KEVIN FORD, “A PIECE IS LOOSE”
The great mystery of art lies in the process by which an artist uses a medium — oil or acrylic paints, pen and ink, pencil — and distributes it on a surface, which could be canvas, panel or paper, and imbues the object depicted with such an aura of unimpeachable experiential thereness that it affects not merely the viewer’s sensibility but the memory and the day itself. From carafes of wine in Dutch still-life paintings to Cezanne’s apples to Warhol’s soup cans, artists for hundreds of years have taken the reality of mundane artifacts and raised them a state of a supreme awareness that seems to run both directions.
I felt that way about the small painting of a chocolate glazed doughnut by Kevin Ford that was included in the group exhibition “Cops,” that ran at Tops Gallery in January and February. Now, in a solo show, “A Piece Is Loose,” at Tops through April 9, Ford has a chance to expand his reach. While the main gallery is devoted to eight paintings, several quite large and the others close to tiny, most of the work consists of ink on paper drawings that measure 9-by-12-inches, horizontal or vertical.
Twelve of these drawings, arranged in a grid, involve feet and shoes, almost to a fetishistic extent, though the undercurrent of wit keeps us from willfully delving into any psychological morass. These drawings, and the others in the front room, indulge in feats of hyperbole that will remind viewers of Philip Guston’s late cartoonlike work or the comic books of R. Crumb, Tops Gallery through April 9 400 S. Front St., entrance on Huling Avenue Email info@topsgallery. com
with their bulbous shapes and exaggerated appendages. Unlike those artists, however, Ford eliminates even the hint of narrative from his pieces, focusing solely and closely on the object at hand, as it were.
Shoes and feet show up in two colossal oil on canvas paintings, titled, of course, “Shoe” — 50-by-67.5-inches — and “Foot (Pink)”, tipping the scale at 72-by-57.5-inches. The shoe is a giant brown platform style, posed against a brushy light blue background, while the foot is, yes, a humongous pink foot and lower leg in all their hot, feral, monumental glory.
Most impressive, though, are five small acrylic on linen paintings that attain, in their singular concentration and vision — like that darn chocolate glazed doughnut — a level of transcendent idealism. These portray, again in tight closeup, an “Etruscan” vase, a gray shoe, a vase with flower decorations and two “moleskins,” tan and gray. (The famous little notebooks, as many people know, are called Moleskine, and they contain no skins of small furry groundmammals.) There is a point at which we look at a painting from inches away and see that it consists of a few blurry LEFT: Kevin Ford, “Moleskin (Gray),” acrylic on canvas, 9X12 inches. brush-strokes and swathes of pigment that, as we back off, coalesce into a recognizable object that, despite its known shape and employment, functions as the reflection of its own existence. This is the sphere where beauty inhabits the spaces of pure form. Gallery Ten Ninety One, 7151 Cherry Farms Road (WKNO Digital Media Center), Cordova: Janet Weed Beaver: “Horses, Farms, and Fairy Tales,” Monday through April 28. Reception 2-4 p.m. April 10. Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday. 901-458-2521. wkno.org. Germantown Performing Arts Center, 1801 Exeter Road, Germantown: Karen Pulfer Focht: “The Time Catcher,” Tuesday through May 1. Artist reception 4-6 p.m. April 17. Photo exhibit and art sale featuring Focht, former Commercial Appeal awardwinning staff photojournalist. 901-751-7500. karenpulferfocht.com. Germantown Performing Arts Center, 1801 Exeter Road, Germantown: Maritucker Hanemann: “Close Scapes” artist reception, 5:30-7:30 p.m. Saturday. Exhibition ends Monday. 901-751-7500. Gpacweb.com. Memphis Botanic Garden, 750 Cherry Road (Audubon Park): Matthew Lee: “Water Scenes in Oils,” “plein air” paintings featuring water scenes, Friday through April 27. Opening reception 2-4 p.m. Sunday. Also on exhibit, Phyllis Boger: “Bits and Pieces,” Friday through April 27 in Fratelli’s Cafe Gallery. Hours: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday through Saturday. All works for sale. Call 901-636-4100. Memphis College of Art, 1930 Poplar in Overton Park: The “2016 Spring BFA Exhibition” — Part 1 on view through April 18 in Rust Hall Main Gallery, with a reception 6-8 p.m. Friday. Part 2 on view April 22-May 7 with a reception 6-8 p.m. April 22. Between the two parts, work from over 40 artists in media ranging from painting and sculpture to illustration and graphic design. 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday; and noon-4 p.m. Sunday. mca.edu L Ross Gallery, 5040 Sanderlin, Suite 104: Lisa Jennings: “Sanctuaries” and Butler Steltemeier: “Gathering with Old Friends,” through April 30. Opening reception 6-8 p.m. Friday. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday. Call 901-767-2200. Lrossgallery.com. RS Antiques & Art, 700 S. Mendenhall: Opening reception for Jennifer Wilson, 5-8 p.m. Friday, with entertainment by Billie Dove. Hours: 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday; 1-4 p.m. Sunday. 901-417-8315. firstname.lastname@example.org St. George’s Episcopal Church (Art Gallery), 2425 S. Germantown Road, Germantown: “Melange,” an art show featuring members of the Alliance Française — Memphis chapter. Friday through April 24 with a reception to meet the artists, 6-8 p.m. April 8. Sixteen artistmembers display their works in various media. Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays; and 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday.
ABOVE: Kevin Ford, installation image, ink on paper, each 9X12 inches.