By Barbara Schreiber
Incorporating recycled materials, installations large and small, and wearables that challenge the idea of wearability, several current exhibitions pretty much run the gamut of three dimensional art.
In Elements at McColl Center for Visual Art, Michael Gayk and Carrie Becker deal with the organic and the cellular. Although Gayk’s work could accurately be called jewelry and Becker’s soft sculpture, these innocuous labels don’t begin to describe the bold content.
Gayk combines 3-D printing and other current technology with traditional craft. He's at his best here in a sequence of bracelets that, viewed from left to right on the gallery wall, mutate from sleek design to something you might see under an electron microscope, to pieces that look like sentient beings capable of inflicting harm. Even though produced over a period of several years, these controlled works have a hyper-focused consistency.
Festival season is in full swing, but if you’re looking for a tad more artistic gravitas this weekend, stop by the UNC Charlotte Center City Building for its Open House and Community Day on Sept. 17.
Although the gleaming new Uptown campus is home to myriad programs in business, health and human services, urban design, urban education and continuing education, the light-flooded gallery, which has its own entrance on Ninth Street, is one of the more visible aspects of the building. I’ll be writing more about the gallery and its programming later, but let’s just say there are some parallels between it and Saturday’s family friendly goings-on.
Industry and government have long altered the landscape as if they were producing land art’s evil twin, creating exquisite scars that are the visual evidence of our need for power. Some of the most compelling photographs in PEOPLE PLACES POWER: Reframing the American Landscape, on view at the Davidson College Art Galleries through February 25, document this phenomenon.
The subject matter of these photographs gives them their moral authority. But it is the cruel, unearned beauty of the forms depicted — a gash of city light in the desert night, the elegant curve of a cooling tower, a single fence at the border — that draws us in, enmeshing us in a queasy, guilt-ridden relationship.
The exhibition’s dominant image — it’s not only the centerpiece of the publicity, but it quietly assaults you as you first enter the galleries — is Mitch Epstein’s "Amos Coal Power Plant, Raymond, West Virginia." In this subdued display of twisted normalcy, cooling towers loom behind a modest, pleasant neighborhood with a mix of paternalism and threat. The gray towers almost blend in with the sky, giving the whole image a weird sense of intimacy and rightness.
Some images seem to depict a struggle in which nature is victorious. Andrew Moore’s "Model T HQ, Detroit" shows a ruined interior with what at first glance appears to be the remains of a filthy green carpet — but is in reality a moss-covered floor. Victoria Sambunaris’ "Wendover, Utah" portrays a dreary, isolated development that stands in sad contrast to the pristine mountains in the distance.
I’m a total sucker for images of the majestic, exploited landscape, so it's probably due to personal taste that my energy started to flag in the final gallery, with its emphasis on people and personal drama. This is not to disparage the many noteworthy photographs in this space, among them David Hilliard’s poignant "Dad," a pensive, perhaps defeated figure viewed through the window of his house, as well as "Tracy (Cherry Drizzle)" by art star Ryan McGinley. There is simply an abundance of work in this exhibition that demands serious consideration, and even with a spare installation that allows each piece to speak for itself, there is almost too much to view. This show is a must-see; just make sure you allot plenty of time.
While doing the preliminary research for PEOPLE PLACES POWER, gallery director Brad Thomas (who gets high marks for the restrained, intelligent curating of this exhibition and pretty much anything else that crosses his path) learned that Mitch Epstein and author Susan Bell were collaborating on WHATISAMERICANPOWER.COM, a public art project involving a website and billboards in Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio. Epstein and Bell agreed to extend the project to include a poster campaign in Davidson and the Charlotte area. To participate in Poster – Picture – Post: A Community Collaboration, pick up a free poster at the gallery before February 25, mount it (with permission) in a public space, then document it and post your image on the gallery’s Facebook page.
— Barbara Schreiber
Not all hallways are created equal. If you need confirmation of this, just visit Gallery Up in Rock Hill. A hallway gallery is often an afterthought, a sop thrown to artists. But Gallery Up is a jewel box.
I spent a few hours last Thursday hanging out in this beautiful spot for the opening of 30 Small Works, an annual juried exhibition that attracts artists from across the country. Gallery Up also includes a store and a custom frame shop, discrete spaces that sustain the exhibition program. You can find all this on the second floor of the Gettys Art Center, a former post office and courthouse building that now houses an array of studios and other arts-related enterprises.
A juried exhibition can be a real crapshoot for a gallery, because you’re dependent on whatever artists send in for your consideration. But a great space and a no-nonsense juror can go a long way toward corralling a woolly assortment of submissions into a coherent show. 30 Small Works , now in its third year, always looks tight and this year’s version seems particularly so. And it looks as if juror Ce Scott, the Creative Director at the McColl Center for Visual Art as well as the Harvey Gantt Center, brought both her critical eye and her experience as a private chef to the task. The show has more than its share of dessert imagery, my personal favorite being Tabitha Ott’s luscious Dulce Brooch.
The gallery has always benefited from a strong pool of local artists, but early on there was a desire to expand its reach nationally. Gallery manager Stephanie Jordan and former co-manager Alfred McCloud proposed the juried show to owners Tamara LaValla and Zan Maddox as a way to bring in artists from across the country. (Or even the world — it was opened up to international submissions this year.) “It’s been pretty consistent over three years,” says Jordan. “About 20 percent of the submissions come from the area, which includes Charlotte. This year, there were over 300 entries from 120 artists.”
In a little more than three years, Gallery Up has become an important venue for area artists, who have long struggled with a dearth of professionally run places to show their work. The gallery was honored this year with the Business and the Arts Award from the York County Arts Council.
“It took us a while to feel comfortable approaching people and asking them show in what is essentially a hallway,” says LaValla. “But after a while, we decided that this is what we are and we could be proud of it. We’re here in this historic building, and the building is gorgeous.”
If its seems like every other post on this blog mentions Dugg Dugg, perhaps that’s because in the space of 15 months, this gutsy little group has managed to insinuate itself into nearly every crevice of the Charlotte art community.
And now, Charlotte is in the midst of Southern Holiday, a multi-day, multi-venue effort that began May 14th and continues through the 23rd. Dugg Dugg’s first Southern Holiday in 2009 totally reflected its DIY roots, but this year, institutional heavyweights such as McColl Center for Visual Art and The Light Factory are pleased to have their events under the SH marque.
If this is the first you’ve heard of Southern Holiday, that means you’ve already missed seven events, including Alex Smith’s PaperGirl Project, Annabel Manning and Celine Latulipe’s Interactive Surveillance and Culture Initiative’s Extraordinary & The Something Sideshow. But you still have time for Tuesday night’s Point8 Forum with God City; Long Live the Living, Friday night’s major collaboration between Dugg Dugg and Charlotte Arts Catalyst; Constructing a Thread of Community from the new Women Centered Art Co-Op; and eight other events.
After Southern Holiday, Dugg Dugg’s future is shrouded in a bit of mystery. Next month, founders Andrea Brown and Iris Williamson decamp for New York. Michael Aaron Southard is joining them for the trip up, but will travel back and forth while he rolls out another project here. While they are planning some local events for the next year, they’re also in the process of passing the torch to others who are committed to making sure Dugg Dugg remains a lively and transformative part of Charlotte’s cultural scene.
Full schedule and more info: southernholidayisrad.com.
So what is “Point 8” again?
It is an informal group of artists, designers, etc. who run the Pecha Kucha Charlotte series, and of course, this blog — right? True, that’s what we have been doing mainly for the last couple of years. However we started off differently. The group, (and later on, this blog) derives our name from discussion forums, which we used to organize. And after a two-year hiatus, we are excited to announce that we are restarting the forums.
What happens at those forums?
They are open venues that bring together creative individuals from a broad range of fields (along with anyone who is interested in arts/design/any kind of creativity) and try to find the common ground between them through discussion and objective critique (see our statement from six years ago). The normal format is for a person or a group to do a short presentation about a topic/theme/idea that they are experts in and/or are passionate about, followed by a discussion about it. The presenters get to reach and receive input from a far broader range of people from outside their normal audience. The participants gain new understanding of ideas, media and concepts which helps broaden their outlook, and their own creative potential (see the list of topics covered over the years).
If Pecha Kucha offers an opportunity to sample a wide range of works and ideas in a short period of time, the forums offer an opportunity to understand one topic in depth, and to discuss it with others from different backgrounds. We consider the two formats to be complementary, and equally important.
Why God City?
As most people know, God City is a super-talented, young group of local artists who have been creating waves ever since they joined together in 2005. Their playful and bold work tackle difficult subjects like class, identity, consumerism – issues that that rarely get discussed in the context of creativity (at least in this town).
They are also our home-grown practitioners of “Hip-Hop Art” (a rather simplistic label for a very broad range of approaches, styles and media ranging from graffiti to corporate branding) which is perhaps at a stage where its musical sibling was at in early eighties: mature and complex, and about to transform from an underground movement into one of mainstream global significance (see the recent article from CL Atlanta).
Moreover, the session perfectly ties in with one of our main objectives: to understand and appreciate the talent and potential we have around us, and thus help develop it. Great art requires an enlightened audience. And creativity needs critique.
Be a part of the endeavor. Join us next Tuesday.
What: From the Ain't Gots to the Have Nots — Class, Identity and Art
Presentation & Discussion led by the artists from God City
When: Tuesday, May 18, 6–7:30 p.m.
Where: Mint Museum of Art (2730 Randolph Road 28207)
(Free and open to the public. RSVP not required)
More info: www.point8.org
The arrival of sultry weather is a sure sign that it’s time to head over to The Light Factory for the Members Show and the Annuale. This is the third year that these shows — one egalitarian, the other selective — have been paired.
For the Annuale, entries are accepted from photographers worldwide, but the exhibition’s jurors so far have come from Southern institutions — Julian Cox, curator of photography at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art (2008), Trevor Schoonmaker, curator of contemporary art at Duke University’s Nasher Museum of Art (2009) and now Alex Nyerges, director of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. But even with this run of Southern jurors, everyone involved was still a bit shocked — in a good way — by this year’s results: Although entries came from as far away as Paris, five of the winning artists are from the South. (For those of you not familiar with juried exhibitions, the juror typically makes a selection only from digital images and is provided little or no information about who submitted them.)
The Light Factory’s Third Juried Annuale features Nicholas Dantona, Franklin, Tenn.; John Grant, Charlottesville, Va.; Diana Greene, Winston-Salem; Aspen Hochhalter, Charlotte; Blue Mitchell, Portland, Ore.; and Lori Vrba, Chapel Hill.
Their work ranges from the traditional — Vrba still prints in the darkroom and Greene’s photographs harken back to Edward Weston — to the experimental — Mitchell (characterized by TLF’s Chief Curator Dennis Kiel as “our lone representative of all states west of Tennessee”) has taken a process called acrylic lift and modified it by adding a digital component.
Grant’s luscious images, with their seductive, glossy surfaces, are probably the most attention-grabbing in the show, although several of Dantona’s Harpeth River Watershed photographs (especially one in which cows stare at you with a Village of the Damned intensity) have a compelling strangeness that sticks with you long after you’ve left the gallery.
Over at the Members Show, now in its 38th year, there are the usual highs and lows that you get with a take-all-comers enterprise; however, this show is not primarily about aesthetic achievement (although it does include its share of beauties, such as Byron Baldwin’s moody Night Smoker) but is instead about the depth and richness of a community. In this show, everyone — ranging from some of Charlotte’s most noted photographers to passionate non-professionals who just want the thrill of seeing their work in a gallery — are happy to share wall space. The sense of community may be best evidenced by Hochhalter, whose ethereal Reclamation of Silver Series graces the Annuale, but who submitted a piece to the Members Show too.
To fully appreciate this show, it’s probably best to attend the reception, with its lively mass of photographers, friends of photographers and loved ones of photographers. See you there on May 22.
Light Factory Third Juried Annuale, through August 15, and 38th Annual Members Show, through August 8; opening reception for both exhibitions, May 22, 6 p.m.-9 p.m. Details at www.lightfactory.org/photography.
Charlotte isn’t a great place to be if you are a film buff (especially since the takeover of all independent theaters by Regal). Many notable independent films and documentaries never play in town, and we never get to see them unless and until they are released on DVD.
It is in that context that our frequent contributor Jeff Jackson started the Noda Film Festival in early 2006. Starting with African-American Film, in 2 years’ time we were treated to seven exciting and different fares, which became popular far beyond the imagination of the founder. But then it also fell victim to the same affliction that many such non-profit grassroots ventures suffer from in this town — as the attendance kept rising, the funding and volunteer help kept dropping, until finally the series was put on hold.
So it is great news that the festival is returning this weekend after a hiatus of nearly 2 years. The reborn NoDa Film Festival won’t be a “festival” in the conventional sense, but a series made up of a single special film shown every few months. The first one would be this Sunday (April 25), and it will start with a (literal) bang with the legendary and controversial 1966 French war film, The Battle of Algiers — a movie that won three Oscar nominations including the Best Director, pretty rare feat for a foreign language film even now, and extremely unusual then. Banned in France soon after its release, it soon became one of the most influential movies of all time. This realistic recreation of a historic insurgency apparently became a must-see for all rebel/guerilla groups around the world, from the Black Panthers, the IRA and the Baader-Meinhof Group, to the more recent and dangerous ones like some of the Al-Qaeda factions. It also became a valuable lesson for those who fight such insurgencies, as the Pentagon screened it in 2003 in connection to the Iraq war. (Watch the trailer here.)
The new series of Noda Film Festival is done in collaboration with God City — perhaps the most promising and exciting young artists’ collective of this region — and The Light Factory, the premier film and photography institution in town. The festival, however, still seeks and needs your support beyond attendance. Get in touch with them if you can volunteer or help in any other way. It’s in all our interests to keep it going.
This past Friday night, Center of the Earth gallery combined a birthday party and some front-porch-style shooting the breeze with a body of work inspired by the sweep of art history, random news snippets and chance encounters.
This was opening night for A Sculptor’s Life, a 40+ year retrospective of work by 87-year-old artist — and birthday honoree — James Clark, who makes Cubist-inflected wood constructions that are both muscular and sensuous.
A conventional interview with Clark is a challenge, but you can pull up a chair and take notes while he engages in a charming monologue about his methods and the things large and small that inspire him. Born in New York City, Clark received a BFA from Rhode Island School of Design and an MFA from the Cranbrook Academy of Art. His early work referenced nature, but he was eventually pulled into the then-dominant mode of abstraction. But then “Pollock came along, and I realized all had been said, so I went back to the figure ... I wasn’t exactly making the figure, but I was making natural forms. There was really no point in continuing with abstraction.”
Emotion is thick in this work. Many pieces have innocuous titles, which only heighten the sense of unease. At “Burger King” (1985) depicts what at first looks like a couple standing at a table in a cocktail lounge, but Clark says that it was inspired by the server at a Burger King near his home in Pennsylvania who seemed unaware of her odd, suggestive posture. “Girl Trying on a Beret” (1994) pairs an ordinary gesture with a facial expression that could be interpreted as alarm or resignation.
Many of these constructions have abraded, pitted surfaces and a thick, waxy finish. Some of the wood looks salvaged. But, Clark explains that if something isn’t working, he tears the piece apart to determine what went wrong, then rebuilds it or uses the wood in another work, thus accounting in part for these alluring surfaces. (And speaking of alluring surfaces, make sure you get a 360-degree view of Clark’s figures, because most of them sport fine little posteriors.)
Everyday grief is a thread running through much of Clark’s work; for example, “Broken Heads” was inspired by a Philadelphia Inquirer article about innocent bystanders killed in the inner city in a single year.
Clark lived and worked in New York and Pennsylvania before moving to North Carolina to be closer to family. After several years in Raleigh, he moved to Charlotte two years ago. Despite his brief tenure here, Clark is something of an icon in NoDa. He works in his studio most every day, but when he’s not there you can often find him on his front porch near the Smelly Cat Coffeehouse or walking his dog Milou in the neighborhood.
James Clark: A Sculptor’s Life runs through May 29.
The Vol. 5 of the Pecha Kucha series, which Point 8 Forum organizes, will be this Thursday (April 8) at 7:30 at the Dharma Lounge. The event will feature 10 presentations on a variety of topics ranging from ecology to Brazilian wrestling, as well as music and dance performances. More details @ www.point8.org/pechakucha.
Do you know TED ...? If not, you should!
TED (www.TED.com), which stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design, brings together the brightest, the most creative and the most original minds from around the world, to share a stage, to spread their ideas and to "cross-pollinate". Founded in 1982 as a sort of a Silicon Valley think tank of industry leaders, TED grew in scope and reach to become a truly global phenomenon. For example, to take only names that start with the letter G, Peter Gabriel, Bill Gates, Malcolm Gladwell, Jane Goodall, Al Gore and Billy Graham are few of the thought leaders to speak at recent TED conferences (see the full list here).
In 2007, TED started a program called TEDx, which allows cities, schools and other organizations to hold their own independently organized, licensed events under the guidance of TED. Since then every major city across the globe has held a TEDx event. And finally TEDx comes to Charlotte this year on September 24.
The common refrain I've heard since I began this process is "it's about time." At first, I thought it just meant Charlotte should have had its TEDx by now. But now I understand the nuance implied in that statement is that we're a city yearning for leadership and it's high time to do something about it.
The theme for the inaugural TEDxCharlotte is "Big Ideas." Like all TED conferences, it's by invitation only or through an application process. Unlike TED conferences, it's not a commercial venture and guests don't pay to attend. (Attending TED 2010 would have cost you $6,000). Our goal is to bring together creative minds and those who seek to be engaged in order to inspire and connect.
The whole-day program involves speakers who are thought leaders and original creative thinkers and artists from Charlotte and the region who are actively applying their innovative ideas to make our lives better. A lofty endeavor, but more important now than ever before. With the vacuum created by the gradual exit of the "fathers" of modern Charlotte, it's crucial we take a close look at who we are, think about how we should and will evolve, and begin the process of determining who will get us there.
The event aims to be thought-provoking, moving, entertaining, challenging and inspiring. The goal is not to create even more task forces or to undertake studies. The simple beauty of TED is that it's meant to seed thought and discussion, create connections and spark debate. Beyond that, people will take from it and do with it what they will.