Dread meets gid­di­ness

Two ex­hibits of­fer very dif­fer­ent views

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

I men­tioned last week in this space that as a viewer and re­viewer of art, I have been re­peat­edly awestruck by the abil­ity of artists to im­bue or­di­nary ob­jects with ex­tra­or­di­nary pres­ence when the ma­te­ri­als at hand are, of course, merely a flat sur­face and a hand­ful of pig­ments and a brush or a pen and jar of ink or a wand of char­coal. I feel equally as trans­fixed by the pro­fi­ciency that al­lows artists to cre­ate a sense of spa­cious­ness, of depth and di­men­sion in their pic­tures that goes be­yond the mere rules of ge­o­met­ri­cal per­spec­tive to an ex­pan­sive­ness that de­fies the lim­i­ta­tions of a square or rec­tan­gle of can­vas or pa­per.

In “White Out,” her first gallery exhibition since 2010, Su­san Maakestad con­veys ex­actly those qual­i­ties, as she moves ever closer to com­plete ab­strac­tion in her oilon-can­vas paint­ings that por­tray the wide open spa­ces of the Amer­i­can land­scape. Here, we are in a realm that tran­scends the lo­cal­ity of sub­ur­ban side­walks, shop­ping mall park­ing lots and high­way in­ter­changes for a recog­ni­tion of the uni­ver­sal­ity of the in­tri­cate bal­ance be­tween med­i­ta­tive sta­sis and ur­gent for­ward thrust. The show will be dis­played through May 6 at Cir­cuitous Suc­ces­sion Gallery.

Those de­pop­u­lated side­walks, park­ing lots and in­ter­changes, along with air­port run­ways and end­less high­ways and their straight lines, curves and stripes, ap­peared in min­i­mal form in Maakestad’s ear­lier work, brushed in and lit by skies of un­canny hue. One dis­cerned in those fairly small pieces a feel­ing of ex­is­ten­tial dread; it’s aw­fully quiet and lonely out there where the curbs end and the high­way runs out be­tween low hills and the run­way seems to drop off the edge of the world. The park­ing lots, de­void of cars and peo­ple, dis­tin­guished by the strict rep­e­ti­tion of their yel­low mark­ings, seemed not just aban­doned but post-apoc­a­lyp­tic.

The paint­ings in “White Out,” how­ever, while more ab­stract, of­fer more sense of sway and move­ment, of a large­ness of spirit that ap­proaches joy. Most of these re­cent works oc­cur in the artist’s “White Out” se­ries, and it’s im­pos­si­ble not to get the point: That there ex­ists a nu­mi­nous hori­zon where color goes blank, where the soul dis­solves into ether, where the great, beck­on­ing yon­der en­com­passes all our mo­tion and de­sire. The un­re­pressed scope and all-em­brac­ing na­ture of such pieces as “White Out 13” and “White Out 10” — or any of the other num­bers — are won­der­ful to con­tem­plate, es­pe­cially as re­vealed in can­vas rec­tan­gles that mea­sure 30-by-42-inches.

While the work in this exhibition still hints at no­tions of high­ways or run­ways, desert vis­tas or the im­men­sity of canyons and fall­ing wa­ter, the pri­mary pas­sages are for­ward and sky­ward into the bright light of day or shad­owed twi­light. On the other hand, para­dox­i­cally, in the 14-by-20-inch “#34 Wan­der­lust,” an ar­bi­trary curv­ing pink line seems to lead us into the heart of a swirling mael­strom from which we will, grate­fully, never emerge. It’s all about obliv­ion.

Also show­ing at Cir­cu­tious Suc­ces­sion, in the front room, is “Pizza Witch Up­ris­ing,” a col­lec­tion of 10 wildly un­in­hib­ited mixed-me­dia col­lage works by Sheri Ban­croft, a tribute to the artist’s late fa­ther that in­cor­po­rates pieces of his busi­ness cor­re­spon­dence, spread­sheets, cal­en­dars, church bul­letins and notes on yel­low le­gal pads. The ef­fect is child­like, ex­u­ber­ant, giddy, witty and touch­ing. ANF Ar­chi­tects, 1500 Union Ave.: Dolph Smith: Col­lec­tive Ex­hibit, through May 5. Open­ing re­cep­tion 5:30-7:30 p.m. Fri­day. Mixed me­dia sculp­ture. Gallery space open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. week­days. 901-278-6868. anfa.com Gallery Ten Ninety One, 7151 Cherry Farms Road (WKNO Dig­i­tal Me­dia Cen­ter), Cor­dova: Janet Weed Beaver: “Horses, Farms, and Fairy Tales,” through April 28. Re­cep­tion 2-4 p.m. Sun­day. 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Mon­day through Fri­day. 901-4582521. wkno.org David Lusk GalleryMem­phis, 97 Till­man: Pinkney Herbert: “Knotty Time” and Bruce Brainard: “A Bright­ness of Hope,” Tues­day through May 14. Open­ing 6-8 p.m. April 15. Brainard talk, 11 a.m. April 16. Herbert talk, 11 a.m. May 7. Gallery hours: 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tues­day through Fri­day; 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Satur­day. 901767-3800. david­luskgallery. com The Sal­va­tion Army Kroc Mem­phis, 800 E. Park­way S.: Noel Jones re­cep­tion, 1:30 p.m. Sun­day. 901-7298007. krocmem­phis.org/ pro­grams/art/art-gallery St. Ge­orge’s Epis­co­pal Church (Art Gallery), 2425 S. Ger­man­town Road, Ger­man­town: “Me­lange,” an art show fea­tur­ing mem­bers of the Al­liance Française — Mem­phis chap­ter, through April 24. Re­cep­tion to meet the artists, 6-8 p.m. Fri­day. Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. week­days; 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Sun­day. 901-754-7282. stgchurch.org South­side Gallery, 150 Court­house Square in Ox­ford, Miss.: Linda Burgess: “Won­der­ful Things” and Mag­gie Dun­lap: “Vari­a­tions on a Theme,” through April 30. Plus: “Shift­ing Per­spec­tives” and “speak­ing (as),” co-cu­rated by Mag­gie Dun­lap and Han­nah Spears, re­spec­tively, through April 21. Artists’ re­cep­tion 6-8 p.m. Satur­day. 662-234-9090. south­sideart­gallery.com

Su­san Maakestad, “White Out,” oil on can­vas, 36 by 42 inches, 2015. From “White Out “at Cir­cuitous Suc­ces­sion Gallery.

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