Art finds home at Midtown cafes
> Works on display at P&H Café, Otherlands during November
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.