Is there such a thing as too many art openings? I would never have thought this would be the case, especially for Memphis. Sure, New York City can have 514 art opening on a particular night. There are enough people interested in art, at least feign interest, to have a good turnout for most of the galleries. Besides, they can simply go back and see the other shows during the rest of the month.
This is not the case in Memphis. People really only ever attend the opening and that is it. They usually do not go to a gallery the next day or during the month of the exhibitions run because they missed the opening. Unless it is a friend or lover, have you? I do, but this is because that is what I do, go to art exhibitions.
Friday night is one of those nights in Memphis where just about every gallery, museum, and art space is having an opening. There are more than twenty additional openings in banks, restaurants, bars, clothing stores, and coffee shops tomorrow night. Let’s not forget the South Main Trolley Tour.
And people say Memphis is not an art city.
It would be impossible, in one post, to talk about every art show that needs to be mentioned. You would not be able to see half of the exhibitions tomorrow night, even if you tried really hard. It is more impossible to write reviews for these shows, even for just a couple of them. I think I need to try to perfect the 140 character art review for twitter (@dwaynebutcher if you want to follow and see my attempts in defining a future for art criticism)
With all that is going on, there is one thing I think you should be sure to see.
That is “Flat Mates,” the University of Memphis BFA exhibition at Marshall Arts Friday, November 30, 2012 6-9PM. When you go, be sure to get there at exactly 6PM or wait until 8:30. They, for some reason, always do their student awards during the middle of this exhibition and it takes roughly an hour, during which time no one can walk around and see the art.
And you should see the art.
Anna Roach has a salon-style exhibition of 20 oil and graphite on panel paintings of various sizes. Roach’s subject matter is children, and, despite all of us once being innocent children, our future is undetermined and this innocence will inevitably disappear. There are paintings of a baby Bill Clinton, Ted Kaczynski, and Sarah Palin. While finishing up the pieces for this exhibition, Roach was afraid that the Sarah Palin piece would not be dry in time. So, she took it to the tanning bed and let the UV rays speed up the drying time. A perfect metaphor for Sarah Palin, I believe.
Ashley Watts has a slight obsession with food. Specifically, Chick-fil-A waffle-cut french fries. She prefers the term "slight," as a complete and unregulated obsession would leave her penniless and overweight. She has created 25 mixed-media pieces that examine the simplistic beauty by trying to capture the “glistening, rolling hills connected by deep, almost crimson valleys” that is found in every waffle-cut fry. Watts will even be serving freshly fried fries at the opening (even more of a reason to get there at 6PM sharp.)
Kelly Baldwin has three large grids of photographs printed on silk that are suspended from the ceiling. Each of the silk pieces contains a series of nine photos shown in a grid that offer private glimpses into the artist’s life. The silk pieces are then hung in a circle to provide an intimate setting in which to view and contemplate the photographs.
As a U.S. Army Combat Illustrator during the Gulf War, Paul Eade was inspired by the landscape of the Middle East. Through abstract painting that is influenced on the colors and shapes of the patterned textiles of the ancient churches, mosques, and temples of this region, Eade is attempting to bridge the gap between Western and near Eastern cultures. This offering works best in Effero Extuli Elatum, a 72” x 96” oil on canvas painting.
Phillip Johnson’s watercolor pieces are about manipulation — how an object can change from one form to another, in this case the object is a chair. He is interested in trying to create as many different forms as possible by experimenting and altering the positive and negative shapes of the chair. In the end the pieces are not about an utilitarian object but the abstract forms that result from process.
Cameron Showalter uses a mannequin as a stand-in for himself. Showalter has a tendency to be uncomfortable around people and in social settings. The mannequin is a way to try to deal with these anxieties. The installation is in the back of Marshall Arts in a seldom-used room, a fortuitous location for these prints and their intention.
This is really a nice exhibition and gives me hope for the future of the Memphis art scene. The only problem is that the exhibition is one night only. The art administration has to find a way to have these exhibitions be on view longer. It is a disservice to the students, who have spent the last four years and an ungodly amount of money pursing a degree to only be given one night for an exhibition.
But, we only ever go to the openings anyway, right?