True to its title, the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art's current exhibition "Monet to Cézanne/Cassatt to Sargent: The Impressionist Revolution," is about courage and upheaval.
Eighty-five masterworks from the Brooks, the Dixon, and Atlanta's High Museum of Art tell a story of a group of 19th-century and early 20th-century artists who broke so sharply with aesthetic, cultural, and religious tradition that their blasphemous and dangerous works were described by contemporary critics as "chambers of horror."
The Brooks exhibition includes some of the Impressionists' most accomplished paintings, such as Claude Monet's stunningly observed Autumn on the Seine, Argenteuil.
The exhibition also records what happened after the revolution. As these artists realized they were their own arbiters of beauty and could channel a more personal spirituality, they became more daring.
With compelling after compelling example, the show tracks the Impressionists' and Post-Impressionists' march toward work that was increasingly mystical, expressive, and abstract. Don't miss the shimmering interiors by Pierre Bonnard and Édouard Vuillard.
You'll find a pivotal moment in the history of art in Paul Cézanne's Trees and Rocks, Near the Chateau Noir. As Cézanne moved beyond Impressionism to search for the building blocks of reality, he created an increasingly geometric body of work that culminated in Cubism.
Even Renoir provides intimations of things to come in a show that includes not only that artist's signature full-figured women but also The Wave, which brings to mind the passionate brushwork of the Abstract Expressionists.
Through October 9th
Fast forward 100 years. The spirit of the maverick lives on in the work of Memphian Greely Myatt, who is noted for unorthodox and highly original works of art that often pay homage to modern and postmodern masters. Without losing any of his iconoclastic edge, Myatt's David Lusk exhibition "Just Sayin'," also contains some of the most graceful and philosophical works of his career.
Standing at over seven feet, Volume II is an interactive steel sculpture with a hinged binding that allows viewers to open the pages of a book. Empty thought bubbles and speech balloons welded into each page create a graceful steel filigree that allows us to see all the storylines simultaneously. In one of his slyest and most strikingly beautiful works, Myatt encourages us to experience the world from new perspectives. We can fill in our own text and become an omnipotent observer (in thought bubbles Myatt welded at the top of a page) or the poet speaking from his/her gut (in speech balloons welded into the bottom of the work).
Myatt pays tribute to a couple of his favorite artists in List, a tall, weathered slab of steel on a Styrofoam base back-dropped by a large sheet of aluminum. Traces of color in a small slit that divides the polished aluminum from top to bottom conjures up one of Barnett Newman's "zip" paintings recast in metal.
As viewers approach the installation and stop to assure themselves that Styrofoam can, indeed, support a slab of steel, List also becomes a wry nod to sculptor Richard Serra.
The largest work in the show and one of Myatt's most apropos alter-egos yet is I Like the Way You Dance, a 10-by-10-by-10-foot sculpture of speech balloons made out of mop handles, plastic, and steel.
The size of the work and the empty balloons allow us to join in the dialogue and step into a dance that blurs the distinction between high and low art and the boundaries between genres. This gracefully arcing work of interlacing speech balloons could be a couple moving in perfect sync and who remind us that what we say is less important than our attitude, body language, and the give-and-take of our conversations.
Or this could be the multifaceted mind of a sculptor whose seamless syntheses of pop/folk/conceptual/abstract art in a show titled "Just Sayin'" speak to universal truths, in a Southern vernacular, and to the history of art.
Through October 1st