork – Memphis

But what really rocked my socks were these two collages by an artist named St. Francis Elevator Ride. I’m telling you, the name is just the beginning. His work is a visual feast of bodies, birds, and food. It was love at first sight.

St. Francis Elevator Ride. Southfork - Memphis.

St. Francis Elevator Ride. Southfork – Memphis.

More on my Memphis travels coming soon!

Notes on May’s Art Crawl

Let me get out of the way that I am the writer-in-residence at Seed Space and close to its staff. Two out of three of this month’s exhibitions are my favorite SS programming ever, nonetheless.

1. First, my favorite things. Seed Space was lit up by Rocky Horton‘s “All the Lights in My House.” Horton de-installed literally all the lights in his family’s home and brought them to Seed Space. He installed a false ceiling and hung most of them from it, including a wonderful, chinzy chandelier that is the exhibition’s centerpiece. Other lights appeared on the ground and wall. My favorite part is that Horton left the lights in the condition they were in; some are dusty or filled with the dead bugs we all collect in our respective homes. I like this honesty. It tells me something about his life and family, and much more about him as an artist. It’s a sacrifice, for sure, and the piece is only a piece in this context with all of the related parts. I got to talk to Horton, who verified that indeed, he and his family will be without lights for the six weeks of the installation. I love knowing that part of it, imagining this family of five living by the light of the sun alone. I’ll have more to say on this soon.

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2. Also at Seed Space, Nathan Sharratt performed “Blood Brothers.” He was set up in Track One down the hall (adjacent to the entrance, which made for a beautiful framing.) Dressed in blood-stained white, Sharratt sat at a small table across from an empty chair. When I approached, he said, “Would you like to be my blood brother?” Of course, I obliged, and Sharratt began the ritual. He drew blood (OK, it’s not really blood) from a little glass vial marked “MOTHER” and mixed it methodically on the table with a palette knife. Then, he drew the knife across his palm; I did the same, and our hands met in the center. And that moment lasted for at least a solid 30 seconds. First I felt embarrassed — when was the last time anyone looked at me so intently? But gradually, I relaxed into it and Sharratt continued to stare purposefully into my eyes. I thanked him (like an idiot). Now blood brothers, Sharratt and I made bloody thumb prints on a “receipt.” He said, “Thanks for being my blood brother.” He pinned my receipt to the wall behind him with the rest of his blood family, which was quickly filling with thumb prints.

In all honesty, it was more intimate than any moment I’ve shared with a member of my biological family in many years. I hung around watching the performance for a while. People who originally declined participation also hung around, their curiosity increasing as they witnessed strangers interacting with Sharratt. Some of them eventually sat down across from him. It was as if their desire for communion outlasted their skepticism. It was beautiful.

3. Wendy White’s show up at Sherrick & Paul right now is gorgeous. I got to write about it in this month’s Nashville Arts. It was a huge honor. Go see it.

4. I didn’t make it downtown and am sad I missed James Connolly at COOP Gallery. Connolly is a new media artist who bends old audio/visual equipment into instruments. From what I hear, his two performances were awesome. Does anyone have a clip?

5. Fort Houston showed “New Nashville Photography,” a group exhibition of photos by Beth Gorham, Bradley Marshall, Casey Carter, Chris Donahue, Evan Hickman, Holden Head, Jamie Donahue, and Shawne Brown. Very little struck me here. I liked Casey Carter’s photos of people in Murfreesboro well enough; her racially mixed subjects seem to be having genuine interactions. But overall, the show was not compelling. I’ll admit that I have a very difficult time describing why I do or don’t like certain photography. I’m working on that. I know that I like it when I want to see through the photographer’s eyes all the time. It’s a rare and exceptional experience.

6. Cody Tumblin showed “Bits and Pieces” at the Packing Plant. He arranged his dyed and sewn textile paintings on cords that stretched across the narrow space like clotheslines. I loved how his pieces were all two-sided, and it was fun to see people duck under the lines to get a peek from the back of the room. Tumblin’s dyed fabrics tell a richly pigmented color story, many of them relying on vertical lines and grids (a theme in the venue’s recent programming, it seems.) The clothesline install gave it a weirdly residential feel in the raw space of the Packing Plant, a nice contrast.

Cody Tumblin. The Packing Plant. Nashville, TN.

Cody Tumblin. “Bits and Pieces.” The Packing Plant. Nashville, TN.

7. “Projected Nostalgia” also showed in Track One. Organized by Seed Space as part of their NFA program, it featured work by student artists from Vanderbilt, APSU, and Lipscomb. It’s a tough space to show art: it’s dark and stony in there, but knowing this didn’t make it any less underwhelming. So much of the work was the same: the fact that there were two piles of dirt by two different artists and another pile of bricks and stones baffled me (didn’t they talk before installation?). There were softer materials, too: wall sculptures of yarn and stuffed animals did not transcend the materials, and try as I might, I couldn’t coax meaning out of the armchair erupting with latex tumors. Add a belly button projected on a bedsheet to the mix, and you get pretty much what you expect from an undergraduate show of a dozen artists. The exhibition might have benefited from some context: artist statements or at least some short blurbs may have provided access to meaning; the physical list of works was a map that I couldn’t figure out. Maybe they needed more supervision. Maybe the space was just wrong for what they were doing. In any case, I’m sure better exhibitions are in each of their futures.

8. Jessica Wohl’s work at Zeitgeist though. It needs its own post, coming soon.