Tag Archives: State of the Art

Gallery Hopping in Nashville: Round Two

IMG_0153The drive from Little Rock to Nashville is 5.5 hours and the growing visual art scene in a city known for incredible music makes the drive well worth the effort for a painter like myself. I didn’t hit the lively bar scene; instead, I encountered another type of entertainment – outstanding fine art. During my last trip just two months ago, I got to visit several galleries and posted about the artists my friend, Chuck, and I discovered along the way. This trip, I was able to return to the full and fabulous Bennett Gallery (see last Nashville post to read more about Bennett) and visit two that I missed last time: Tinney Contemporary and Cumberland Gallery.

Arriving downtown, I IMG_0144felt hesitant as I parked and found my way into the cool clean atmosphere of Tinney Contemporary.  Though I emailed the owner, Susan Tinney, about hand delivering my portfolio (as opposed to mailing it), I did not have an appointment and wondered how I would be received. As luck would have it, Susan was immediately available. I made it clear I did not expect any type of meeting regarding the portfolio but was simply happy to meet her and see the current exhibit. Susan was warm and welcoming and visited with me about her business, her artists, about working with clients and about art in Nashville. While we were talking, another stroke of luck…in walked James Perrin whose current solo exhibition fills the gallery with energy, chaos, color and vibrant mark making. James was there on business but was kind enough to answer a few questions and talk with me about his work. Feeling incredibly grateful for the serendipitous timing, I knew I was meant to visit Tinney Contemporary, regardless of the outcome of the portfolio delivery.

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Perrin, Colossus, After Goya, Oil and acrylic resin on linen, 80 x 96 in.

At times reminiscent of Lucien Freud’s technique, Perrin’sIMG_0147 paint becomes sculptural, with it’s excessive protrusion forming another thing all together: and that thing, we realize, is the idea of excess itself. There is more than enough; the paint is startling, beautiful, and almost gross in the settings Perrin creates. In one series, the artist provides a window to his thoughts with titles such as “Walmart” and the mounds of paint in abstracted heaps spill outward from the realistically rendered aisles of a store. It dawns on me that the paint is not gross, it is the idea of excess oozing out that makes me uncomfortable.  Artists who are able to manipulate materials to impact the viewer’s thoughts and feelings are outstanding. I wonder if Crystal Bridges Museum of Art founder, Alice Walton, might consider IMG_0146purchasing paintings that reference her family company by name and paintings that possibly comment on material goods and consumption  (if interested in Crystal Bridges, use the search box to find earlier posts about visits to the museum). One might think she would be resistant or even offended by the title and content of Perrin’s paintings. However, like the Vatican’s ownership and display of a distorted pope by Francis Bacon, Walton might embrace an artist’s cultural commentary even when it comes to the family business. Perrin’s work would have fit well in the State of the Art exhibit last year at Crystal Bridges where artists pushed traditional art making materials beyond their typical use.

After the warm reception by both the owner and the artist at Tinney, I braced myself for a less informative exchange at my next stop. Let me just say, upon entering Cumberland Gallery, I realized the error of my pessimistic attitude. It’s just that I get so nervous – visiting galleries with portfolio in hand fills me with doubt. That doubt was dispelled the moment I met gallery manager, Lydia Denkler. Though Lydia will leave soon for work elsewhere, she spoke highly and passionately of the gallery, the artists and of gallery owner, Carol Stein.

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Lavadour, New Platform, 2012, oil on wood box, 32 x 48 x 2 in.

Not wanting to dominate Lydia’s time toward the end of the work day, I wandered the gallery. Upstairs, several artists were represented and I was delighted to recognize the work of James Lavadour, who had in impressive multi panel display at Crystal Bridges during the State of the Art exhibit (apparently, their curators have discovered the Nashville art scene!).

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Greene, Bellicose Binary, 2015, acrylic and oil on panel, 36 x 36 in.

Downstairs, the longer I stood, the more intrigued I became while studying the work of Warren Greene and of Bill Killebrew. Photos simply do not communicate the evocative surfaces of each of these artists. Green’s abstractions are built of multiple transparent layers causing the viewer to continue discovering nuances that seduce. Though the content and composition is vastly different from Mark Rothko’s paintings, I found the paintings to have a similar meditative impact on the viewer. The lines, patterns and texture created in a transparent medium offer a sensory appeal that made it tempting to touch the surface of the work (though I resisted).

Killebrew, Then she swept up and had a nap., 2015, oil on linen, 30 x 54 in

Killebrew, Then she swept up and had a nap., 2015, oil on linen, 30 x 54 in

As a figure artist, I was of course interested in the work of Bill Killebrew. The muddy skin tones he uses on the figures, who are set in object filled, colorful surroundings, force the figures to recede. The interiors become more lively than the figures and the objects dominate.  These qualities, plus the flattening of space, objectify the human form and make us look like part of the clutter, indistinguishable from our overfilled surroundings. The artist makes the viewer search and search for the camouflaged figure and the experience reminded me fondly of the “hidden pictures” game in Highlights magazine. As a girl, part of the fun was all the little things I spotted while trying to find one particular object…in this case, the human. Though make no mistake, these paintings are not trivial or childish – they are sophisticated and provoking due to the composition, color palette, and relationship between the figure and the space he habitates, or that habitates him.

Killebrew, Floor Repair, 2013, oil on linen, 54 x 45 in.

Killebrew, Floor Repair, 2013, oil on linen, 54 x 45 in.

As I prepared to leave, I stopped by Lydia’s desk to say good-bye. Instead of guiding me toward the door, she offered career guidance in the form of a book recommendation (Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland). She also spoke about the projects she enjoys, and it became clear she likes to teach and help people.

What a gift it is when people give their time and knowledge, when people are willing to embrace a stranger and provide insight. The more I paint, the more I study, the more I write, and the more I pay close attention to what I am seeing – in life, in work, in museums and galleries – the more I have something to offer as well. And the exchange, regardless of the outcome (in other words, regardless of what happens with my portfolio), is exciting and rewarding. It reminds me of finally learning how to paint in the moment, exploring the process rather than fixating on the outcome. It is all such a gift and I am grateful.

Thanks for reading!
Laura

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A Spectacular Exhibit at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

DSC_0049 DSC_0050The buildings, designed by Moshe Safdie, present visitors with an architectural delight. The curved walls and linear roof lines form a jointed exoskeleton huddled like a cluster of dormant crustaceans in a watery valley. Regardless of what lies inside the magnificent hull, the outside is certainly worth a visit.

Once a visitor has marveled over the lush landscaping, the winding trails, the various sculptures and the materials forming the structure of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, she must remember there is much to experience on the inside, as well.DSC_0052

 

 

 

 

 

What lures my group up from Little Rock this time is the groundbreaking “State of the Art” exhibit of American avante garde artwork. Museum curators visited studios across the country and selected work by 102 artists for a diverse presentation of materials and ideas from the studios of today’s American artists.

While the crowds are not suffocating, there is a buzz in the air created by the excitement of numerous visitors. People seem truly interested in understanding the works and there are multiple audible “ah-ha” moments rippling throughout the galleries. A couple of the works try too hard to force found objects into an art context, such as the stack of sombreros on blowing fans reminiscent of Donald Judd’s Minimalist wall mounted rectangular forms. But who am I to say? Other visitors might connect with and marvel over that piece. There certainly is something for everyone, as an emphasis on materials (and variety of materials) is a strong theme in the show. Speaking of materials, an important distinction occurs to me as I consider the variety of pieces. This is an exhibit of what is happening in art studios across the country, not an exhibit of what is happening in the art business in our country. The curators seem to have no fear about crossing preconceived boundaries between fine art, craft and technology. DSC_0251 DSC_0257The end result is a presentation of work unfiltered through the business of art giving us a view of what artists, regardless of professional acumen, are making and saying. This is not to say all of these artists are emerging and undiscovered. Many of the artists represented are, indeed, established and already included in fine art museums, galleries and collections. But by visiting nearly 1,000 artists in all areas of the United States, the curators chose artists based on messages and materials and the show mirrors a cross section of what is happening in all types of studios, not just those who have risen to the top of an industry.

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As a painter, I am naturally drawn to many of the 2D pieces, particularly the figurative works of Vincent Valdez (see photo to the right), Delita Martin, and Mequitta Ahuja. Each work by these three artist conveys a strong sense of history and narrative. As with much great art, the pieces can be viewed multiple times with new observations and discoveries made each time.

There are a large number of video and installation pieces as well as an inventive use of materials, such as thread, plastic, glass, wood, recycled objects, and even smoke. DSC_0264Despite the alternative methods and use of materials, most of the artists succeed in communicating a message that can engage viewers, providing just enough information to allow us to “get” the piece, or at least ask relevant questions. To me, this is what makes the show wildly successful.

On the road trip home, our car held three visual artists and one writer, and boy, did we have lots of comments and questions. Despite a thorough visit, I’m ready to return, for one more look at the provoking and engaging exhibit, State of the Art.

NOTE: Below are snapshots of the helpful brochures which allow a wide variety of museum visitors to engage and appreciate the exhibit. I was tempted to work on the games below in the brochure meant for children!

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