Younger gen­er­a­tion breed­ing area buzz

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - Art - By Bill El­lis

Spe­cial to The Com­mer­cial Ap­peal

While you are thrilling to the Licht­en­stein and Lucite shows at the Dixon, don’t over­look the side exhibit in the Mal­lory and Wurtzburger wing gal­leries.

Ti­tled “Voices of a New South,” the col­lec­tion of two dozen pieces by four con­tem­po­rary African-Amer­i­can artists from Mem­phis is as eye-pop­ping in its own way as the main event. Run­ning through Nov. 29, the show spot­lights a younger gen­er­a­tion of lo­cal tal­ent mak­ing their mark: An­thony D. Lee, sib­lings Terry and Jerry Lynn, who paint col­lec­tively as Twin, Kier­sten Wil­liams and N.J. Woods.

Dixon cu­ra­to­rial as­sis­tant Julie Pierotti says it is im­por­tant that such artists, who usu­ally don’t get to show in a mu­seum set­ting, con­nect on that level with art lovers.

“Our vis­i­tors have been eat­ing this up,” she says. “A lot of the peo­ple that come here aren’t nec­es­sar­ily go­ing to some of the art gal­leries around town. (So) for them to see some­thing like this is good.”

Dixon di­rec­tor Kevin Sharp adds that it has been the mu­seum’s com­mit­ment to show­case con­tem­po­rary/re­gional art since he came on board, and the ad­junct gallery wings have served that pur­pose well.

“It’s not a lot of space but it is mean­ing­ful space,” he says. “We thought it was im­por­tant too that it be re­gional artists. I’ve been very im­pressed by the vi­tal­ity of the arts com­mu­nity in Mem­phis from day one of my ar­rival, and I just wanted to cel­e­brate it a lit­tle bit.”

The se­lected works in “Voices of a New South” are a vis­ually eclec­tic bunch, from the “emo­tional vi­gnettes” of Lee and the self-taught mem­ory mo­tifs of Woods to the near-cin­e­matic scenes con­jured by Twin. Yet as a group show, the artists share an over­rid­ing sense of his­tory — re­flec­tions on the South and on their re­spec­tive child­hoods and fam­ily sto­ries — as well as an ex­plo­sive use of color that speaks to the en­gag­ing, life-af­firm­ing role art plays in African-Amer­i­can cul­ture.

Wil­liams, the only Mem­phian to have been se­lected for the tour­ing exhibit “I Have a Dream: An In­ter­na­tional Trib­ute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”— cur­rently at the Na­tional Civil Rights Mu­seum — strikes the right bal­ance, for ex­am­ple, be­tween self-re­flec­tion and out­ward com­men­tary in such works as “Find­ing My­self,” which would have made a great al­ter­nate ti­tle for the Dixon show.

Each artist here is busy find­ing them­selves, and we as art view­ers are the lucky re­cip­i­ents of their search.

An­thony D. Lee’s ‘‘Mama's Boy’’ joins works by three other ris­ing African-Amer­i­can artists from Mem­phis.

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