If you are in NYC on June 21, please go to Gavin Brown’s Enterprise and participate in the art auction organized to benefit Pat Berran’s fight against cancer. Bid on art. Do some good.
Ben Lamar Gay’s Downtown Castles Can Never Block the Sun
Working towards fall.
Listen to an episode of Sound & Vision featuring my friend , Matthew F Fisher.
originally published: June 21, 2017
If you lived in Hendersonville in the 1970-80s, in all likelihood, you have a Johnny Cash story. That story weaves you into a reality to which very few others can relate. This was a town where an Oak Ridge Boy was your neighbor. The best Halloween candy you could get was from a wrestling promoter’s house. The entire world showed up to your town for Roy Orbison’s funeral. To see Johnny or June running errands was not unexpected because they lived in your city and there were no pretensions about them. Here are a few stories that circulated in my little adolescent world:
1. I saw Johnny at Eckerd buying something for a cold he was nursing. The Man in Black got the sniffles.
2. My friend, Will, sold him mulch at Wal-mart.
3. My mother saw him pull up to the Coke machine outside of K-Mart, put in 2 quarters, get nothing in return and then started beating on it like it took his last dime.
4. My mother-in-law and June seemed to have similar shopping schedules at the Kroger.
All of these stories mean nothing. June needed some chicken. She went to the store. She did not pull an old lady out of a burning building. She was just buying groceries like everyone else. But these stories do mean something. I, you, he, she, it, we, you, they…all saw Johnny or June somewhere. Somewhere that we all went on a regular basis. And that is strange. If I see a person in real life that I have seen on television, it takes me a few seconds to adjust to their three-dimensionality. Add on top of that discombobulation that you are sneaking sausage samples from a tray that was left out at the deli of a grocery store and it all doubles down on the weird.
Brady Haston- Burden, oil on linen mounted to panel, 15x18", 2016
Everyone knew where Johnny and June lived. It was not hard to find their house. You drove past it on your driver’s exam. The house appeared approachable enough to my friend, Esther, that as a 16 year old, she walked down his driveway, expecting to get to the door, talk to him and find out how to meet Larry Mullen, Jr. “Why c’mon in little lady. Can I get you some tea? How can I help you?” Instead, she was met on the driveway by a very large but nice guard that heard her plight and said, “Well, you’re not going to meet Mr. Cash today, but here is Cowboy Jack (Clement)’s address. Maybe he can help.” Esther did eventually meet Larry but not because of Cowboy Jack, however he did invite Esther and her friend inside to watch home movies of U2 hanging out at his house over a Christmas holiday.
A person’s Johnny story (or your Johnny’s big security guard story) is tied to a place. Tied to a very ordinary place- a store, his house, the DMV, etc. It’s not like we lived in Rome and saw him at the Pantheon. That would not be as unexpected. Who would not want to see the Pantheon? Even Johnny is going to be impressed with the Pantheon. Seeing an American icon buying Robitussin while you are buying a pack of Hubba Bubba is something different.
Brady Haston- Plateau, oil on linen mounted to panel, 14x18", 2015
All of this is 25-35 years in the past. Hendersonville has about 20,000 more residents than when I lived there. Johnny is gone. June is gone. Their house burned to the ground while renovations were being made by the next owner. The Wal-mart where Johnny bought mulch moved to a new location. The K-mart where he beat up a Coke machine is now Kroger. The old Kroger is currently nothing.
These ordinary places, ubiquitous and reproduced in every other midsize town, are still around but gone at the same time. That K-Mart was my record store growing up. We did not “go to Nashville” when I was young. My mom acted like you needed a wagon train and three months provisions to get to Nashville. We went to Rivergate Mall. So my music stores were K-Mart, a Cat’s Record and whatever was at Rivergate…Camelot, I think. Camelot. Mercy. This was not just a K-mart to be tossed aside for me. It is understandable to mourn the loss of a mom-and-pop business but I am not going to argue with you if you have to make your peace with the closing of the chain store where you bought Kiss’s Destroyer album or a $20 Pole Position game for your Atari that you and your brother had to save 3 months of allowance to afford.
The Kroger had a video store in it. There was a pizza kiosk where someone had to make and shrink wrap the “ready to bake” Kroger pizzas on site. The store was in a strip connected to a Subway and a Baskin Robbins. My wife and I got engaged in the parking lot before going to see the Big Lebowski. Not romantic but that is how we do things. We could have gone on a hike or to a nice restaurant, but we are ice cream and Coen Brothers people. The roads of much more romantic proposals have ended at law offices.
Brady Haston- Stratification, oil on linen mounted to panel, 15x18", 2016
I drove out to Hendersonville this week to see that parking lot. The old store sat there, newly emptied, with a decent traffic still present for Subway and Baskin Robbins. I had a selfish “how dare you?” moment. I got engaged there. Where’s my plaque? June Carter Cash bought peanut butter here. Where is the plaque? If I walk across the street to the Methodist parking lot, where is the historical marker that says, “Here in 1992, Rob Matthews sat in the back of David Heeks’ pickup truck and listened to the Beastie Boys’ Check Your Head for the first time. It has never sounded better, even in headphones, than sitting in the back of that truck.”
One day that Methodist church will not be there. One day, Maple Road will not intersect with Indian Lake Road. It does now and will not be going anywhere for the foreseeable future. Thousands of people drive past it everyday. But for me, as a 10 year old, in 1984, it is at that intersection, sitting in the passenger seat of our family car that I felt SOMETHING. Something massive. Something bigger than Michael Jackson or UNC basketball or Atari or anything else that ruled my world in 1984. I felt the Holy Spirit move upon me. My first mountaintop experience was in a station wagon at a random intersection in a town whose biggest claim to fame was that there was a brick wall with “Hello Darlin” laid into the patterning of the brick. I cried, not from pain but from joy and I cried hard. I do not even remember if I was able to explain to my mother why I was crying. I assume that I did because she did not take me to the hospital.
Prone to nostalgia, these are the things that welled up in me when reflecting on Brady Haston’s show at Zeitgeist. Keep in mind, the show has nothing to do with the Big Lebowski, the Beastie Boys or the Holy Spirit. It is abstraction derived from the history of an area though, specifically 18th-century frontier Nashville. There is a language developed by mining the past and elaborating on that. The truth becomes legend when it is abstracted. Haston’s palette gives both the residue of something past with moments of contemporary clarity laid on top. That is how I walk through half of my life. This is not an abandoned building. It is where I got engaged. This is not a mall parking lot. It is where I rode the Flume Zoom. This is not a baseball park. It is an empty void behind a soccer field where I would watch trains pass at night. This is not a road. It is where the promise of an eternal covenant exploded in front of me.
Brady Haston- Corner Meander, oil on canvas mounted to panel, 72x96", 2017
originally published: April 9, 2017
It has been a month since the last entry on this site. Fortunately there are no advertisers to satisfy or much of an audience desperate for the next bite of art musings. Writing about Kate Krebs' show at the Red Arrow Gallery sat on a to-do list for four weeks. It kept getting bumped down the list, passed over by a variety of matters best described as "life" and "artist's block".
The review was going to be great. You have to believe me. It would push past the obvious references someone would come up with in 2017: Darger, paper dolls, etc and push deep into the medieval and the Northern Renaissance. There was going to be a reference to Colorforms and Karel Zeman. I missed the deadline. The show is gone. The wind has been removed from the sails. Apologies to all. Even if there is less incentive to do a deep dive on this show now, let us at least acknowledge a couple of things about the exhibition that are lacking in a lot of shows in the current art world.
First, this show was unafraid to be overt, obvious, on-the-nose, or whatever phrase you prefer. It was blatant and direct in its use of imagery and its intentions. That's a rare quality in art. "Brave" is a misused word in the art world. This was not brave. For the most part, in the United States, you are under no threat as a result of the art you make. You are, at most, in danger of having your ego wounded by criticism. To not protect your ego is not brave. It is principled but not brave. That said, there is pleasure in seeing a show that dismisses pride in order to communicate more effectively. For example, there is this detail (on the left) from Awakening of Cosmic Consciousness.
Let us recognize that the title ranks right up there with Bruce Nauman's The Artist Helps The World By Revealing Mystic Truths and Paul Gauguin's Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?
Overall, the piece sets up a medieval composition with a basic argument of good versus evil and Paradise versus Hell. Stuck in Hell are the Vanderbilt football players convicted of rape, depicted as being in the act. They sit amongst other figures that you would expect an artist to identify as evil: capitalists, the military industrial complex, violent police officers, Trump fans and so on. And the cynical part of current art posturing wants to address these direct use of images like "capitalist demons" and say, "Come on...demons. What is this? A march or an art show?" But Dante did not pull any punches for the sake of subtlety and history has been good to his work. What is astounding, from the perspective of a Nashvillian looking at this piece is that in the center of all of this global mayhem is a direct, local condemnation that is unavoidable. That is the power of art. It can address life at a macro and micro level if an artist is willing to be bold. What other local artist has gone after this subject? No one comes to mind. If the work is there, drop me an email so I can update this post.
You could be "that guy" and start picking apart the Paradise section as being full of idealized versions of the female from a male perspective: Renoir, Botticelli, etc but you would be missing the point to satisfy that art school desire to be "right". You can be "right" and still miss the boat. Don't be "that guy" standing at the dock wondering what happened to everyone else.
The second point to consider about this show is that it is surreal in a way that precedes Surrealism. It is not a brand of surrealism coming out of Dada and a continental meltdown of war. It is more internalized than that. It is visionary. Krebs' approach to making art is not bound by limitation of ability. Every solution in the show looks like a workaround. Pursuit of Unconditional Love appears to have been created with the intention of depicting the "divine feminine" referred to in the artist statement. That "divine" depiction ends up being a giant vagina in the sky, which under closer inspection, is made by painting the sections of a knot of wood on the plywood substrate with reddish flesh tones. Out of limitation comes unpredictable visionary images. All the training in the world would not lead to such a simple, successful solution. An artist should not decide what art they can make based on what skills they possess. They should decide what art they want to make and then figure out how to make it based on what they are capable of, what they can learn and what they can live with in terms of compromise. It might end up that a compromised artwork is a lot more interesting than a masterful piece.
As previously stated, this is not meant to be a thorough examination or reflection on the show so we should put a bow on this. To quickly summarize, My Love Divine was a fantastic ride. The statement for the show addresses a number of issues that you would assume by looking at the work. It is somehow simultaneously visionary and direct so you know what it is about even if it is dragging you around the cosmos. There is a search for the "divine feminine" and a critique of Deep South Christianity. One piece punches the viewer in the face. One piece might be too heavily indebted to 50s clip art but the next is beautiful and tender. A few weeks removed from the show, all the missteps are forgotten but all of the oddball magic is still there.
originally published: March 7, 2017
I have a list in my head of concerts where the crowd was more interesting to watch than the band. A sampling of this list includes:
Weezer at the Bijou Theater in Knoxville during the Pinkerton tour:
Teenage abandon. Life could not have been any better for that sea of high schoolers. I watched them from the balcony. They swayed. They sang. They hugged and kissed and pumped their fists. They were so much more prepared to be there than the band that would have been lost without their distortion pedals.
The Allman Brothers at the World’s Fair Park in Knoxville in 1993:
1/3 hippies, swirling around
1/3 fraternity, guys high-fiving
1/3 Harley dudes, to insure that the swirling and the high-fiving were kept in check
Soul Night Sunday at the 5 Spot in Nashville in the summer of 2013:
A bachelorette party spilling out of a party van and throwing down some amazing drunken “woo girl” energy with no regard for anything around them, then like a comet they were gone.
I also have a list of shows where one member of the audience defined the show more than the band. Key moments include:
1995: The owner of a club in Knoxville emerging from backstage during a set by The Grifters twirling a gun above his head and screaming words that I could not process. I am not sure what happened after that because I am smart and I left.
2013: A woman standing on her seat at a Nick Cave show in Philadelphia screaming, “WHERE IS MY HUUUSBAAAND…IN THIS MUTHAF*CKIN’ PLACE!!!” for so long and with such great force that Cave started singing “Where iiiissss my huuuuusbaaaand…in this muthaf*ckin’ place” like it was a b-side from The Boatman’s Call.
It is always important to remember that the band is directing a show but only because the crowd allows them to be in control.
The beginning of a DIY movement is usually a group of people (with less in common than they understand) with a shared desire to be seen or heard. The end of a DIY movement is usually defined by a patrol car showing up to an event and shutting it down for code violations and a lack of permits. Exercised properly, shutting you down is meant to protect you from your own stupidity. Codes can, from time to time, be misused to prevent a controversial act from performing but, for the most part, even if you do not like it, getting shut down is doing you a favor. Your life is preserved and you have a story to tell. I got kicked out of Rivergate Mall in 8th grade for sliding down a handrail. Silly? Yes. Good story? Depends on the way that I tell it.
A person need not have experienced the 10 years of DIY shows that Lance Conzett has documented in his Fort Houston exhibition, Don’t Lose Touch, to fully appreciate what he has captured. I have never seen Bully. I have never seen Diarrhea Planet. I have never seen Husband Stitch. If I had to put money on it, I would say that I will never see Bully or Diarrhea Planet or Husband Stitch. I am old(er). I go to the symphony. Conzett’s images will eventually define one of an endless number of underground music movements. Why? Because he was probably one of the only people smart enough to be taking pictures with equipment that is better than a smartphone.
The decades may be different and the cities may change but every town has this spirit. They all operate under the same premise and yield similar photographic results. That in no way diminishes the impact of these photos. Instead, they are universal. My scene is 20-25 years and 180 miles removed from this but I would be hard-pressed to deny you if you said that this was my crowd. Photographs of this subject capture something that is gone almost as soon as it happened. They are nostalgic as soon as they are printed. People move away. People get “real jobs” or have kids. Little by little, one period unravels and a new one emerges in its wake.
This particular grouping of photographs, more so than others, bends under the weight of loss in a post-Ghost Ship period where the crackdown on DIY spaces is swift under the pressure of not being the NEXT Ghost Ship. No one wants that on his/her conscience.
The best images in the show are not of the band, but of the crowds. Photographing a band is not easy. But a band hopes and acts like they are going to be photographed. A crowd? Not so much. These pictures capture individual and collective release. The audience represents the moment more than the band. The band is the catalyst. The crowd is the show.
The “audience” was at the reception for Conzett’s exhibition, finding themselves in the photographs and talking about the shows in the pictures like they happened 30 years ago. In some cases, the shows just took place last year. That is the power of time, frozen; of the decisive moment. You saw a band last week but a photograph of the event can reveal to you that you are already a different person. You were not even at that show but looking at the pictures, remembering your scene, your shows and the photographs someone was smart enough to take reminds you that you are a different person, too.
originally published: March 2, 2017
*Unable to take decent photos of this show. Apologies for lack of good images*
The Hendersonville Arts Council presented a survey of recent work by Ted Jones that places Christian iconography in dialogue with imagery related to the African diaspora. The majority of subject matter focuses on figures, narratives and parables of the New Testament. A small number of wooden sculptures and metal repoussé reliefs relate to African religious practices, but the bulk of the show consists of block prints and reliefs dedicated to New Testament ideology. It is not a subversion of either pursuit; instead it is a reciprocal relationship common within the diaspora and less acknowledged within the larger canon of Western Christian art.
Repoussé and block printing require similar approaches in execution. Both focus on a practice that works in reverse. With repoussé, the artist hammers down on the back of the metal surface to raise it up on the front side. The process of block printing requires carving away what is not wanted. Both techniques reverse the image upon completion. Jones has a deliberate, finite language of marks and pattern that he engages in both print and repoussé. This continuity helps connect the two bodies. All marks made by the artist are sculptural, whether hammering away or carving into a block. The differences are found in the results: metal relief versus a print on paper. His mark-making is almost wholly pattern-driven, in the form of steadily-paced, vertical hatch marks, irregular circles arranged in grids and controlled waves. There is an even hand at work and patient execution. This is not emotive woodblock gouging like Emil Nolde or Tal R.
The visual language of art in relation to the Gospels is firmly established at this point. There is always room for interpretation and invention but there are almost two millennia of influence pressing upon artists that take up the subject. Whatever decision an artist makes in visually interpreting the Gospels more than likely has a precedent. Jones’ depictions of the apostles are medieval in proportion and created by a system of pattern that could be derived from something akin to a Mande tradition of textile patterns. Each apostle is presented in a stoic, closed pose fashioned in a mathematical palindrome of measurement (51x15”). Each pose is frontal, looking out, not to be worshipped but to be respected and followed and “listened to”. Within a small vocabulary of marks, Jones is able to individually distinguish one apostle from another, not only in their iconography but also in their manner of dress. The robes of the apostles are unique. Examining the bottom half of each garment reveals a different, minimal composition- symmetrical and totemic.
Jones’ visual organization changes between icons of saints and Biblical narratives and parables. Even in his depiction of Pentecost, the apostles are presented frontally, in this case as a collective unit receiving the descent of the Spirit. However when dealing with story, Jones more often than not uses a single figure in the foreground facing away from us, towards the action. Whether it is the miracle of the fish and loaves, Jesus walking on water or the raising of Lazarus, the figure of Christ or someone is placed with their back to us and the event unfolding further beyond them. They act in ruckenfigur-fashion, as mediators between the message and us. These figures, turned away, do not block our view or distance us from the action. They remove the fourth wall and place us in the scene. We are given access to the Word and the miraculous and not reduced to passive observers.
The installation in the second floor gallery allows for parallels in the narrative works to emerge. The black sun in The Sower is balanced on the same wall by position of the white moon illuminating Jesus walking on the water. The wrapped figure of the risen Lazarus is mirrored further down the wall by the positioning of fish and loaves in another print. The gift of life is presented in two different forms balancing one another. The miracle of resurrection equaled by the miraculous provision of sustenance.
originally published: February 16, 2017
This site was established to respond to work made by regional artists so there will not be a full response to this exhibition.
On view until March 18th at OZ Arts in Nashville is a site-specific wall drawing by Heeseop Yoon, titled Hide and Seek. It is worth the effort to see this installation to absorb the massive scale of the piece and the materiality of its creation. The overwhelming size and density present a fine balance of commentary on a saturated consumerist society and a drawing style which allows the process of the piece to remain visible in the final product.
The drawing is created with black tape on mylar, which is then mounted on the wall and the floor. There does not appear to be revision in the sense of addition countered by subtraction or correction. Instead of that traditional push/pull, the piece feels entirely additive. Lines search and miss but are left to work in tandem with the more "accurate" line or shape. That visible search feeds into the jumbled chaos. More information piles up. More disorder is created.
Also on view in the hallway are a series of drawings and prints that hold their own as individual works of art but also provide insight into Yoon's practice.
Tickets are available online but visitors can pay upon arrival as well.