Perambulating the Bounds

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Hunter and Chattanooga

I went up to Chattanooga yesterday to see the Carrie Mae Weems show at the Hunter Museum. It’s got to be the best looking city in Tennessee, with Lookout Mountain over it and the river curving through town. It’s been 10 years or more since I’ve been there. I think the pedestrian bridge from the Bluff View arts area to Frazier Avenue on the north bank is new. Chattanooga has done a great job of reclaiming their riverfront. It was a gorgeous day, warm and sunny, and there were tons of people out. Of course, on a pleasant day like this you’ve got to keep in mind that the place is overrun with Christianists. Actually, it’s pretty obvious. There was a new store going in on Frazier Avenue that was called fish something and looked like it was going to specialize in Christian gifts and jewelry. But being there, Bob Corker makes sense. He comes across as quite competent, and you can see that in the city—they’ve done a good job of building the city.

This was my first time at the Hunter. They’ve got a very attractive new wing (ca. 1995), and many nice pieces in their collection—a good, big Rauschenberg from 1975, an attractive Frankenthaler in reds and pinks, an interesting Hans Hoffman (no rectangles). Good contemporary works by Lorna Simpson, Leslie Dill, Robert Longo. And crafts – a spectacular Albert Paley wrought iron fence made for the first new wing in 1975, and lots of glass including one from William Morris, the ubiquitous Dale Chihuly and important people like Harvey Littleton and Howard Ben Tre.

My big discovery was a landscape in the Hudson River style of a storm in the Tennessee Valley. It was the pre-TVA river, wild and rocky. Three horsemen are in the mid-distance, still tiny in relation to the scene, negotiating a crossing. The clouds are moving through the valley, interspersed with breaks of sunlight. The painter was William C.A. Frerichs, whose dates are 1829-1905. He traveled and painted a lot in the South. Here’s the thing—Frerichs is my mother’s maiden name, not one you run across every day. The bio says he was Dutch, but my ancestors were from a German town close by, Etzel.

Seeing the Hunter, a museum with an actual and growing collection, makes you long for the same in Nashville. The Hunter doesn’t have a cache of old masters assembled a hundred years ago, but puts energy and money into buying contemporary art, art that is available. In Nashville, it is Cheekwood’s role to do collection building, and one can only hope that some day they will get to the point financially, and probably in mission clarity, to start acquiring comparable works.


  • yeah, but what did you think of the carrie mae weems show?

    By Blogger dwayne, at 8:50 PM  

  • Hey Artbutcher.
    I'm working on a review of the Weems show for publication in the non-virtual world. Which of course was the reason for the trip to Chattanooga. I'm in the process of putting together thoughts in a comprehensive, hopefully review-worthy form. Of course I've got off-the-cuff reactions, but they're still pretty disconnected.
    Has either the Louisiana Project or From Here I Saw What Happened... been shown in Memphis?

    By Blogger David Maddox, at 10:32 PM  

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