Art Auction to Benefit Pat Berran

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.

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BRADY HASTON'S FRAGMENTARY SURVEY

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Brady Haston- Corner Meander, oil on canvas mounted to panel, 72x96", 2017 

LANCE CONZETT'S DON'T LOSE TOUCH: 10 YEARS OF NASHVILLE DIY

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.

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Lance Conzett

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.

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Lance Conzett

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.

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Lance Conzett

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.

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Lance Conzett

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HANS SCHMITT-MATZEN'S THE LEVIATHAN

originally published: February 10, 2017

 

Legend has it that architect Bruce Graham was asked to explain the stability for the design of what would be the Sears (Willis) Tower in Chicago. Graham gathered a fistful of cigarettes and pushed the interior cigarettes upwards, “higher” than the exterior pieces.  The bundled tube system for a 108-story building was demonstrated with a handful of cigarettes at a lunch table. Simple gestures, executed properly, can allow us to dream big.

Picasso’s Guernica started with this 8x10” sketch. It is easy as a viewer to reverse engineer Guernica to arrive at this sketch. The key elements are roughly established in what will be their final compositional positioning. It is another thing altogether to look at this sketch and move forward to the mural-sized masterpiece. Picasso made Guernica. Someone else could make a giant painting of a basketball court.

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A recorded gesture is evidence of a human at work. It is a result of a specific, hand-driven thought process. We think differently when our hands are in motion. Thought moves beyond theory to action and therefore receives feedback based on what the hand is doing.  We assign value to what is being created and respond accordingly. 

Hans Schmitt-Matzen’s exhibition at the David Lusk Gallery, The Leviathan, uses this initial flash of thought and movement as a jumping-off point for a series of white neon sculptures, black or white wall-mounted wood sculptures and prints. Leviathan, the mysterious sea creature of Biblical and literary legend, serves as a symbol for the unknown at work “deep down” in our mark making and gestures. Is there something unconscious guiding our motions, something at our primary source of being human?

Rather than use his own gestures, something that might be too self-conscious as a methodology, Schmitt-Matzen borrows marks from his son’s artwork. He curates, isolates, freezes and expands upon his son’s marks. In the same way that Picasso had to expand upon his first sketch of Guernica, Schmitt-Matzen does have to impose a certain “adult” logic into the process. His son’s sketches are data for sculpture. A child’s concept of line is not going to be accurately captured in the bending of neon tubing or wood. The decision to create something from these drawings demands an act of translation. Decisions have to be made and directions in marks have to be interpreted and refined. The show is also achromatic, devoid of the overt emotional pull of color. This decision can keep the work at arm’s length. It is successful in removing the childlike nature of the work’s inspiration. This is not art made with a youthful spirit. It may start in the hand of a child but it is, at its heart, an interpretation of primal instinct, not juvenile dexterity.  Negotiating that space between immediacy and logical reconsideration is what makes the work both approachable and unknowable. The language is familiar but the expression remains mysterious.

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Schmitt-Matzen also assigns meaning to the works through their titles. A bottom-heavy swirl with extending, upward-moving “appendages” is titled Hydra. To the informed viewer, yes, the abstracted hydra is there. Other sculptures reference additional mythological creatures, mushrooms or animals. Perhaps a little cloud spotting is necessary as a preliminary way of defining something that we cannot easily measure. Our desire to find images in forms that are otherwise spontaneous and irregular is a simple way for us to wrestle with larger ideas out of our reach. We assign names to complex ideas, almost as placeholders until we are smart enough to truly understand it. This injection of meaning to what is beyond our comprehension brings us back to the Leviathan. Yes, the Leviathan can be a part of the larger unknown. It can feel like a mystery that should be pursued but, ultimately, Leviathan is dangerous. Chapter 41 of Job describes Leviathan as a creature with no earthly equal and possessed of no fear. It rules over all that are proud. Job could not defeat Leviathan if challenged and Job certainly cannot defeat Satan. He possesses neither the intellect nor the strength. God can defeat Satan. God can defeat Leviathan because God created Leviathan. What is unknowable to us as humans is not necessarily unknowable to something smarter than humans. Job can comprehend of Leviathan and name it but never wrestle with it and succeed. We can analyze our mysterious depths but there is a risk of stumbling upon a monster more powerful than us when we get too deep.

John Calvin, in Institutes, explains our relationship to God as an all-knowing force adjusting His language, dumbing it down, so that we might understand: “For who is so devoid of intellect as not to understand that God, in so speaking, lisps with us as nurses are wont to do with little children?” A handful of cigarettes can be used to “lisp” to a less knowledgeable partner. Our children’s untrained drawings can be reimagined by an adult mind as a complex sculpture. These exercises make the complex simple and conversely can also add layers of meaning into what might be dismissed as elementary. What can help save us from the Leviathan, what can keep us from being subject to the one that is “king over all that are proud” is to remember that our most glorious skyscraper is merely a handful of cigarettes to someone that lisps to us but also finds glory in our simple marks.

Tags hans schmitt-matzenleviathandavid lusk gallerynashvillesculpture

ALEX LOCKWOOD'S AWFUL THINGS

originally published: February 6, 2017

 

Leia: But why must you confront him?

Luke: Because there is good in him. I've felt it... I can save him… I have to try.

 - Return of the Jedi

Is Luke not expressing himself fully or does the dialogue for Return of the Jedi exercise restraint and assume the audience understands the subtext? Luke wants there to be good left in Vader- for Vader to have a shot at redemption. Is that all? No. Yoda wants Luke to confront his own fear that he is capable of evil and has the potential to misuse his gifts. Luke wants Vader to be good so he himself can be good. Can Luke own his fear and conquer it?

Reading Alex Lockwood’s statement for the Awful Things exhibition at Zeitgeist Gallery suggests that similar issues are at work. Can Lockwood confront his past, control it and speak beyond it?

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Awful Things is dark, pathetic, comical collection of larger-than-life sculptures where no figure is left undisturbed, unmolested or intact. Each figure (aside from the killer and the next, terrified victim) is gutted, bisected, impaled or strung up with fishhooks. It is reminiscent of Goya’s Disasters of War but Lockwood is not a painter or a printmaker and is not reflecting on observed events. There is no war, no Napoleonic invasion. His chosen sculptural mediums are everyday consumer objects. Figures are constructed from colorful trashcans, containers, cups, bowls and a larger, less immediately recognizable palette of mass-produced plastics. Fecal matter, urine, tears, blood and entrails are made from thousands of strung together plastic caps and circular bits. It is not messy or gory. It is rhythmic, playful and somewhat craft-like in its construction. The material and bright colors disarm the viewer.

From a distance, the installation appears to be whimsical. The first figure that greets visitors is a relaxed, reclining large red figure. He appears cheerful and inviting. It is not immediately apparent that his satisfaction is based on the actions that lie behind him and that you potentially are the next victim. Instead the work, at first, could read like something from a children’s museum or an ambitious Christmas installation for a department store window. It is too late for the viewer when the subjects and action come into focus. The audience is already seduced by the material and has no choice but to confront the content. The smile slowly retreats.

Each figure is subject to a unique style of torture and there seems to be no escape from a painful death. We are aware that this has all happened and continues to this day. We know of modern torture from the news - depictions of Abu Ghraib being most Westerners frame of reference. ISIS/ISIL, Boko Haram and C.A.R. militias go beyond that on a monthly basis. We know of ancient torture from illustration and historical documentation. There are museums dedicated to feeding our hobbyist curiosity for how real people were torn limb from limb centuries ago. History shows that this behavior is our inescapable nature. Humans are capable of awful things no matter the level of morality that our civilizations project. 

Not only are we capable of these actions in our darkest moments but we also enjoy these things as entertainment in our most peaceful hours. Why? Spy movies usually build up to a scene of torture. In Spectre, Bond has a miniature drill driven into his neck and temple. The Passion of the Christ turns the one verse of the Gospel (pick either Matthew or Mark) of Christ’s beating and bathes in that flogging almost to the point that the viewer cannot bear it anymore. It is a joke among Coen Brothers fans that Steve Buscemi’s characters are progressively more destroyed with each movie. In Miller’s Crossing, Buscemi is shot and his eyes and face are destroyed. In Barton Fink, he dies in a hotel fire. In Fargo, he is fed into a wood chipper. In The Big Lebowski, he is cremated, reduced to small coffee can of ash.

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"I'm not surprised to learn that some anxious individuals find horror films therapeutic," he said. "The genre allows us to voluntarily—and under controlled circumstances—get experience with negative emotion." - Dr. Mathias Clasen

 

Abby Moss’s Vice article “Why Some Anxious People Find Comfort in Horror Movies” touches on the studies of Dr. Mathias Clasen’s that might explain our attraction. Long story short: fictional horror is safe horror. It is a controlled environment to deal with our real fears and emotional damage. At any point, you can walk out of the theater or turn off the television or device. In essence, this is what Lockwood is doing for himself and for us. Lockwood indicates that his interest in horror is connected to deep emotional wounds suffered from painful life experience for which there is no real quick fix. Lockwood benefits from an isolated, safe space in which to confront this damage. At any point, he can leave the studio, lock the door and none of it will follow him. It is sculpture as both containment and release but it is not a selfish pursuit. The final product is not solely beneficial to him. His address is not direct, nor personal. It is larger than one person and his scars. By dancing around personal specificity, Lockwood taps into a subject that invites us into a tableau ripe for the soul-searching that we all need. We can all come to this exhibition, laugh uncomfortably, inspect our fears and leave a little less burdened. It is a generous and even entertaining creation- setting aside the basic desire to be understood to, instead, carve out a space for others to understand themselves. 

 

Tags alex lockwoodzeitgeist gallerynashvillesculpture