On a cold evening this past February, I paid my first visit to Southfork: a single-room gallery in Midtown and something of a sleeper among the city’s house galleries. Southfork is also (and more usually) the home of Lauren Kennedy, whose work with Ballet Memphis was recently spotlighted in the Flyer’s 20<30 issue.
Kennedy’s apartment is modestly sized and warmly decorated. The Southfork space occupies its own room, but Kennedy encourages artists to respond to as much of her apartment as they like. The signage for the Southfork’s current exhibition of two Texan artists — a tableau illustrated with portraits of the collaborators and their pseudonym, “Chuck + George” — hangs in Kennedy’s dining room next to unrelated posters and tchotchkes.
Kennedy founded Southfork in 2012 with the idea of a running a space where her daily life and her work with art can interact. “For the last show,” Kennedy says, "the artists worked a photo of my grandmother that means the world to me into their installation. I really love that.”
Which is not to say that the Southfork project is entirely dictated by the home-gallery aspect. Rather, Southfork, like Adam Farmer’s GLITCH or Joel Parsons’ Beige, provides artists who otherwise would exhibit at white box galleries or sterile museums with the opportunity to create and show work in an environment activated by a living space. Southfork has recently hosted micro solo shows by up-and-coming New York- and Chicago-based artists Jay Shinn and Heyd Fontenot.
The current Chuck + George (monikers of Brian K. Jones and Brian K. Scott) installation was originally created for a space at the University of Arkansas but was modified to fit Southfork, and will run there until the end of April. Kennedy says, “I love how [this show] fits kind of awkwardly in the space because it wasn't made for Southfork … because the images are all self portraits and the work really does feel reflective of each of their personalities and the nature of their long standing relationship.
"And,” she adds, “I love how Beetlejuice-y it feels."
The show is Beetlejuice-y or Edward-Gorey-y: The room is covered with hand-illustrated wallpaper and floorboards in the Victorian (or proto-Victorian?) style. Carnivalesque masks— self-portraits of Chuck and George—hang from the wall. In one corner, a hand-built table supports a display of sculpted fruits, all illustratively warped. Across the room, a large, outdated television set loops an animation that echoes a series of prints (the “Tablescrappin’” series) that hang around the room. The installation creates a dollhouse effect— a cold, excessive vibe, punctuated by weird mantlepiece regalia and distorted avatars.
The "Tablescrappin’" prints, a serial collection, feature two sallow-faced, unhealthy looking characters who sit at depraved dining tables in the company of political, religious, and pop figures, all grotesqueries. The prints are well-executed and less apocalyptic than they are evocative of a fun societal underbelly. Their reference to a strange domesticity may have been only incidental, but it fits well in Southfork space.
Chuck + George will be up through the end of April. Gallery open by appointment. Email Lauren Kennedy at email@example.com.