Perambulating the Bounds

Friday, October 31, 2008

Scene article on Grooms and Luong collection

As promised, here's this week's article in the Scene. It's a review of the show at Cheekwood of art from the personal collection of Red Grooms and his wife Lysiane Luong (there are two art pieces in the paper this week, the other one written by Maria, covering the show by Michael Oliveri in the Temporary Contemporary gallery--Cheekwood and our household take over a whole page in the paper).

I thought the Grooms/Luong collection review out pretty well. I did rely on one of my tried and true tricks--grab a volume of Walter Benjamin and see if there's something in there that gives me an idea. Benjamin is great for this. He has all these great sounding quotes, but so much of his stuff is in aphorism and fragments, which is perfect for a lazy writer like me. But there's stuff in the last few paragraphs about the ownership of meaning that catch something I've been thinking about for a while and its good to get it out in print.

The review is definitely not an assessment of Grooms work, but I ran across something in Benjamin's essay "Unpacking My Library" that seemed like it would work great as a starting place for discussing his work.

I am not exaggerating when I say that to a true collector the acquisition of an old book is its rebirth. This is the childlike element which in a collector mingles with the element of old age. For children can accomplish the renewal of existence in a hundred unfailing ways. Among children, collecting is only one process of renewal; other processes are the painting of objects, the cutting out of figures, the application of decals--the whole range of childlike modes of acquisition, from touching things to giving them names.

Painting of objects, cutting out of figures, application of decals--this sounded oddly like Grooms' artistic practice, especially in the 3D stuff, from pop-ups and cut outs to installations. Its interesting to think of his activity as a collector of art not as some side-line hobby but as integral to and of a piece with his art-making. To think of his art-making as a kind of collecting--his drawn, painted, printed, and fabricated figures have a quality of being picked up directly from the street. He stops short of actually gleaning, picking up objects and bringing them back to the study--plenty of artists practice that, which is another way back into this Benjamin quote--but Red Grooms' figuration is so tied to observation that it depends on the actual physical world in a particularly intense way. His figures are not figments of his imagination.

Off to New Orleans in a few hours. Maybe I'll blog from there. I'm sure the trip will at least be good for a post-trip post.

Making up for that last post

OK, that McCain post was kind of gratuitous. When I think about zombies, this is what I really want to think about, one of my favorite songs--RE: Your Brains, by Jonathan Coulton. My favorite part is the way he uses office speak. I have to confess that I am perfectly capable of talking like that at work, without the eat your brains stuff. And the video has lots of clips from Shaun of the Dead, another favorite.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

McCain wants your vote...on second thought...

McCain wants to eat your brains.


John McCain doing the zombie walk at a rally in Iowa last weekend.

The New York Times published this in their print edition, but from what I can tell they swapped it for a more flattering picture in the on-line editions.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Nashville Visual Arts Events for November

Again, I’m trying to get everything into one listing. I figure the last half of the month should be pretty slow with Thanksgiving week, and I’m going to be off doing things elsewhere much of the time. This weekend I’ll be getting a chance to hear Dr. Michael White, one of the very best practitioners of traditional New Orleans music. I hope I’ll also get a chance to see a lot of the Prospect .1 biennial on this trip. Later in the month I’ll be seeing The Black Watch. Should be a good month.

But the point is just I’m kind of excited about these things, not that there isn’t plenty going on in Nashville. There’s a bunch of stuff from students this month—the Mt. Olivet cemetery event on Halloween, Senior shows at Watkins, and TSU students at Gallery F. And right now I’m listening to clips by Vijayalakshmy Subramaniam, who will be singing at Sri Ganesha, and that sounds good. The Clive King drawings at Austin Peay look like they could be great.

As always, if you have an email list of your own, feel free to forward this.

If someone wants to get added directly to my list for the email, send me an email at dcmaddox@comcast.net. To get taken off the list, email to that effect at the same address.

Oh yeah, everyone who hasn't vote. It's important. Vote for the right person. If you don't know who that is, email me and I'll tell you.


October 31

Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Watkins Student illustrators. Check this out—Watkins illustration students showing illustrations of “restless souls” in a crypt at Confederate Memorial Hall at the cemetery. The show commemorates cold winters in the 1870s when the ground was too hard to dig graves, so the dead were held in a temporary holding crypt at Mt. Olivet. The students will display their work just for a couple of hours on Halloween morning, from 9-11.


November 1

The Arts Company, Ansel Adams and Bob Kolbrener. Ansel Adams, who died in 1984, was a founder of American art photography in many ways. His images of the American West are some of the most famous photos, and they define how we see landscape in photography. He also made a huge contribution to photographic technique with his Zone system for composing, developing, and printing black and white photos. Finally, he was also a father of the modern photography market—his photographs were some of the first to gain the attention of serious collectors and some pioneering dealers built their business selling his work. Kolbrener worked with Adams as a student and then as an instructor at Adams’ workshops. He has continued in Adams’ footsteps, taking photos of Western landscapes and printing them with traditional darkroom techniques. The Arts Company is also opening an exhibit of paintings by April Street.

Society of Nashville Artistic Photographers, Pushpin/Clothespin Show. This year SNAP is doing this show at the Tennessee Art League space on Broadway. SNAP is a cooperative of photographers with different styles. Consider them Adams’ heirs.

Twist, Tara Murino-Brault and Ulana Zahajkewycz. These two women have ties to Minneapolis, and Twist is developing a nice pipeline from there to here, Both of the artists are working with nightmares, monsters, and fears in a playful way. The band Eastern Block is going to play at the opening.

Downtown Presbyterian Church, Connect 12. DPC is hosting an exhibit by the Connect 12 group, organized by Ben Vitualla. The artists in this show are Alesandra Bellos, Jimi Benedict, Rick Bradley, Samantha Callahan, Eric Denton, Tiffany Denton, Chris Hill, Stacey Irvin, Sean Jewett, Erika Johnson, Shana Kohnstamm, Daniel Lai, Andee Rudloff, and Ben. I’m kind of always going on about Erika’s work, but her piece in this show sure sounds interesting—titled “Saved,” it deals with the financial crisis, poverty, and related sensations, but it’s also an interesting name for a piece showing in a church.

Rymer, Color is Relative. This show features Rymer Gallery curator and Crayola master Herb Williams, as well as work by James Pearson, Gabriel Mark, L.A. Bachman, Barbara Coon, Jordan Eagles, and Emily Leonard. Pearson does really nice abstractions that were in a show at TAG a couple of years ago. Leonard does dark, brooding landscapes.

Gallery One, Lorraine Glessner and Jennifer Bain. These artists come together around their use of encaustic, which produces a nice fleshy surface. Bain is more of a straight painter, Glessner uses elements of collage, embedding objects like threads and fabrics in the encaustic. Both of them achieve effects of layering and depth. The reception will run from 6-8.

Estel, Harry Underwood. A closing show for the latest group of paintings by Harry. He makes densely packed pieces, filled with words and images that reward sustained viewing. Harry’s also got a unique process, creating limited multiples of most of his works, and working with a stock of images he reuses. The paintings draw from a shared world of nostalgia and fantasy, but each piece feels like a carefully thought-through world of its own.

Tennessee Arts League, Edie Maney. Abstract paintings inspired by the Frist Center’s Color as Field show. She’s using some of the techniques of the Color Field painters in the ways she moves acrylic paint around on canvas.

Cheekwood, Dia de los Muertos. Cheekwood’s annual celebration of the Mexican commemoration of the dead, with events running all day.

Tinney, Manuel and Cambridge Jones. This is an exhibit of photographs by Jones of country music stars wearing outfits created by Manuel.


November 2

CRAFT: A Creative Community A group of local artists/artisans, bringing Nashville into the world of DIY crafts, holds its monthly sale/fair in the parking lot of Lipstick Lounge from 11-5 on Sunday.


November 3

APSU, Clive King. King makes intricate, large scale drawings, some of which draw on his roots in a small Welsh village and others more recently have taken a turn into political issues like the war in Iraq. The exhibit at Austin Peay’s Trahern gallery opens with an artist’s talk at 7:00.


November 6

Frist Center, Morna O’Neil lecture. O’Neil’s a faculty member at Vanderbilt specializing in 19th century art. Her lecture will focus on photography during the Victorian era, the medium’s earliest years. 6:30 p.m.


November 7

Sri Ganesha, Vijayalakshmy Subramaniam. Subramanian is a vocalist from Chennai—she will be accompanied by Avaneeswaram Vinu on violin and Shertalai Ananthakrishnan on mridangam. Regular readers of this listing know that I am an avid fan of the music program at Sri Ganesha. The concerts there are consistently of high quality, but every few months one jumps out as particularly promising, and this is one of those. Subramaniam looks and sounds to my untrained eyes and ears to be a substantial artist.

Watkins, Jennifer Knowles McQuistion, Stephanie Brooke West, and Jonathan Abarquez. The first round of Senior shows by Watkins students graduating this year. McQuistion and West are both in the photography program but will use multiple media including live performance in these shows. The performances start at 6:30. Abarquez is involved in the construction of life-size avatars, so he’s moving across media boundaries as well. This exhibit will only run through Nov. 14.

Watkins Yart Sale. Art by Watkins students for sale, 10-4 on the 7th and 10-5 on the 8th.

Centennial Art Center, Kathy Carter, R. Lafayette Mitchell, Eva Sochorova. Opening reception from 5-7.


November 8

Artrageous. The annual party and benefit for Nashville CARES. The participating galleries this year are Art & Invention, Bennett, Estel, Richter, Tennessee Art League, The Arts Company, Rymer, Studio B, and LeQuire.

Very Vine Craft Show. John Schramlin has organized a craft show to provide some alternatives during downtown Murfreesboro’s weekend holiday shopping event. It’ll be at the Vine, 118 W. Vine St., from 11-6.


November 11

Parthenon, David Petrain lecture. Petrain is a professor at Vanderbilt. His talk is titled “Homer, the Iliad tablets, and Visual Storytelling in the Early Roman Empire” 7:00. Call 862-8431 for reservations.


November 13

Sarratt, Gina Binkley. Assemblages made from found materials which look to combine qualities of Leonardo Drew, Joseph Cornell, and Louis Nevelson. It has an aged, hand-made feel.


November 15

Snow Gallery, Portals and Vessels. Another conversational show at Snow Gallery. This one takes work by Kinjo Jiro (1912-2004), a Japanese potter who was designated a Living National Treasure, and presents it with ceramics by Bill Dale and books made from hand-made paper by Claudia Lee. (If I may digress—I have always liked the idea of Living National Treasures. We should have this in Nashville, but only if I get to pick them. First one in—Dave Cloud.)


November 20

Frist Center, Susan Edwards lecture. The director of the Frist Center will deliver the second of a three-lecture series on photography. She is going to discuss McLuhan’s ideas about media, the physical processes of photography, and its influence on many aspects of society, not just art. 6:30 p.m.


November 21

Watkins, Krstine Larsen, Adam Nicholson, and Mai Lick. The second round of Senior Thesis exhibits for this semester.

Scarritt-Bennett Gallery F, Wish List. An exhibit of work by students and graduates of TSU’s art department. Everyone who saw the Frist Show of work from the local art programs will remember how well the work from TSU students came across, so here’s a chance to see work from them. Curator Sabine Schlunk says the participants are being encouraged to experiment for this show. The artists will present sound performances at the opening.

 

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Forget the Bradley effect...

Given the encouraging state of recent polls, the big concern for Obama supporters is the Bradley Effect, in which poll respondents say they are going to vote for the black candidate because they don't want to seem like racists to the poll takers, but then go out and vote for the white candidate. But now there's evidence of a Reverse Bradley Effect, in which white voters say they'll vote for McCain, but they are really going to vote for Obama and don't want to say so because there's some sort of expectation that they should vote for the Republican (or the white person). As far as I know this effect was first postulated by my wife, but now two academics from the University of Washington have found evidence of it in this year's Democratic primaries.

With all due respect to the UW researchers, I'm sure the Obama campaign is with me, and has moved on to think about even more insidious voter behaviors. Don't forget these guys--Obama and even more so David Axelrod--are from Chicago.

The real thing to look for is the Double Reverse Bradley Effect--
1. White people say they are going to vote for McCain;
2. But something about the way they say it makes you think they're going to vote for Obama;
3. But what they're really going to do is write in Bernie Epton.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Something to think about

Went to hear John Dear speak this Sunday--he's a Jesuit peace activist, someone Geoff Little has gotten to know. He is radically non-violent, committed to it on every level of living. This most notably has led him to dedicate himself seemingly full-time to anti-war and disarmament protests, and writing and speaking about it and all the other stuff that goes with that. He's a friend of the Berrigans, and has been arrested a ton for civil disobedience. He's the kind of person who forces you to think about what you are doing and not doing other than opinionating excitedly from time to time.

Jude Adam asked him probably the question, what to do in the case of Hitler and Nazism. He responded by talking about the history of non-violent resistance to the Nazis. I've recently run across a reference to the Danes collective refusal to collaborate under occupation, which included saving the country's Jewish population. John doesn't concede the ground of this example, but it does still hang out there. However, it also doesn't really matter--the ground between that example and almost everything else that goes on is vast. The things he is working on, like resistance to our ungreat wars, to the accumulation of nuclear weapons, to the distortion of public wealth by directing so much to warmaking, the realities of empire, all of that holds true--there is no Hitler to excuse those things. It may just be a lack of imagination.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Varieties of silence

Just re-read Kirkegaard's Fear and Trembling. Originally the plan was to talk about it in church, but this book wasn't right for that, so I used some other SK stuff, but I went and ahead and finished re-reading F and T.

SK's book is a long meditation on Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac, taken from several angles that all burrow into what Abraham as the exemplar of faith says about the fundamental nature of faith. In short, faith is something other than ethics, or heroism, or aesthetics, it is a relationship to the absolute, a strange territory past renunciation, where the absurd reigns. If heroism and ethics serve universal values, faith involves establishing a relationship to the absoluate, which is purely individual and singular.

Kirkegaard ends this essay by considering Abraham's silence--he tells no one what he is going off to do, offers no explanation. It's a point you could easily overlook.

Since Abraham is involved in an act of faith, he cannot speak because human speech brings the human making the speech sound into the service of the universal, in that words must engage universals in order to be understood. Abraham's necessary silence made me think of Pasolini's film version of the Gospel of St. Matthew. It is filled with silence, and in this and many other ways I think Pasolini did a marvelous job of capturing what the gospel text describes (thanks to Tom Wills for putting this film on a program where I was able to see it and discuss it).

OK, all that setup is to get to this little point about silence. Abraham's silence is different in kind than the way we often think about silence. I think we usually assume silence generates information richly if we slow down to "listen" to it. It might be John Cage's silence, filled with incidental sound and the essence of Being. Or the silence of meditation, out of which God speaks or the divine emerges. But Abraham's silence is a silence of muteness, of the inviolable singleness of an individual human, standing in relation to the absolute, which language takes away by introducing general categories.

Of course, by Kirkegaard's view, music has the same qualities of silence, in that it is not tied by semantics to the universal. Of course by music I mean, real music, not lyrics delivery systems. OK, OK, instrumental music. Without the words, the sounds of a performance take place only in one place at a single time. The most innocent of these sounds are the most particular and local (and look at Olson for everything local means).

So to recap, we have:
Fecund silence, with meaning and messages bubbling up.
Mute silence, where meaning is cut off in deference to singularity and the relationship to the absolute.
Noisy silence, that strips off the extraneous material of syntax.


This is Rotten Piece, the band of my friends Shaun and Carol Kelly in Houston.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Yes, I'm still writing for the Scene

I've been asked often enough whether I'm still writing for the Scene that I'm going to try to start posting the articles here when they get published. But yes, I am still writing reviews, about one a month. I'd like to do more, but it's hard to line up my travel schedule with show openings and press deadlines.

To get us caught up, here's my articles this year in reverse order.

September: Lori Field and Anna Jaap, TAG at Estel

August: Line Up drawing show at Estel

August: Glexis Novoa and Yvonne Buchheim at Cheekwood

July: Color Field show at the Frist

June: Quinn Dukes performance at Twist

May: Nashville Library show on works with words. I think I gave this show more credit than it was due. I was going through some references images, and they weren't so good.

April: Zeitgeist Dialogues painting show

April: Aaron Morgan Brown at The Arts Company. This sure was a good show, nice to recall it.

March: Sam Dunson at TAG. Looking forward to seeing the new work at Vanderbilt--it looks (and from a report tonight sounds) like it builds nicely on the stuff in this show. Or maybe the addition to his visual vocabulary are starting to settle in for me.

February: Oswaldo Guayasamin at Vanderbilt Fine Arts Gallery

January: Lisa Solomon and Aurora Robson at SQFT (the gallery's last show)

January: Aaron Douglas at the Frist. While we're at it, in the second to last paragraph (it appears as the last graf on the first page on the web), the reference to "performance utterance" should have read "performative utterance." We missed that in the editorial process.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Thanks Amanda

Amanda Dillingham was nice enough to do a Best of Nashville on this blog. With the dearth of posts for a while, it hardly seems to deserve it, but knowing this was in the works (the list goes around at some point to all the writers) chastened me, and I've been trying to make an effort to come up with stuff more often.

On the topic of Best of Nashville, I was too clever for my own good with a few of my titles and the editors provided titles that would be comprehensible to actual readers of the paper. But for my entertainment, here's the original titles for the ones that were changed:

Best Installation = Best Shower Curtain. Erika Johnson's installation at Parthenon. I was glad I got some chance to talk about it, and at least make the point in print that this was a really ambitious piece, with a real sweep. She captured big junks of history and cultural change, and made all of it personal and visceral.

Best Drawing Exhibit = Best Birds. For Erin Plew's drawing of a bunch of birds and bird parts. Technically this should have been "Best Drawing" and leave off Exhibit. I saw that she was exhibiting the drawing again at the Arcade last Art Crawl (I had to go by early so I only got to look in the window at the show).

Best Interactive Work = Best Interactive Housekeeping Exercise. Libby Rowe's show at Belmont. Again, one of the nice things about Best of Nashvilles is the chance to mention something when I missed the chance to write about it first time around.

In retrospect these titles are not as clever as I thought they were at the time, and the editors did keep Best Exploding Whale, which might actually have been a clever title. Let's face it, I ain't going to be writing for the Simpsons any time soon.

On the topic of things not written about (yet), don't forget that Amanda's in the show at Gallery F, The New Dress Code. She has a video about herself, her mother, and bodies and skin, installed in a fabric structure, kind of womb-like. It's gotten me to thinking about what I think about pieces that combine video and sculpture in this way, about the way the elements balance. Video demands your attention in a specific way, I don't know to what extent you take this in as an integrated visual experience--that can be part of the point, but it's one of the things I want to look for when I go back. There is all sorts of logic connecting the tangible and video elements in Amanda's piece. The show's up through November 16, which is helpful for me. And there's an artists' talk at the gallery at 7:00 next Tuesday, the 21st. I didn't get this talk into the events listing.

P.S. One more thing on Best of Nashville--as usual my wife hit it out of the park, packing her art BON dense with ideas and interpretation of Lauren Kalman's work.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Process of elimination

The new Museum of Arts and Design on Columbus Circle has a fun inaugural show, which works out to be in large parts the greatest hits of what I've seen in galleries for a couple of years. There's a Tara Donovan piece made from buttons, one of Chakaia Booker's shredded tire sculptures, a faux museum display by Fred Wilson, one of Devorah Sperber's amazing pieces where she forms an image out of an array of spools of thread seen through a clear acrylic sphere that inverts the image and by reducing it in size smooths out the forms. There's piece after piece that you can remember, using every kind of material imaginable--plastic utensils, record albums, US Army dog tags, plastic shopping bags, quarters, and so forth.

This museum used to be called the American Craft Museum--I thought it was affiliated with the American Crafts Council, but I think I was wrong about that. The Museum of Arts & Design has put together a good show, but it does raise the question of what this museum is--how does it differ from say the New Museum in the Bowery or any number of Contemporary Art centers? I'm not sure it's a problem, but it has been interesting to think about this.

What I've come up with is that MAD distinguishes itself by what it does not show, if I can use the inaugural show as a guide, which is exactly what I'll do. In the past, it was a museum for work that could be identified as the crafts, largely defined by media, techniques, and aesthetic intent. Its inaugural show seems to say it will not be limited to those media--clay, glass, metal, fabric, wood. But maybe it will be defined by what it does not show--paintings (unless it's on clay or similar material). Prints. Photographs. Sculpture in stone, metal, wood, or cast resins (unless it has reference to a functional items). These of course are the media of the traditional fine arts (as opposed to craft). So the New Museum can do a show of Elizabeth Peyton, that would never happen at MAD (the process of elimination is yielding benefits if it saves the museum from that fate). Also, it is probably the case that MAD will stay away from video, although there was at least one piece with some.

I think it's interesting to think that the museum will become the place for "everything outside" of the most familiar vehicles for art.

To be fair, MAD does retain its ties to the crafts. After you get done with the inaugural show, the selections from the permanent collection go back to the familiar forms (if the choices are somewhat skewed to recent work). In a section for jewelry, in addition to display cases they have a whole bunch of drawers you can go through, each one filled with a few items from the collection. It's similar to a section in the renovated Smithsonian American Art Museum, which has an even bigger section of cabinets filled with small items that they could not otherwise find room to display.

This approach seems to be coming into favor to deal with the sheer volume of material museums have, balancing access to this material with view-ability. In old days, museums displayed cases jammed with everything the museum had--100 stuffed specimens of finches, woven baskets from Western Native American tribes, samples of quartz crystals, whatever. This was overwhelming and bewildering, so museums turned to selecting a few items and displaying them carefullly, often nearly boasting about what a large percentage of the collection was out of public view. This new technique attempts to balance the two--highly edited display cases as the central focus, but much more material available off to the side for anyone who wants to take the time and dig deeper. The Met has done this in a few of its collections, notably in the mezzanine floor of the Greek, Roman and Etruscan department, where they have cases filled with material that you identify by checking on an interactive video screen.

All of this seems like a fine thing. It does mean you need to think about what kind of experience you want to have when you go to a museum, whether you want to go and settle in for something a lot like archival work.

Oh yeah, the new building looks good and seems to work well. It's got kind of a small footprint, but that's not really a problem, a lot of times it's better to have an exhibit broken up into bit-sized pieces. And it will seem like a lot more room when they do exhibits of more traditional "crafts." I don't know whether I miss the Edward Durrell Stone facade--I didn't have any particular objection to it or any particular attachment to it.

I feel like Balboa


Seeing the Pacific again always seems like arriving some place, getting to the end. I never feel that way about the Atlantic. Partly, no doubt, this is an ethnocentric tribal memory--the Atlantic has always been there, if you assume you are starting in Europe. After all these centuries, the Pacific is still new. It is also the case that one approaches the Pacific so often from above, from high cliffs that look out far to sea. In almost every case, you walk up to the Atlantic.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Off the edge

On the topic of unchecked, destructive chaos...

In discussion of the current economic crisis, I haven't run across anything that interprets this as economic end times, the absolute collapse of the economic system as we've known it. It's probably bad analysis, or maybe irresponsible, or too scary. Oh, and there's probably someone out there writing this, I just don't read that avidly.

I don't have any empirical basis for my sense of what we might be facing. It's a reaction to the tenor of things. Is this the big one, the final structural crisis that has been predicted over the years by left wing theorists? The stock market keeps plummeting. Is there any reason it couldn't go to zero--that we just can no longer fund productive enterprises this way, no one will hand over money to people they don't know who say they are using it for a productive enterprise, but who knows, the level of fraud and pure bullshit is so high and the incentives so skewed to encourage it. And there will be less going to the market because we moved from a regime of dispersed consumption to a regime of dispersed deprivation. Say the airlines keep cutting back flights and making the ones they have more expense, until there's little reason to even try to travel by air. A whole sector of the economy essentially disappears.

The slow or not slow unraveling of the globe as a hospitable environment keeps throwing us into a hole. It becomes more expensive to do everything, and more of life is a recovery effort. Nashville, thanks to the storm-driven gas shortage, got a taste of a Mad Max future.

Is the question now how we will survive and who will survive? Is there any model for people, communities, or nations to come together in the absence of a functioning market to produce and distribute food and services? What are the aggregations we need to form--do all people need to be tied in some way to productive farms? Does it come down to provision of potable water or household level energy? Yes, there are theories, but is there anything that's worked in practice?

It seems the crisis comes at an inopportune time, when alternate social structures are not waiting for their turn, the pursuit of something different anemic after years of disillusion.

Maybe everything will look better in a few weeks. Maybe we'll bump on bottom. Maybe Obama will make a difference--I'm looking forward to the prospect of his victory, and maybe the very idea of him will give people the idea that something decent actually can happen in our national culture.

Chaos connections

Let's start with one thing I saw in a brief stop in Chelsea last week--photographs by Kay Hassan, a South African artist at Jack Shainman. They were photos of multi-colored debris that had floated onto a beach in Mozambique. Rags and plastic in wild range of colors function as abstract art in big, gorgeous pictures. But the seductive qualities of the images don't mask that it's a scene of devastation, human trash overrunning the landscape.

The next day I saw Pam Longobardi's show at Tinney in Nashville, which deals with a similar material, just a different ocean. In her case, she has collected debris that washed up in Hawaii, I guess some of the huge mass of human trash that has collected in the North Pacific Gyre. In the main work, she takes some of those artifacts and lines them up in groups on the wall, ordered roughly by size. It's a touching gesture, responding to this overwhelming, world-destroying chaos by trying to retrieve a little bit of it and put it in an order, straight lines, like with like, the utter opposite of what happens when the sea is forced to absorb our monumental wastefulness.

Chaos can be a source of energy and creativity--I like to think of it that way, because my life is an exercise in chaos. These two pieces put chaos back into the realm of destruction. The forces that produced these art works can't really be redeemed.

Monday, October 06, 2008

New York notes--Eliasson Waterfalls


The Olafur Eliasson waterfalls are in place for a few more days in New York, until October 13th. I got a chance to look at them this summer and have been meaning to say something about it.

In my usual manner, I didn't plan very carefully, but set out on foot from a subway stop near City Hall in search of the waterfront. I knew they were there somewhere. Eventually, I got to the river near the foot of the Manhattan Bridge and could see 3 of them pretty well--a wide one under the Brooklyn Bridge, one pouring from a scaffolding on the Manhattan side north of the Manhattan Bridge, and one down by Governor's Island. At first the effect is "ehn." A bit of water pouring into the river seen from a distance. Unlike Eliasson's indoor works, they don't dominate the environment in any way. I'd seen the Eliasson show at MOMA a few weeks earlier, and it was filled with light and action spectaculars. It was all about creating environments.

So the waterfalls were just these little events in very complex open environments with a lot going on--traffic, boats, people going about their business, all sorts of sounds and smells. But if you gave it time and focused, you noticed the way the shapes formed by the pouring water changed as the wind picked up the water and moved it around, and as the light shifted as clouds passed by. It focused you on detail. And eventually I started to think of these as torrents, raging wilderness streams intruding into the urban environment. The sublime made present.

The waterfalls actually fit the title of the museum show, "Take Your Time," better than the show itself, which really didn't require you to take your time. You walked into each room at MOMA and the effects jumped out at you. It was fun to stay in those environments a while, but you could get a fair amount of the information on offer from your immediate observations entering the room. (This here's a pic of me and my mother at the show in a hallway flooded with yellow light, which had the effect of canceling out all of the colors. The shirt I'm wearing is a very loud plaid with bright red and blue.)

Once I got to the point of contemplating these sculptures as approximations of mountain streams inserted into the would-be orderly human environment, it occurred to me that in fact the experience was not that different than a broken water main, a fairly common distraction on most summer days in Houston, where the soil constricts and cracks open pipes.

Then again, when I flew into LaGuardia on later trips to the area, I'd look out the airplane window and could pick out the waterfalls from the air. That's something.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

MacArthur genius grant


Tara Donovan got one. Glad to see it. Here's a picture of me and my dad inspecting her work. I don't remember the name of this. I don't think it was called A Billion Plastic Cups, but that's what it was.




Here's another shot that gives a better idea of what the piece looked like.

Annals of Homeland Security


In the previous post with my listings for October, I had an item for a concert at Sri Ganesha Temple featuring a vocalist named Rekha Surya performing Hindustani light classical music. Turns out the concert was canceled. According to the email announcing the cancellation, Ms. Surya's accompanying musicians, Durjay Bhaumik (tabla) and Ratan Prasanna (guitar) were unable to get visas to enter the U.S. You would think this would be getting better by now, that Homeland Security would have figured out a way to differentiate Indian classical musicians from arms smugglers. Guess not.

Nashville Visual Arts Events all of October maybe

I'm posting this a little late, but it covers the whole month so I suppose it's good to have it here for reference.



Joseph Whitt is making his presence felt at the Vanderbilt Fine Arts Gallery. First, there’s the current exhibit of the Warhol Polaroids the gallery was given by the Warhol Foundation, shown with two current artists working with Polaroids. Bringing in these artists makes a nice way to think about Warhol. That’s going to be up for a week or so. Later in the month they’ll open a show of work by Jules de Balincourt, also curated by Joseph. The other Joseph at Vanderbilt, Mella, also puts together very smart shows, so this isn’t a matter of “upping the ante” or any related cliché—it’s a matter of a different voice, and it’s encouraging to see that both Josephs will share curatorial air time.

I’m trying to do just one email this month due to some travel that will take me out of commission the middle of the month. As always, sorry to the venues I missed.


October 1-8


TSU Gallery, Plus 3 Ferris. This is a traveling video exhibition with 26 artists, organized by Western Michigan University. It’ll be at TSU for this one week.



October 2


Renaissance Center (Dickson), 10th Annual Regional Art Exhibit and Graduate Exhibition. The Renaissance Center’s regional exhibit is always worth checking out, usually someone in there worth seeing whom I haven’t encountered before. And last year they started a program of selecting a recent art graduate from a regional college for a solo show. This year they’ve selected 2 artists, Heather Hartman and Charlesey Charlton. Hartman is a graduate of Auburn currently in the MFA program at UT, Charlton graduated from MTSU and is working on an MFA at ETSU. Hartman in particular has gotten some early recognition in Atlanta.


Sarratt, Francois Deschamps. The works in this show are photographs and images from the house of an eccentric character named Albert “Yellow Kid” Gerontian who lived in the Catskills.


October 3


Centennial Art Center, Nashville’s Internationals. This is the second year the Centennial Art Center has done a show with this theme, and it’s a great idea, reflecting profound changes in Nashville. Of the artists this year, I’m familiar with the work of Sabine Schlunk, the curator of the new Gallery F at Scarritt-Bennett, who had a couple of interesting pieces in a show at TSU last year, and Ben Vitualla, who has exhibited a lot in town. But there’s a whole bunch of artists here: Olga Alexeeva, Alfred Awonuga, Heide Browne, Ayla Dumont, Roberta Winnett Harrison, Geppe Hernandez, Bharati P. Kakkad, Johnson Chang, James Bol, Jacob Deng, Chol Garang, John Kur, James Makuac, James Nguen and Gabriel Wal (these last 8 are from the Sudan and involved with the Lost Boys Foundation), Voymir Mustapich, Camille Torchon, Lucia Timis, Joy Min Xu.


Snow Gallery, Tucker Neel. OK, this looks interesting. Where to start. Tucker Neel is the son of Roy Neel, one of Al Gore’s chief advisors. The younger Neel is an artist based in LA, and he’s done a lot of pieces in many media with political themes or source material. That will be the case here, where his work will be shown with related printed by Piranesi and Hogarth. This sounds like something you’d see in a serious museum show.


Watkins, Annual Juried Student Show. I always try to get by and see this, lets you know who’s at Watkins and what they are up to.


Rekha Surya, Sri Ganesha Temple. Rekha Surya is a vocalist from New Dehli who performs Hindustani light classical music. These are folk songs treated with Indian classical musical technique, so they are based on more worldly stories and themes than the abstract classical forms. Surya sings in Nashville the day after she performs at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. The concert starts at 7, and is preceded by dinner at 6. Tickets cost $35.


October 4


The Arts Company, The Art of Politics. In honor of the Presidential debate at Belmont on the 7th, this show features the work of Robert Grossman, an illustrator who contributes frequently to The Nation. The show is curated by Ronnie Steine—not sure if that means there will be political art from his collection or he was involved in selecting the work by Grossman. They also have signed copies of debate posters by Grossman and Nashvillian Jorge Arrieta commissioned by the Arts Company. And there’s Get Out the Vote paintings by Jonathon Kimbrell.


Twist: Drew Peterson. Drew is one of the artists from Minneapolis who had a show at Twist last year and did the mural on the Downtown Presbyterian Church side of the Viridian tower. He comes back to show a series of works that take patterns from old advertisements and mix them up into kaleidoscopic patterns.


Art and Invention, Duy Huynh Dreamy paintings by this Vietnamese-born artist.


Tinney Contemporary, Pam Longobardi. This show opened last weekend, but they are having a “special presentation” by the artist on Art Crawl. This show, “Drifters,” is based on the North Pacific Gyre, where huge amounts of drifting man-made debris collect in the middle of the ocean.


Plowhaus, The Art of Love. Again, the Plowhaus is showing in the Tennessee Art League galleries on Broadway. Cool to see the love theme showing up in October rather than February. The artists this month are: Kevin Brock, Nelson Curry, Terry Thornhill, Betty Turner, Sylvia Byrn, Oli Oldacker, Kathy Vago, Shelly Santana, Ayjey, Stacy Klinger, Curt Perkins, Willow Fort, Barry Noland, DJ Justice, Mel Davenport, Landry Butler, Sarah Fowler, Carrie Mills, Tracy Ratliff and Marlynda Augelli


Rymer, Kevin Kelly. Kelly worked with Tom Wesselmann and follows in the pop art tradition with work that looks more like Roy Lichtenstein.


October 5


CRAFT: A Creative Community A group of local artists/artisans, bringing Nashville into the world of DIY crafts, holds its monthly sale/fair in the parking lot of Lipstick Lounge from 11-5 on Sunday.


October 9


Vanderbilt Divinity School, Sam Dunson. The painting on the announcement card has the pieta image put into a context with the hyperactive cartoon imagery Sam used in his last show at TAG. This image – its just on a card mind you – works really well. The reception is from 4:30-6:30.


TSU Gallery, Sonor Et Visio. This is a one-night only presentation of a performance piece that includes sound, images, projection, and video by a duo called Black/Jones. They say the work is “based on the writing of Abbot Suger, a medieval monk whose theory of “Luz Externa” revolutionized the art of stained glass.” The performance starts at 9:00.



Estel, Harry Underwood. The latest group of paintings by Harry. He makes densely packed pieces, filled with words and images that reward sustained viewing. Harry’s also got a unique process, creating limited multiples of most of his works, and working with a stock of images he reuses. The paintings draw from a shared world of nostalgia and fantasy, but each piece feels like a carefully thought-through world of its own.


Alias, Turner Recital Hall, Vanderbilt. Alias is doing a year-long series of work by women composers through the ages. This program includes pieces by Margaret Brouwer and Vivian Fine. They’re also doing a trio by Andre Previn and the Franck violin sonata. Concert starts at 8:00.


October 10


Cheekwood. Michael Oliveri and Emerging Video Artists. Temporary Contemporayr will open an exhibit by Oliveri, chair of Digitial Media at the University of Georgia. The show, titled Innerspace, Permaculture and UFOs, consists of sculptures and photographs that make up Oliveri’s investigation of the inner spaces of physics and biology. In the video galleries, Greg Pond has selected work by several young artists, several from New York.


Frist Center, Photography and Film from the George Eastman House Collection, photos by Lalla Essaydi, and Snapshots and the Family Album. The Eastman House, in Rochester, was founded by the founder of Eastman Kodak and has one of the world’s leading collections of photography. This show includes landmark photos by Matthew Brady, Dorothea Lange, Edward Weston and many more. Essaydi is a Moroccan photographer whose work will be on display in the CAP gallery. And finally, the Frist Center asked volunteers to submit amateur snaps and then put them together as an exhibit.


October 11


Plate Tone Print Shop open house. This printmaking coop moved relatively recently. The artists showing at this open house will be Marleen De Bock, Kaaren Hirshowitz Engel, Lee Ann Hawkins, Patricia Jordan, Reesha Leone, and Jaime Raybin Reception is from 2-6. 5124 Charlotte Pike


Cheekwood: Artists Collect, The Red Grooms and Lysiane Luong Private Collection. This should be very interesting, art from the collection of Red Grooms and his wife Lysiane Luong. 1. It’ll surely show us something more about what Grooms looks at and thinks about. 2. No doubt they own really fine stuff.


Zeitgeist, Megan Lightell, Christie Nuell, Jee Yun Lee. Landscape paintings by Lightell, prints by Nuell that combine botanical and architectural elements, and delicate watercolor and ink compositions by Lee.


Magpie, etc., Donnie Firkins. Bronze sculpture by an artist from Bowling Green.


October 15


TSU Gallery, Heroic. This exhibit presents works by Mark Belton, Nathaniel Creekmore, and Shaun Leonardo that are large in scale. On the evening of the opening, Creekmore and Leonardo along with Sam Dunson and Dr. Graham Matthews will participate in a panel discussion on the topic: “Getting Complex: Complicating the Definition of the Black Male in Art and Education.” The panel discussion starts at 6:00


October 18


Cumberland, David French and Marilyn Murphy. Two of the gallery’s artists are the focus this month. French’s abstract wood sculptures have a tribal feel in their patterns and colors. Murphy’s witty compositions speak with an unmistakable voice—I think of it as domestic surrealism, but her images range much farther than hearth and home.


Ruby Green, Southern Exposure. Southern as in Southern California. This show is organized by Mery Lynn McCorkle, who was in a group show at Ruby Green a couple of years ago and showed some of the most atypical “Katrina” art I’ve seen. She comes back for this show with drawings by 15 artists from the LA area. They’ve pretty much all got gallery representation in LA, so this should provide a nice taste of that scene. Every time I see work by LA artists it makes me want to get out there and spend some time looking around.



October 23


Vanderbilt Fine Arts Gallery, Jules de Balincourt. At the end of the month we have Vanderbilt opening another show curated by Joseph Whitt, this time focusing on a single contemporary artist. De Balincourt is known for deploying the tones of folk art with contemporary cultural and political themes. This show reviews his work since 2002, when he started exhibiting regularly in New York. And de Balincourt is delivering a lecture the day before, 7:00 on the 22nd in Room 103 Wilson Hall.


October 23-26


ArtClectic, University School Nashville. This is the 12th year for this fundraiser for USN. Mostly local folks, some from farther afield.