‘ONE IN A MILLION’
If this is August, it must be Elvis. And if it’s the week for all things Presley in Memphis, it’s also the occasion for the third exhibition at L Ross Gallery devoted to original artworks about The King. “One in a Million” consists of 46 pieces executed in a dizzying array of styles and mediums, on display through Aug. 27.
I will confess that I hied myself to the gallery with a certain sense of foreboding. (Elvis again! Please, no!) I will also confess that I am among those who believe that after Elvis sold himself to the twin devils of Col. Parker and RCA, he became irrelevant musically and culturally. Briefly the embodiment of the sexiness and danger of raw rock and roll, he became a pop singer, an entertainer, an “actor” in a series of really silly bad movies. I moved on, but he didn’t, and then he died, trapped forever, it seems, in the memoryscrubbed realm of nostalgia.
Still, every time I attend one of these exhibitions at L Ross Gallery, I am struck by the seriousness with which most of the artists involved
approach their task. Although the opportunities for parody might seem rife — fat Elvis, druggedout Elvis — the artists in this show reveal, primarily, a respectful attitude, while forays into satire are mainly gentle and directed not at the singer himself but at the sentiments and fandom he inspired. The gallery serves not as a shrine, exactly — the show is too colorful and exuberant for that — but it’s a worthy tribute during a week in which the term “tribute artists” implies something entirely different.
Among the reverent, appreciative and beautifully done portraits on view are “Elvis Riding Rising Sun,” by Leslie Barron; “The King of Sun Studio,” by Suzanne Mccourt; Nathan Gregg Chadwick, “Elvis Presley (Suspicion),” oil on linen, 36-by-36 inches. From “One in a Million” at L Ross Gallery. Alan Yoakum’s untitled reverse-negative silk screen; and Matthew Hasty’s 60-by-48-inch “Velvis Lives,” an oil-onvelvet painting that succeeds in raising a work on velvet to high art. Hasty also contributes a spoton “Goodnight Jungle Room,” and if he’s not careful, he may have to give up the landscape painting for which he is well-known and turn to all Elvis all the time.
Two contrasting portraits offer views of Presley that seem to
encompass the poles of his cultural influence and icon status. The bountifully talented Kurt Meer returns with another small oil-on-panel depiction of the singer from his early days, his face, both beautiful and vacant, intact, his hair pomaded into a pompadour like a living thing, casting its own highlights, all centering on feelings of peace and sadness. It’s as close to sainthood as a portrait of Elvis gets. Gregg Chadwick takes the opposite stance in the oil-on-linen “Elvis Presley (Suspicion).” Here, a familiar depiction of the singer is rendered in blurry, shadowy lines, as if his memory is slowly fading and becoming the stuff of rumor and legend tending toward oblivion.
All is not portraiture,
though. Two pieces involve blue suede shoes. Many incorporate renditions of images taken throughout Elvis’ life, as in Lisa Weiss’ series of nine “Elvis Postcards.” Jeni Stallings offers a small, subtly done “Priscilla and Elvis Cake,” showing the couple at their wedding reception, while Niles Wallace uses glazed stoneware to turn Elvis’ hair into a powerful abstract entity in “E Hair.”
Apparently, in other words, the creative approaches and interpretations of the King and his multiple guises and personalities remain infinite and endless. He is like the trickster of folklore, always present but tantalizingly out of reach, eluding all efforts to pin him down to one aspect. Christian Brothers University Plough Library (Beverly & Sam Ross Gallery), 650 East Parkway S.: “Hapax Legomena: Recent Artwork by Cory Dugan” in Main Gallery and “Seeking Salvation: Photographs by Paul Clarke” in Gallery Foyer. Both through Oct. 12. Opening reception 5:30-7:30 p.m. Friday. 901-321-3432. Dixon Gallery and Gardens, 4339 Park Ave.: “Fold”: Mary Jo Karimnia, Sunday through Oct. 16. Embroidery and prints on vintage fabrics and seedbeaded panels of anonymous costumed figures. 901-761-5250. dixon.org Levy Gallery (Buckman Arts Center at St. Mary’s School), 60 Perkins Ext.: Angi Cooper and Janet Weed Beaver: “Side by Side,” through Sept. 19. Opening reception 5:30-7:30 p.m. Friday. New works (paintings). Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday or one hour prior to performance. 901-537-1483. Memphis College of Art, 1930 Poplar Ave. (Overton Park): Jeffrey Hodges: “Primal Rituals” (large-scale pointillism paintings) in Rust Hall Alumni Gallery and “Horn Island 32” in Rust Hall Main Gallery. Both open Monday through Sept. 30. Reception for both exhibits, 5:308:30 p.m. Aug. 27. Hours: 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays; 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday; noon-4 p.m. Sunday. 901-272-5100. mca.edu National Ornamental Metal Museum, 374 Metal Museum Drive: “Iron for Honors,” Sunday through Nov. 6. Reception 5-8 p.m. Sept. 1. Thirty-eight pieces of European cast-iron jewelry from the collection of the Birmingham Museum of Art. Curated by Dr. Anne Forschler-tarrasch. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday; closed Mondays. 901-774-6380. metalmuseum.org Salvation Army Kroc Center of Memphis (Junior League of Memphis Art Hall), 800 East Parkway S.: Artists Carl Moore and David Lynch reception, 1:30 p.m. Sunday (30 percent of all purchases benefit The Salvation Army’s programs). Exhibit runs through Sept. 12. 901-729-8007. krocmemphis.org