The upper level administration of the Art Department at the University of Memphis reads this blog. In particular, this post where I state that the BFA exhibitions for their students have to be on view longer than the opening reception. It is an absolute disservice to the graduating students to be given only one night to exhibit work after four or five years and paying an exorbitant amount of money to the U of M. They responded by having the next BFA exhibition be on view for a week. “Reclaimed” opens tonight 6-9pm at the new Fogelman Contemporary Gallery at 3715 Central Ave and runs through April 12, 2013.
I have many more suggestions on how this administration can improve the Art Department. But, I will save that for another post. Today’s post is all about the future and that future is now.
It is that time of the academic year when the area schools holds their BFA exhibitions. It is a great chance to see what the future holds for the visual arts in Memphis. With this U of M exhibition in particular, I was ecstatic to see that there was not one figurative painting, not one more painting of a landscape, and not one black and white photograph of the Hernando-Desoto Bridge. Instead, this exhibition offers non-traditional subject matter and processes, contemporary ideas, examples of new media, and a post-modern take of Bauhaus design and aesthetics. These students are thinking not only about how their works fits into a contemporary arts dialogue, but how they themselves can dictate that dialogue.
Dictating this dialogue is foremost on the mind of Brit McDaniel. She is excited about the all of the creative energy that is happening now in Memphis. With the “Present Tense,” “Contemporaries,” and the “Super-Epic Memphis Unicorn Magical Exhibition Show” exhibitions she states, “this excitement makes it possible to make a living as an artist in Memphis.” She wants people to stick around Memphis after they graduate. So, she plans on starting a retail space with a modern storefront to exhibit and sale the works of other artists. She has experience with such spaces having her work in similar spaces in New York and Austin. Her pieces are concerned with the idea of functional work as an art object saying that, “craft is the highest form of art because we use it everyday.”
Brittney Boyd also deals with issues and objects that we use everyday. Her work specifically deals with beauty, the perceptions and fixed characterizations people place on each other everyday. She is interested on the assumptions people make about others just by looking at them, by what they wear, by certain features. Boyd creates fashion pieces that are not necessarily functional that are made out of beauty and fashion magazines such as Vogue and Cosmopolitan and created to intentionally look ridiculous on the model. Boyd and Brantley Ellzey should collaborate on fashion show made entirely out of rolled up magazines. That would be incredible.
Speaking of collaborations, Elizabeth Joy Greene exhibits work that is concerned with mutualism in nature. Mutualism is the way two organisms of different species exist in a relationship in which each individual benefits. Examples of this relationship are the bee and the flower, the alligator and leeches, and in the Greene’s case, the oxpecker and the rhinoceros. The oxpecker, a type of bird, lands on the rhino’s back and eats the ticks and other parasites that live in their skin. The oxpecker gets the food and the rhino gets pest control. She is interested in continuing this type of work and hopes to partner with animal biologists and zoologists for future projects. I would love to see her take on a Damien Hirst formaldehyde piece showing the relationship of a great white shark and a remora. Also, that would be incredible.
Lisa Pendleton’s work deals with all the issues the above students deal with individually, fashion, relationships, and function. Her “purse monsters” are women’s purses and bags that are rendered non-functional. She creates these monsters by repurposing materials and objects found around her home. She wants to blur the lines of the monster and beauty stating, “anything can be beautiful to anyone.” She has installed the work on hooks similar to those that are found under the bar at a restaurant. Pendleton has plans to leave these purses on hooks at bars and wait around to see what reaction they elicit from unsuspecting patrons.
Another artist thinking about repurposing traditional materials in contemporary ways is Angela Morgan. She has three large-scale pieces that created from cut out paper, handmade wall paper, and fabric that are woven and pieced together. Morgan does not begin with any sort of source material, other than commenting on processes that traditionally associated with “women's work” like weaving, sewing and the use of fabric. Instead, it is initially a free association of materials and intuitive mark-making until she sees a pattern or combination that inspires her. These are some very laborious pieces, one of which I cannot help but think of as anything other than the Les Misérables poster.
Other artists with work in the exhibition are Lauren Cook Sarah Crase, Angee Montgomery, John Morgan, Joseph Tschume, and Felecia Wheeler.
Go out and see the future tonight. Then go watch Marc Gasol dunk on his older brother.