Art This Week: Low-Brow, High Tides, and Steamrollers

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It’s a week of oppositions in Memphis galleries: high-brow meets low-brow, the natural meets the plastic, and the old meets the new. At David Lusk Gallery, the paintings of Leslie Holt and sculptures of Wayne Edge are (respectively) cynical and stoic; hot pink and earthtoned. At Memphis College of Art, the main Rust Hall Gallery is devoted calming depictions of the Gulf Coast, while the neighboring Alumni gallery is full of Chloe York’s bright, cartoonish paintings. At Five in One Social Club, artists have revisited oldtime woodcut printmaking with new(ish) heavy machinery.

Memphis College of Art is displaying "Horn Island 29." The Rust Hall Gallery is packed out with student, faculty, and alumni work— all inspired by a May 2013 trip to Horn Island, off the Gulf of Mexico. This is the 29th year that MCA has sent a group to the island. The resulting works run the gamut from traditional painting, to cartoons, to metalwork and conceptual sculpture.

The best work this year comes from Slade Bishop, whose linocut prints of various forms of crustaceous life seem an appropriate reflection of the Island’s creative environs: meditative, simply executed, serious without being somber. Bill Nelson’s careful paintings and Adam Hawk’s fabricated steel-framed sculpture/painting also stand out.

Luke McDowell showed three enigmatic photographs that he shot at night from the actual inside of a dead jellyfish, using a waterproof camera. McDowell, a recent grad in illustration, said that he never expected to take photographs from the innards of sea life but, when he found the jellyfish on the beach, he thought, “Why not?” The results are as painterly as they are photographic, echoing a cross-media note that is repeated throughout the exhibition.

Down the hall, in the Rust Hall Alumni Gallery, there is a painting show by Chloe York, “Decorators.” York uses cough-medicine pink, green and baby blue palette coupled with ocean-referent shapes to create her works. The paintings are flat, full of delicately patterned anemone-looking forms, and are about 50 shades past the sort of thing you’d want on a shower curtain or a throw pillow.

This weekend saw an opening at David Lusk Gallery that also had some coastal themes. Wayne Edge’s “River of Stars” is a collection of driftwood and kindling, shells and sea glass bundled and bent together into wall-mounted sculptures.

In the back galleries, lowbrow artist Leslie Holt’s “Help Yourself” features oil paintings of cupcakes and embroidered covers of self-help books. The best painting in the show is Holt’s Cakescape II (mound), an impressionistic take on a disgorged-looking pastry. Not for the faint of heart.

(Leslie Holt, Cakescape II (mound)
  • (Leslie Holt, Cakescape II (mound)

Though the project won’t be on view until September 19th, Broad Avenue’s Five in One Social Club completed a massive printmaking project this past week.

Over the course of the summer, the Social Club invited local artists to make a series of 8-ft tall woodcuts. The club rented a steamroller, attained some appropriately sized white sheets, inked up the woodcuts and spent four days driving the steamroller over the prints. The results are fantastic.

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Artist Mary Jo Karimnia and her 15-year-old daughter, Rosie, collaborated on a woodcut. Said Mary Jo, “I hope they do this again next year. It’s a great thing for Memphis. It’s a great time to be involved with Memphis art right now.”

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