Another 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.
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.
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.
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.