Year’s best art ex­hi­bi­tions un­for­get­table

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - ARTS - By Fredric Koep­pel Spe­cial to The Com­mer­cial Ap­peal

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: Paap­[email protected] 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.

BRAN­DON DILL/ SPE­CIAL TO THE COM­MER­CIAL AP­PEAL

COUR­TESY DAVID LUSK GALLERY.

FREDRIC KOEP­PEL/ SPE­CIAL TO THE COM­MER­CIAL AP­PEAL

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