Art finds home at Mid­town cafes

> Works on dis­play at P&H Café, Other­lands dur­ing Novem­ber

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

Spe­cial to The Com­mer­cial Ap­peal

Art is the per­fect fit for cof­fee and con­ver­sa­tion at two Mid­town es­tab­lish­ments.

At the P& H Café, 1532 Madi­son, “Au­to­matic De­tour” fea­tures au­to­matic draw­ings made by Uni­ver­sity of Mem­phis art grad­u­ate stu­dent Sarah Boyce, while at Other­lands, 614 S. Cooper, “River Pan­els” ex­plores geo­met­ric ab­strac­tion through con­tact sheet-in­spired mul­ti­ples of the Mis­sis­sippi River by Ed. Porter.

Boyce, whose show runs through Nov. 10, of­fers six highly whim­si­cal works cre­ated by the sur­re­al­ist tech­nique of au­to­matic draw­ing — spon­ta­neously-ren­dered art without any pre­con­ceived in­ten­tion or plan — that An­dré Bre­ton, An­dré Mas­son, Joan Miró, Sal­vador Dalí and oth­ers flirted with in an ef­fort to tap into the un­fet­tered well­springs of the sub­con­scious.

The Michi­gan na­tive says she was in­spired to try the tech­nique while study­ing sur­re­al­ism in a mod­ern art course. To achieve such ends, Boyce worked at night in her stu­dio over the course of sev­eral weeks and drew each work in one sit­ting without any sub­se­quent re­vi­sion or al­ter­ing and without any ti­tle. “I thought ti­tles would bring too much in­for­ma­tion for the viewer,” she says.

The re­sults, largely made with char­coal, pas­tel and graphite, are a de­par­ture from her usual style of photography-in­formed re­al­ism though sev­eral bear a pe­cu­liar rep­re­sen­ta­tional qual­ity, as if an imp­ish psy­che has poked its head out for some fun and games.

Boyce ad­mits that cer­tain de­lib­er­ate de­ci­sions — such as what me­dia to use — had to be made up front be­fore the au­to­matic process could be­gin. But what started out as an ex­er­cise has found ex­pres­sive va­lid­ity in her work, “a very dif­fer­ent im­pulse,” she says, that now feeds a fas­ci­na­tion with rec­on­cil­ing in­stinc­tive and metic­u­lous-ren­dered im­agery in her art. “So I would like to do some­thing like this again.”

Most folks in Mem­phis know Ed. Porter as the owner of Loverly Records, one of the city’s defin­ing in­die record la­bels in the 1990s. But Porter is also an artist with a mas­ter’s de­gree in paint­ing from the Mary­land In­sti­tute Col­lege of Art.

The other side of his creative en­deav­ors can be seen in “River Pan­els,” a se­ries of dip­ty­chs and trip­ty­chs hang­ing at Other­lands through Nov. 30.

Like Boyce, Porter uses photography as a tool in his paint­ing process, and had taken pic­tures of the Mis­sis­sippi River for a planned work. The pho­to­graphic im­ages proved com­pelling in them­selves, how­ever.

“I wanted wa­ter, earth, sky in three bands,” he says. “So I took a bunch of pic­tures of (the river), got back and looked at my con­tact sheets, and said, ‘Hey, this is close to the fin­ished prod­uct.’ I had al­ways planned on one im­age but when I saw th­ese mul­ti­ples I saw a score, al­most like writ­ten mu­sic in a way. And it in­trigued me enough that I kept go­ing back more and more times.”

As framed by Porter, rep­re­sen­ta­tional im­ages of the Mis­sis­sippi are re­duced to ab­strac­tion, and in do­ing so re­flect the flu­id­ity and un­du­lat­ing moods of the river in a way no sin­gle snap­shot could have pro­vided. Framed in groups of twos and threes, the works’ spir­i­tual con­no­ta­tions — ref­er­enc­ing as they do the polyp­ty­chs of early Euro­pean re­li­gious art — are not lost on Porter, as well.

“I see th­ese things as med­i­ta­tive,” he says. “In cer­tain re­li­gious prac­tices, you look at some­thing, but you don’t look at it, you know. You don’t have to gaze at it — to see what it is — for it to af­fect you. I find them very calm­ing and peace­ful.”

Mem­phis artist Ed. Porter’s “River Panel Five” re­flects the flu­id­ity and un­du­lat­ing moods of the Mis­sis­sippi River in a way no sin­gle snap­shot could have as ac­cu­rately pro­vided.

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