Through his influential performance works in the 1970s and '80s, Joseph Beuys confronted and expanded our experience of self and the world, saying, "Art can heal the wounds of contemporary society." In the Delta Axis at Marshall Arts' exhibit "Action Packed," two Memphis artists and eight out-of-state artists also seek to heal the wounds of modern life by heightening this generation's awareness.
In a remarkable interactive installation titled "Those Who Do Not Remember the Past Are Condemned To Repeat It," Michigan artist Adam Wolpa invites us to explore "the manifestations of extreme faith." Before you handle the snakes crawling in and around Wolpa's terrarium, listen to his sound system's speakers (one of which jokes about the body's foibles while the other quotes biblical passages) and receive a cup of red Kool-Aid in return for telling a joke into a hand-carved wooden ear.
|Adam Wolpa’s snakes|
Most of the elements of passionately held opinion can be found in Wolpa's work: unexamined superstitions and folk tales, nationalistic sentiments, props and icons that reinforce dogma, and assumptions of superiority and infallibility. Here also are fears masked by sardonic humor, the endless sound bites of advertising and political propaganda, and feelings of uncertainty handwritten beneath skewered hot dogs.
The ideas driving Anne Beffel's artwork are poignant and powerful. Following September 11, 2001, she spent nine months in a studio at the World Financial Center (just west of ground zero), creating art that included worldwide stories of personal tragedy, regret, and reconciliation. By posing questions -- "What do you really want, why, what would it take to fulfill your desire, and is it worth the time and materials involved?" -- Beffel helps her clients design their made-to-order purchases which she then constructs from discarded objects, charging only for the cost of the glue, stripper, paints, and dyes incurred to restore the trashed parts that make up her creations.
Beffel's bent, chipped, and peeling throwaways are reassembled into portable personal altars -- file cabinets on rockers, oversized lazy Susans, and chartreuse futons that convert to writing tables or beds with shelves. This artist's sculptures, with their disparate components that don't quite fit into classically harmonious wholes, look something like her vision of a world where people are flawed, where limited resources are wasted, and where cultures have not yet learned to smoothly work together.
Tommy Foster, sculptor and University of Memphis graduate student, combines performance art with Southern kitsch.He has"performed" over 300 Elvis weddings, and he designed an Elvis tour for the "Action Packed" out-of-town artists, which included lots of boxes of Krispy Kreme mini-crullers and stops at obscure but important sites, such as a parking lot where a young Presley got autographs from some master blues musicians. You'll find photos of the tour, an automobile seat from the tour bus, and an empty Krispy Kreme box in Marshall Arts' front gallery next to an "iceberg."
A few suggestions for enjoying some of the exhibition's other works: Bring along a fresh package of Krispy Kremes. When you enter Marshall Arts, pull down one of Ohio artist Nathaniel Parsons' 15-foot wooden staffs piled into the right corner of the front gallery. Climb onto his large slab of simulated ice and row. It's good exercise and will prepare you for life's mishaps. Eat some Krispy Kremes to regain your energy.
Finish off the Krispy Kremes while viewing Kevin Hamilton's video of his M.I.T. projects that synchronize the sounds of various electronic devices with the footsteps of humans crossing streets and walking up stairs. As passersby become aware of the sounds that their footsteps create, they begin to accompany the booms and the beeps with some spontaneous pedestrian choreography.
Bring along 10 bucks and purchase one of Miles Wolfe's decaled T-shirts. This University of Memphis adjunct professor's T-shirt images run the gamut from Walt Disney movie posters to scenes of terror.
Don't attempt to row Parsons' iceberg out the front door. Do push it across the floor to a wall lined with pictures of people seeing the Manhattan skyline from the vantage point of a small, slow-moving row boat captained by Christopher Moore, a sculptor/photographer more interested in creating moments of silliness and intimacy than in instilling metropolitan awe in the hearts of his passengers.
Curator Cedar Lorca Nordbye (a U of M professor and multimedia artist) has produced an "Action Packed" show of art that plays with the edges of consciousness. As you push around icebergs, design what you buy, tap dance to the sounds of technological devices, purchase a shirt with a visual attitude, and tell jokes into a wooden ear surrounded by the raw feelings and unadorned accoutrements of extreme ideological positions, you may find yourself not only looking at art but also thinking about your life and laughing out loud.
Through May 1st