The portrait of his lovely wife, Gina Torres, was commissioned by Laurence Fishburne earlier this year. It was supposed to be presented to her on their anniversary (Sept. 22), but alas, they are both successful actors and as such have overlapping schedules. He finally presented it to her yesterday and thank goodness, she loved it. Whew! Portraits are difficult business. The margin for error is great and a high profile commission like this keeps the artist on pins and needles until you get the thumbs up from commissioner and recipient. I'm not well known as a portrait artist but I do enjoy the challenge.
701 CCA Aims to Fill Void Left By Demise of Triennial
BY JEFFREY DAY
When the Triennial was done away with
several years ago, an outcry arose in the arts community. No one was
louder about the demise of the every-three-year South Carolina
contemporary art show than Wim Roefs, a Columbia gallery owner. When the
701 Center for Contemporary Art opened in 2008 and Roefs became its
board president (and de facto director), he stated the center’s
commitment to creating a show to replace the Triennial. The first one of those — a biennial
rather than a triennial — opens this week. The exhibition by 24 artists
will be broken into two parts, the first opening Friday, Oct. 7, from 7
to 9 p.m. and the second starting Nov. 17.
“It was really a great loss,” says Roefs
of the Triennial’s demise. “They were great shows and a place to
discuss what was going on in the arts.”
Biennial 2011 includes artists from
Hilton Head to Spartanburg, painters and potters and sculptors, the
latter working with everything from found objects to cut-up blue jeans
to books. Each artist will show two to five pieces. Participants range
from such well-established and familiar artists as Mary Edna Fraser and
Jim Connell to others who are young and mostly unknown. They range in
age from 23 to 76.
“This is better than a solid list,”
Roefs says. “There are established artists, but the younger ones are
nothing to sneeze at — these are artists with great potential.”
He’s not tooting his own horn, because
he didn’t select the artists. The contemporary art center asked a dozen
curators, educators and artists from throughout the state to nominate
two artists for the Biennial. Among the nominators were Brian Lang,
decorative arts curator at the Columbia Museum of Art; Leo Twiggs, an
artist and retired professor and museum director at S.C. State
University; Tom Stanley, artist and chairman of the Winthrop University
Art Department; and Tyrone Geter, artist and director of the Benedict
College art gallery. Midlands artists in the show are James Busby, Peter
Lenzo, JRenee, Lucy Bailey and Jim Arendt (who recently moved to
Conway.) Three artists are from the Upstate, two from Orangeburg, five
from Charleston, six from Rock Hill and three from other places in the
Several of the artists were in one or
more of the five Triennial exhibitions held from 1992 to 2004, including
mixed media artist Aldwyth from Hilton Head; ceramic artists Jim
Connell of Rock Hill, Alice Ballard of Greenville and Peter Lenzo of
Columbia; and Charleston resident Colin Quashie, who explores political
and social issues with bite and humor and a wide range of mediums.
Others who have long been working in the state, such as Shaun Cassidy of
Rock Hill and Winston Wingo of Spartanburg, will be in the Biennial.
Among the lesser known artists are several who have solid careers,
including James Busby of Irmo, who has had several exhibitions at the
Stux Gallery in New York, and Stacey Davidson, who just began teaching
at Winthrop University and who shows at the Marlborough Gallery in New
York and London.
I decided to combine what were stand alone panels into one cohesive piece. The initial idea was to create a faux magazine that would have been read by plantation owners had it existed. After looking at a few 'lifestyle' magazines, I noticed that many had advertisements up front followed by table of contents, editor's note, etc. Since I had already created the advertisements (all of the J. CROW pages), I decided to redo them on thinner panels and hinge them together to resemble a magazine layout. I'm quite happy with the outcome and who knows, I may just continue to expand upon the piece by the time it makes it to the exhibition at REDUX in March.
I needed to submit work for the Biennial that was newer than 3 years old. Since I had been working on the UNC Mural much of that time and then went headlong into the plantation pieces, I decided to preview one of the pieces in the Biennial. It will interesting to see what kind of a response it garners.
THE POST-MODERN SENSE OF REGIONALISM A Shift Of Consciousness By Mary Bentz Gilkerson
Statewide art exhibitions like the TRIENNIAL, produced by the South Carolina Arts Commission and the South Carolina State Museum between 1992 and 2004, refl ect more than current trends in the state’s contemporary art community. They reveal deeper shifts in how the culture of the area perceives itself. Even as recently as the TRIENNIAL 2004 there was degree of self-consciousness about the way that both the curators and artists approached their regional position. The result was the selection of work that for the most part focused on the universal and mainstream rather than a regional sense of place.
In the intervening seven years the South Carolina art community has become much more comfortable with a greater postmodern sense of regionalism: a strong connection to place revealed in the way that artists freely mine themes and media that have been considered traditional for the area – landscape and figurative narration, clay and craft traditions – combined with an awareness of the national and international art dialogue. This initial Biennial, produced by 701 Center for Contemporary Art, reflects that shift of consciousness.
At its most fundamental level, place is topographic landscape, a mapping of geographical features that illustrates a culture’s relationship to the space it inhabits. Working from aerial photographs, Mary Edna Fraser maps the South Carolina coastline from great perspective distance, using traditional batik processes on oversized silk panels. Jarod Charzewski explores landscape topographically as well, creating installations that use precisely folded and stacked clothing or books to mimic the undulations of the earth and its interaction with man-made structures. Kim LeDee creates sculptural installations from carefully woven constructions that move from the flat surface of the wall into the gallery. Small plastic toys fill her miniature environments revealing the absurdities of communal conflict.
Landscape and place extends beyond topography in the multimedia installations of Gwylene Gallimard and Jean-Marie Mauclet. Their work is deeply rooted in the particularities of a community, going beyond simple documentary or social commentary to explore the complex intersections of place with traditions, histories, stories and spirit. Their process of working intimately within a community gives their work insightful depth regarding the paradoxical nature of human relationships.
Figuration and narration go hand-in-hand to invoke personal memory, trauma and history as well as direct challenges to examine our communal relationships to issues of race and sexuality. Winston Wingo’s sculptures use combinations of organic and geometric shapes to address the relationship of humanity to nature and technology. But they also address the dehumanizing factors that have effectively “erased” minorities from the broader dialogue within the culture.
What is subtle in Wingo’s work is exquisitely direct in Damond Howard’s and Colin Quashie’s.
With wit and passion Quashie uses the language of media marketing to dissect stereotypical views of cultural relationships and expose them as separatist constructs. He uses the seduction promised by contemporary advertising to lure the viewer into a conversation that can be haunting in the depth of the issues raised.
Howard incorporates some of the most heinous examples of 19th century illustrations and caricatures into self-portraits that reflect on the conflicted sense of identity and self that dominant culture imposes on minorities – in his case, an African-American man from South Carolina. Like Quashie, he uses humor to leaven the harshness of the commentary without diluting his message.
The narrative is also very personal in the work of Aldwyth and Peter Lenzo. While the literal figure is absent from many of Aldwyth’s works, it is implied through the multiple narratives she creates in her collages and sculptures. Although she resists categorization and rejects labels outright, the many little biographies that fill any one of her works form larger statements that are certainly astute social observation if not commentary. Lenzo’s clay sculptures are heavily embellished reliquaries of triumph over suffering. Building on the South Carolina craft tradition of the face jug, Lenzo creates self-portraits that contain all the pathos of the human condition.
Jim Arendt, JRenée, Stacey Davidson, Karen Ann Myers, Jon Prichard and Lucy Bailey pursue shared communal narratives, both traditional ones and those created by the disjunctions of contemporary culture. Arendt uses multiple layers of faded denim, the very fabric of the working class, collage together to explore connections to work and place. Using a similar narrative tradition, JRenee’s vivid paintings on glass contain echoes of Romare Bearden’s collages and cutouts and pull from the shared myths and traditions of the African-American community of New Orleans. Lucy Bailey’s figurative work is a quiet counterpoint, exploring the human body using forms that have an archetypal, archaic quality.
Davidson sculpts dolls that she then arranges in scenarios. These fictional narratives become the subjects of her subsequent paintings. There is an uncanny quality to the painted dolls, a level of fiction within fiction, both innocent and vaguely disturbing. Myers’ subjects inhabit a similarly charged psychological space, one that focuses on our cultural obsession with youth, beauty and glamour. The stories she tells of cocktail parties and power games are off set by a deep sense of loneliness. That absence is filled in Prichard’s drawings and performances by the ceremony and ritual of the fictitious society he creates his work around.
Thomas Whichard and Marshall Thomas create very ambiguous, loosely defined narratives based on the dialogue between artist and model. The stories are potential fictions, slices or moments, removed from their contexts.
Chris Todd’s sculptures imply a human presence through her use of exaggerated and distorted chair forms as surrogates. There is a whimsical quality to the sculptures that is off-set by the precarious nature of the predicaments that she places them in.
Abstraction, the modernist ideal, has become one of the many genres available to contemporary artists. Alice Ballard and Jim Connell both reference ceramic craft traditions in creating organic, abstracted works that move beyond traditional vessels to function as sculptural objects.
Shaun Cassidy, James Busby and Katie Walker pursue an art of pure abstraction where the subtle relationships of shape, surface and color invite contemplation. Busby and Cassidy reduce or eliminate many of the formal elements to focus our attention on the remaining ones. Mike Gentry’s grid-based collages give an aesthetic order to the jumbled visual bombardment of junk mail advertising and transform these fragments of media culture into relatively benign colors and textures.
The South Carolina Biennial 2011 reflects a shift in consciousness and perspective, a step away from the mainstream/regional dialectic. The sense of regional inferiority seems to be giving way to a synthesis of regional concerns – landscape and figurative narration, clay and craft traditions – with a more global awareness of the interconnection of all places to each other.
My wonderful friend Tyrone Geter is curator of the art gallery on Benedict College in Columbia, SC. I really hope the students understand the depth and uniqueness of the exhibits he seeks out and brings there. His upcoming show with the printmaker Joe Norman is such an exhibit. Here is an overview:
“Sometimes, stretched at ease in the shade of a roadside tree, we watch the motions of a laborer in a distant field, and after a time, begin to wonder languidly as to what the fellow may be at. We watch the movements of his body, the waving of his arms, we see him bend down, stand up, hesitate, begin again. It may add to the charm of an idle hour to be told the purpose of his exertions. If we know he is trying to lift a stone, to dig a ditch, to uproot a stump, we look with a more real interest at his efforts; we are disposed to condone the jar of his agitation upon the restfulness of the landscape; and even, if in a brotherly frame of mind, we may bring ourselves to forgive his failure. We understood his object, and, after all, the fellow has tried, and perhaps he had not the strength, and perhaps he had not the knowledge. We forgive, go on our way, and forget.
And so it is with the workman of art."
-Joseph Conrad, preface to "The Nigger of the Narcissus"