Dread meets giddiness
Two exhibits offer very different views
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.