Year’s best art exhibitions unforgettable
There was a lot to love in local galleries and institutions in 2015, so let’s not delay and get right to my roster of the 10 Best Exhibitions. The list is ordered in backward chronology.
Toni Collums Roberts, “Inveterate,” at the Martha and Robert Fogelman Galleries of Contemporary Art, University of Memphis: “Inveterate,” a thesis exhibition for the master of fine arts degree, consisted of 8,000 small white plaster cubes arranged in strict rows on the floor of one of the galleries, with a tiny video in the gallery across the hall. Obsessive, hypnotic and a tad oppressive, the installation radically altered one’s perception of the space, the floor, the entire enterprise of a gallery in an auspicious launch of this young artist’s career.
Beth Edwards, “Oh Happy Day,” at David Lusk Gallery Temp: Edwards’ work in this compact show achieved a state of transcendence rare in representational art. A painter of the utmost meticulousness, she focused closely on flowers with their stems and leaves and all the attendant aspects of light and shadow, and rendered them into a state of the Platonic ideal, close to abstraction.
Jeri Ledbetter, “Giardano Inverno,” at L Ross Gallery: Ledbetter’s abstract paintings are chaste and wintry, and their calligraphic spontaneity conveys a sense of charisma, energy, poetry and mystery. The artist’s ferocious energy is balanced by serenity in a dichotomy of tension and resolution that is beautifully effective both in the smallest pieces and the largest and most dense.
“Samuel H. Crone: Works on Paper,” Art Museum of the University of Memphis: The third exhibition at AMUM for this Memphis-born artist (18581913), who lived in Europe for most of his life, revealed a touch for subtle craftsmanship in drawing and etching that often equals Whistler and a sense of elegance and appropriateness that almost matches Singer. The show traced the maturing of Crone’s hand and eye and left us wondering how he would have developed if he had not died in his mid-50s.
Joel Parsons, “You Are the Hole: An Exhibition in Four Acts” at Crosstown Arts: Flamboyant, operatic, spontaneous, this installation, a combination of works on paper and a dozen or so floor sculptures, was a vast lyrical project that succeeded in its vaunting Wagnerian ambitions and in its echoes of a death-infused culture swayed by loss and absence. Unforgettable.
“Master Metalsmith: Linda Threadgill, Cultivating Ornament,” at the National Ornamental Metal Museum: The work of Linda Threadgill, a well-known teacher and mentor, takes concepts of utility and decoration — the old craft vs. art conundrum — and turns them on their heads, so her subverting vases would hold no water and her trays no canapes, while the purely decorative aspects assume total importance and become the pieces’ motivations and accomplishments. You look at her bold intricate work to have expectations defied and denied.
Gil Ngolé, “The Season Moved,” at Tops Gallery: In the year’s most devastating exhibition, Gil Ngolé, a native of the Beth Edwards’ “Microcosm II,” oil on canvas. From “Oh Happy Day.” An exhibit by Hamlett Dobbins (in his studio) called “The Attendant” was at Fogelman Galleries.
Celtic Crossing’s New Year’s Eve Champagne Supernova: 6 p.m. Thursday at Celtic Crossing, 903 S. Cooper. $10 cover charge (50 percent donated to the Humane Society of Memphis & Shelby County). 901-2745151 for a dinner reservation. Chuckles Comedy House: 1770 Dexter Springs Loop, Cordova. For upcoming shows and times, call 901421-5905, or visit online: chucklescomedyhouse.com. Death Du Jour Mystery Theater: “Toasted!” An “original interactive New Year’s Eve Rock Star mystery” presented by Mystery Dinner Theater. 7-10 p.m. Thursday ($38) at Spaghetti Warehouse, 40 W. Huling. Reservations required. Call 901-210-0545 or 901-377-0143. E-mail: Paappleby@aol.com Enchanted Forest Festival of Trees: Ends Thursday at Memphis Pink Palace Museum, 3050 Central. Call 901-636-2362. The 8th annual Guitar Drop at Hard Rock Cafe Memphis: 7 p.m.2 a.m. Thursday at 126 Beale. Tickets available online only: $25 general admission, $150 VIP pass, $250 VIP couple. Standing room only, no reserved seating. Call 901-529-0007. freshtix.com/events/ hardrockguitardrop2016 The 2015-2016 Mid-south Kwanzaa Inc. Celebration: Celebrating culture, family and community. Saturday: Umoja (Unity). 10 a.m. auction block (Auction & Main); 2 p.m. Board of Education (Auditorium). Sunday: Kujichagulia (SelfDetermination). Noon. Slavehaven, 826 N. Second. Monday: Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility). 6 p.m. Exum Towers, 3155 Sharpe. Tuesday: Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics). 10 a.m. Orange Mound Senior Service Center, 2590 Park; 7 p.m. Awanata Wellness Center, 3624 Austin Peay. Wednesday: Nia (Purpose). 10 a.m. Josephine K. Lewis Senior Center, 1188 N. Parkway; 7 p.m. Lester Community Center, 317 Tillman. Thursday: Kuumba (Creativity). 7 p.m. Java Complex, 1423 Elvis Presley. Jan. 1: Imani (Faith). 3 p.m. The University of Memphis (Panhellenic Building), 384 Patterson. Munch & Learn Lecture: Noon-1 p.m. Wednesday at Dixon Gallery and Gardens, 4339 Park. $7 ($5 students with ID and senior citizens ages 65 and older), Dixon members free. “Sacred Architecture of the South”: Carter Hord, principal, Hord Architects. Call 901-761-5250. dixon.org New Year’s at Noon: 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Thursday at the Children’s Museum of Memphis, 2525 Central. $15 (free to members). 901-4582678. cmom.com Peabody New Year’s Eve Party: 8 p.m.-2 a.m. Thursday at The Peabody, 149 Union. Tickets: $40 online pre-sale (ends Wednesday), $50 at the door. Stella Artois VIP Lounge: $125 (access to party, VIP Lounge, hors d’oeuvres, champagne and valet parking). 901-529-4000. Peabodymemphis.com Poetry Slam: 7-9 p.m. Tuesdays at Midtown Crossing, 394 Watkins (at Overton Park Avenue). No cover. $20 cash prize for best “Slammer.” Old P&H Cafe Café rules apply: Bring at least three original poems; performances limited to 3 minutes or less. Judges to be selected from audience. Republic of Congo and an MFA candidate at Memphis College of Art, filled this bunkerlike space with 200 improvised, ragtag bundles symbolizing the shattered lives, the strenuous journeys and straitened circumstances of the millions of refugees struggling from Africa and the Middle East to find peace and comfort in Europe.
Hamlett Dobbins, “The Attendant” and Lester Julian Merriweather, “White(s) Only,” at the Fogelman Galleries of Contemporary Art, University of Memphis: In exhibitions across a hall from each other, two of the city’s most astute and demanding artists reveled in their similarities and differences, Merriweather with cool, clean, elegant and ironic tropes on white culture, Dobbins with passionate yet cerebral abstractions that Crosstown Arts hosted Joel Parsons’ flamboyant installation “You Are the Hole: An Exhibition in Four Parts.”
probed the limits of formality and feeling.
“Between the Eyes,” at Crosstown Arts: Had I the necessary fiduciary prowess, I would have written a massive check and taken home every piece in this splendid group show that featured highly diverse abstract work by Laura Sucsy (also the curator), Marina Adams, Rubens Ghenov, Ron de Oude, Joe Fyfe and Iva Gueorguieva. One felt a sense of striving, a feeling of private labor and revelation resulting in objects, surfaces and planes, hues and forms and individual interpretations of what it means to be static or dynamic, gnomic or referential, geometric or flowing, even spiritual or secular.
Brian Pera, “I Thought I Might Find You Here,” at Clough-hanson Gallery, Rhodes College: An elegy for a friend who died at age 50, this assemblage of towers, kiosks and treehouses incorporated a vast and ingenious range of materials, especially in the realm of items of sewing, knitting, tying up or down, fastening and knotting — twine, tape, yarn, rope, hoses, extension cords, wire, various kinds of fabric. The bursts of color only emphasized the paradox of loss, mourning and hope, ultimately a work of recovery for the artist and his late friend.