Fort Houston

Pre-Gaming Your Art Weekend

The art crawl and Porter Flea will have you busy enough Saturday, but what if you want to whet your appetite sooner? These events are bound to satisfy tonight and tomorrow.

Chad Burton Johnson. "Disdain," 2014. Mixed media on wood, 12 by 12 inches.

Chad Burton Johnson. “Disdain,” 2014. Mixed media on wood, 12 by 12 inches.

Fort Houston will have Turntable Tour #2, the second in a series of pop-ups, tonight Thursday June 4. The show will feature work by Sean Starwars, Chad Burton Johnson, and Brandon Geurts. Starwars is a pop culture-y printmaker whose work reminds me of characters from Pee Wee’s Playhouse (that’s a compliment.) I predict Johnson will be my favorite, as his work weighs heavily on social issues and includes rhinestones. Geurts’s fiery amorphous landscapes meditate on the artist’s fetishes. Starts at 5:00. Free with Cezanne’s beer.

Myles Bennett, "in the Manner of Hanon." Mixed media and textile, 93 by 53.

Myles Bennett, “in the Manner of Hanon.” Mixed media and textile, 93 by 53.

Tomorrow, Friday June 5, Courtney Adair Johnson curates a show at Track One called The Silo Room. Working from the metaphor of the silo as the working artist — isolated by nature — Johnson invites six artists to show work in order to laterally engage them in their silos. In the exhibition statement, Johnson writes,

The idea is that each department in an organization — sales, design, manufacturing, customer service, order fulfillment, technical support, etc. (artist) — is an independent vertical structure that is self-contained and independent from the others. You work in your own silo, communicate with people inside the silo (there are no windows, so you don’t even see anyone else), and have as little contact as possible with people in other silos.

The show will feature work by Myles Bennett, Nance Cooley, Justin Gill, Lauren Gregory, Andy Harding, Courtney Adair Johnson, and Kit Kite. I browsed Myles Bennett‘s work this afternoon. He’s a Brooklynite who sometimes unweaves canvases and drapes them in ways that make them seem both heavy and light, serious and lighthearted. His piece in the show will include an antler(!) Opening is at 6:00. Show will stay up for Saturday’s crawl. Free.

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.

horton

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.

This Weekend: Circuit Benders’ Ball

What do you get when you cross a floor lamp, a snow machine motor, and a piano? Read on to find out! 

This weekend, Nashvillians will have a special treat with the Circuit Benders’ Ball that kicks off Friday, April 11th at 5:00pm at Fort Houston. The very best places to find information about the Ball are here and here, where curator and maker Tony Youngblood has the details. 

The best way to describe circuit bending to someone who’s never heard of it is this: people recycle electronics and found objects–the older and weirder, the better–to produce a bonafide sound machine with crazy-wavy high pitches, strumming alto pitches, beeps, boops, and bangs. To me, girlfriend and housemate of Tony Youngblood, it mostly translates to a lot of noise when I’m trying to watch Star Trek ToS, but when I get downstairs to his workshop and see some of the things he’s made and others have bequeathed to him, I’m pretty amazed.  

Image

Above, behold Tim Kaiser’s creation. This vintage rotary telephone was “bent” with a sound effect keychain, like the ones you had as a kid that made grenade noises. Kaiser wired and soldered these together. It’s controlled by switches and the rotary dialer itself.

Toys range in complexity to pretty simple (ah, I can see how he did it!) to extremely complex (WTF?!). See more of his bent instruments here.  Kaiser is not only a gifted transformer, he’s also a musician and performer, and he uses these in his ambient compositions. 

Curious? Check out the Ball this weekend, and try one of the workshops!  They’re beginner-friendly and kept to about 15 people and have names like “Playdoh vs. Lego” and “Hacking the Gameboy.” There will also be panelists, visual artists, performers, live visuals, and special presentations. And best of all, what I’m coming to love about Nashville, there will be people knocking about, exploring ideas and sharing in the creative spirit that moves them.