Perambulating the Bounds

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Best of 2005: 10 Art Shows

Alright, I did a post earlier on individual pieces that stuck with me, now I’ll do 10 shows. Or serial encounters with an artist in a couple of cases.

Andrew Kaufman. His solo show at the Tennessee Arts Commission was inquisitive and heart-felt. He threaded together at least a couple of things. One was a pretty theoretical exploration of what happens when you ask what is a painting in a pretty literal way. You end up with things that emphasize the canvas itself, and a painting’s status as object of purchase. The other strand were pieces that pretty directly expressed sensations related to the affiliation of people in love and marriage. Even that was not without a lot of intellection.

Terry Rowlett. He had a bravura show at Zeitgeist that borrowed the settings, styles, and motives from painting of earlier eras to portray contemporary characters. The characters maintain their contemporary character, in bearing and expression that capture distinct stances to the world, but the material of the paintings draws a line between them and the characters who fill the history of art. It gives depth to what is contemporary and relevance to what is antique.

Leslie Kneisel. She had a show at Ruby Green and before that I stumbled across a piece by her in New York at AIR. She embroiders fantastic figures on cushions and the like, the figures detailed in elaborate lines. The images have overtones of fairy tales or horror stories, but they have a friendly-creepy quality.,

Jiha Moon. I saw her work at DC Curators Space and Creative Partners in Bethesda and posted it on it this Fall. She makes surreal, complicated landscapes, skyscapes, and seascapes, starting with Asian ink drawings techniques and lays over flat cartoon elements and flows of color in acrylic.,

Pieter Claesz. This small exhibit at the National Gallery was one that left you with a lot better understanding of the artist’s work. Claesz was a Dutch specialist in still life. The curators classified his work into 4 groups and showed how he innovated from his immediate predecessors in the form. One of the best parts was the cases that included samples of some of the objects in the paintings - wine glasses, pipes, even the ornamental cup of Haarlem Brewer’s Guild that was pictured in one painting.

Elisabeth Vigée-LeBrun. Not a single show, but I kept running across work by this portrait painter who was part of the Ancien Regime court at Versailles just before the French Revolution and was able to escape to Russia and lived into the 1840s. There were examples of her work in the Frist’s show of European paintings from the Wadsworth Athenaeum, the Rau Collection at the TN State Museum and I ran across a couple of the ones the National Gallery owns. In the Wadsworth show, you were surrounded by paintings of women by men. The women were often lovely and luscious, others were literally tortured martyrs. Only in the Vigée-Lebrun portrait did the woman in the painting seem alert and self-possessed. I have wondered if I am just reading this into the paintings, knowing who painted them, and I want to look at more to try to parse out specifics that might be making these images different.

You Are Here. Nashville’s Cranbrook alumni association (Julie Roberts, Armon Means, and Anderson Williams) put together this show from people they know, mostly with Cranbrook associations. It was a smart show, and everyone in it other than Julie, Armon, and Anderson was new to me.

I Love to Draw, I Live to Draw. This show at TAG was uniformly excellent. It was a good chance for me to look at pieces by Robert Simon, a self-taught compulsive drawer from Oak Ridge, but all of the artists were well-represented. I think they included Ian Pyper, Julie Murphy, and Andy Moon Wilson.

Fragile Species. The Frist Center did a good job of selecting the best younger career artists in the area. There were of course exceptions, people left out, but it was nice to see everyone getting the big museum treatment, and seeing Barbara’s piece on the side of the building.

Jin Soo Kim. Her construction, a series of tunnels delivering crisp packets of sound around the room was interesting enough, but the best part were all the sculptures she pulled out of the Vanderbilt collection. She mixed cultures, religions and time periods, so you get multiple visions of the crucifixion, multiple visions of Buddha, with a liberating effect for the art objects themselves and the viewer.


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