For "Plus One," at Marshall Arts, Niki Johnson has curated a show in which she and eight other artists shake things up with panache and humor. "Plus One" refers to the single male artist in the lineup, noted sculptor Greely Myatt, who put together Lucky, the exhibition's funniest, most loaded (metaphorically and literally) artwork.
Like Odalisk, Robert Rauschenberg's stuffed chicken and tongue-in-cheek response to Brancusi's sleek Golden Bird series, Myatt's Lucky lacks classical grace. His plastic duck body is stuffed with matchsticks. He sits on a tall plinth, which rests on a three-legged stool placed over sticks of dynamite, which render Lucky's position even more precarious.
Like the Aflack duck furiously quacking about the importance of good insurance, this unlucky duck whose goose is about to be cooked seems to proclaim, "Quack, quack!! Your faith and loyalty are misplaced, another monument is about to topple, and another of your best-laid-plans is about to blow up in your face."
Johnson created Corner Drug with outrageously unorthodox materials that tell Amy Winehouse's story. Ten square feet of tinted plastic bags held together with netting replicate Winehouse's features and dark, unruly hair. Up close, this talented singer/songwriter's face pixilates and puckers, and the bags serve as reminder: As Winehouse battles addiction, her professional and personal life are coming undone.
Through September 28th at Marshall Arts
With the simplest of materials, Rebekah Laurenzi plays with reality and illusion in the Jones Hall Gallery exhibition "I Measure the Shakes." In her installation As They May, white threads fan out from the Arkansas fieldstones strewn across the gallery. Shards of mirror, attached to the ends of the threads and tossed over a partition, hang a couple of inches from the floor. These gently swaying pieces of mirror reflect and refract gallery lights and the fieldstones. Light glistens like water cascading over rocks in a stream as our point of view is shifted from rock-solid to random to hanging-by-a-thread to world as illusion.
Through September 26th at the University of Memphis' Jones Hall Gallery
For "Evidence," the current show at Jack Robinson Gallery, Yvonne Bobo captures mystery and yearning in her sculptures. The maple seeds, cicadas, and wasp nests she's created are hundreds of times larger than the actual objects — large enough for viewers to imagine riding on top of winged seeds, climbing out of the cicada shells, and tumbling into the mouths of wasp nests like Alice down the rabbit hole.
Bobo's descriptions read like poetry as she imagines the wasps that will die long before their mud homes crumble: "It pleases me to know this nest we shared will endure its short shadow growing then fading down the wall, day in and day out, long after we are once again only dirt."
Through October 3rd at Jack Robinson Gallery
Libby Johnson's show "Sanctum" at David Lusk Gallery finds this still-life and landscape painter working at the top of her form as she flawlessly recreates the soft translucency of flower petals, sunbeams on polished wood, and clouds backlit by golden-white light above a dark-green arbor in Lullaby, a painting with the serene elegance and balance of warm and cool colors of a 17th-century neoclassical landscape by Poussin.
White peonies against a blue-black background in Caprice bring to mind cumulous clouds in several of Johnson's skies. Sanctum blurs the boundary between still-life and landscape further with lilies filling the painting like billowing clouds and rolling waves as well as flowers buffeted by the wind.
Through September 27th at David Lusk Gallery
Kurt Meer creates some of his most nuanced landscapes to date for his L Ross Gallery exhibition, "Eidelon of Memory." Instead of horizontal glints of light or bands of color suggesting sunrise/sunset, Meer illuminates his paintings with aureoles of light radiating from the center. Stand in front of Verge or Cusp or Waken IV. Watch the riverbanks dissolve in continuums of softly glowing teals, mauves, golds, and gray. You may experience some of the openness, lightness, and joy Meer mentions when he talks about painting this body of work.
Through September 30th at L Ross Gallery
Perry Nicole Fine Art's September show, "The Figure & Abstractions," also contains some of Mary Reed's most evocative and satisfying paintings to date. In Separation, a woman sits cross-legged on the ground. Pinks and ochres wash across her nearly featureless face, her dress dissolves into a coral-crimson color field, and loose expressive lines define her armless torso and slender shins. In this and 18 other works, Reed's thickly collaged canvases, complex palettes, and expressive titles beautifully capture women.
Through September 30th at Perry Nicole Fine Art