Grey pools, a few self-conscious attempts at commodity sculpture; the monthly art crawl in the burgeoning Wedgewood-Houston arts neighborhood in Nashville premiered its April edition this past Saturday, April 1st, replete with an orthodoxy of muted pastels, tacked wall prints, and gestural paintings—all the makings of a proper, albeit disparate, arts district.
Among a number of events on April 1st was the closing of Corner Palace at the artist-run curatorial collective Mild Climate. One of the more convincing shows in Nashville this past month, Corner Palace featured artists Bridget Bailey, Douglas Degges, and John Dickinson, all of whose scale-oriented works smartly implicated the constraints of the tiny exhibition space. In particular, Dickinson’s aptly named Yellow Pool (2016) and Grey Pool (2016), two low relief sculptures made of silicone, laminate, and MDF, which were haphazardly displayed in the center of the room like two displaced geological survey’s or personified shrouds, anchored the show.
The subtlety in detail and nuance of overall color in Dickinson’s work elevated the experience of these “pools” from what could have otherwise been formal or material studies to a curious reinterpretation of object spatiality. Here, Dickinson configures scale as a linear concept, permitting these two shapes to be seen as either amplifications or reductions from an original form.
In this regard, the “pools” could be interpreted as memory-objects autonomous from real life, derived from the internalized oneiric house; a late mid-century concept by Gaston Bachelard (averse to structuralism) which imbues architectural spaces with psychological significance.
Bailey’s and Degges’ pieces also approach these ideas of spatiality, but are less abstracted from their real life applications. For instance, in Bailey’s Kitchen Table - Floor - Bed - Socks (2017) the silicone socks, although disorienting in their smaller-than-life size, do not push conceptual boundaries, and while Degges’ small black canvas reliefs imply a number of conceivable perspectives (outer space, memory, etc.), they are limited by their inherent status as hanging-paintings-on-a-white-wall. Conceptually and stylistically, I wondered, are these not just inverted and miniaturized Rauschenberg white paintings? Regardless, Mild Climate, in a deft display of contemporary conceptual-curating, succinctly designed an aesthetic experience that converged on a spatial thematic.
In a similar vein, At Home at Zeitgeist Gallery, which held it’s reception April 1 and will be open until April 29, also featured a number of paintings and prints that recalled mid-century stylistic sentiments.
Featuring local and national artists Ky Anderson, Amelia Briggs, Rami Kim, Vicki Sher, Jessica Simorte, Sonnenzimmer, Sarah Boyts Yoder, and art & design retailer Wilder, the show was a comprehensive introduction to gestural works on paper, minimal constraints, and contemporary design aesthetics.
Amelia Briggs’ small fabric prints from her series "Small Green Plane” were a wise curatorial choice and worked well to break up the mass of large gestural paintings. At 14″x14″ and housed within thin white frames, Briggs’ muted prints of partially erased—or intentionally incomplete—illustrations retained a level of conflicting austerity in what would otherwise could have been playful drawings. On first encounter the works are reminiscent of early 20th Century animated cartoons, yet maintain no particular image or recognizable form that would indicate this. Rather, this effect is produced from the quality of line and indicated action within the frame. Ambiguously specific, Briggs’ prints surreptitiously engage the viewer in content that is not there, letting the viewer complete the image for her.
In a similar palette, Sonnenzimmer’s series of screen prints were a showcase of technical mastery and precision not seen elsewhere that night. Graphic in nature, the prints recall the experimental visual language of Tibor Kalman, a hyper-sensitivity to contemporary nostalgia, and a design aesthetic conscious of the eventual digitization of all print matter. Seen through the lens of graphic design, these works are pure aesthetic candy. In terms of curatorial context, they don’t easily serve to enhance a conceptual agenda or interact visually with any of the other work shown. They did however, in their proximity, broach a consideration for contemporary “gestural” painting as a graphic impulse, and implicate works on paper as being consciously produced for a digital interface.
Although gestural in genre and constructed with the accoutrement of the subconscious mind—unframed canvas, raw edges, sweeping paint strokes, splashes—the majority of paintings and acrylic collages included in At Home felt decidedly constrained and calculated, graphic even. The contemporary inclination to paint in this manner begs inquiry; are these types of works simply a study in formal and technical properties? Do they serve a fundamental aesthetic purpose? Or more so, are works like these born from a confirmation of “recognizable art”, wherein, because they embrace a previously established visual cannon, they are comfortable choices for exhibitions?
Interestingly, Mild Climate and Zeitgeist Gallery represent a microcosm of contemporary art both in terms of aesthetic inclinations and foreseeable agenda’s. Particularly at a point in time where galleries struggle to stay open and increasingly, a person’s interaction with art is mediated or exclusive to a screen, galleries exhibit work that is familiar and purchasable. How do you sell a psycho-spatially concerned silicone yellow pool? It is more agreeable to gaze luxuriously at fields of color.
REVIEW Mild Climate & Zeitgeist Gallery, April Art Crawl. 4.10.2017