Imagine if Nashville was the kind of city artists flocked to. They would show work that provokes debate and inspires international audiences, and they would be eager to work with the city's smart, ambitious curators. If you're having a hard time wrapping your head around that, you may want to rethink your idea of Nashville after the first major retrospective of Carrie Mae Weems debuts at the Frist this month. It's going to be huge.
Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video was curated by the Frist's Katie Delmez, who has been studying Weems' work for years, and it's positioned to be a tipping point in the Frist's 11-year history. Time magazine and The New York Times have already named it one of the top art events of the season, and it will eventually land at the Guggenheim in New York.
But even if it weren't positioned to push the Frist into the next tier of major art institutions, this would still be an exhibit that shouldn't be missed. The retrospective is composed of more than 200 objects — primarily photographs, but also written texts, audio recordings, fabric banners and videos. Among the works are photos from the Kitchen Table Series, which feature Weems at the head of a kitchen table through various points in life, and From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried, a poignant assemblage of appropriated photographs that represent African-American stereotypes from the early days of photography. Weems tints the images red, frames them with circular mattes that emphasize their voyeuristic nature, and then etches phrases directly into the glass. Overlaid captions like, "You became a scientific profile" and, "You became playmate to the patriarch" can sound overblown at first, but the photographs ground the statements in a reality that is even more sinister than the words.
Opening weekend events include a keynote address by Weems herself. Also slated: a panel discussion with exhibition catalog contributors, including Los Angeles County Museum of Art curator of contemporary art Franklin Sirmans, Yale School of Art dean Robert Storr and NYU's Tisch School of the Arts photography professor Deborah Willis; public lectures at Vanderbilt by both Willis and Storr; and a dance performance by Kyle Abraham. Opens Sept. 21 at the Frist; visit fristcenter.org for a full schedule of events
Studio VU presents Hung Liu
Vanderbilt's artist lecture series has brought some major names through Nashville, from Barry McGee to Trenton Doyle-Hancock. And on Sept. 19, painter and printmaker Hung Liu will deliver the first lecture of the year. She repaints historical Chinese photographs, but instead of merely re-creating a duplicate of the image, Liu emphasizes the painterly process with drips of paint and distressed brushstrokes. The result is a meditation on the passage of memory into history, and the way a painting can change a documentary image into a personal one. "I want to both preserve and destroy the image," she has said. 7 p.m. at Vanderbilt's Wilson Hall
Brian Alfred: It's Already the End of the World
Brooklyn-based painter and animator Brian Alfred works with flat, two-dimensional imagery that looks a little too much like propaganda to be cartoon, but a little too cartoonish to be propaganda — imagine Alex Katz crossed with Shepard Fairey. This installation will explore apocalyptic themes with a six-minute video also called "It's Already the End of the World," as well as several portraits, including one of Jon Stewart. Opens Sept. 21 at the Frist
Allison's photograph of a man on his bikes was a crowd favorite at the recent ZieherSmith pop-up gallery — that she was also one of the few Nashville-based artists in the exhibit was an added bonus. She told us her solo exhibit at Zeitgeist will be "a loosely organized ballad to miscommunication." Expect large-scale photographs with lots of subtle details. Opens Oct. 4 at Zeitgeist
Billing itself as "Nashville's sound art and new media festival," SoundCrawl is now in its fourth year. Virtuoso violinist Tracy Silverman opens the event with a rare solo performance on Oct. 6, and the five-night festival encompasses a range of experimental and avant-garde music. Robbie Hunsinger, Tony Youngblood and Benton-C Bainbridge are highlights of the Brick Factory performances, but the October Art Crawl in the Arcade will feature 26 new media compositions from around the globe. Oct. 6-10 at Brick Factory and The Arcade
Handmade & Bound
Watkins' Handmade & Bound festival returns for a second year of zines and chapbooks, independently published monographs and handmade comics. Think of it as half art fair, half flea-market bookstore. In addition to the events on the day of the festival, there will also be a book arts and zine exhibition titled Familiar Relics in the Currey Gallery. Oct. 4-6 at Watkins
German Expressionism from the Detroit Institute of Arts
Expressionism originated in Germany with Der Blaue Reiter and Die Brück in the early 1900s, and remained popular through the Weimar Republic. It's a fascinating genre with horror movie drama, primitive forms and a bold color palette. The Detroit collection contains major works by Wassily Kandinsky, Otto Dix, Max Beckmann, Paula Modersohn-Becker, Franz Marc and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Opens Oct. 19 at the Frist
Nash-Up: Remixing Nashville's Arts, Culture and Creative Future
On Oct. 31, as the final event in the citywide, monthlong Artober project — which we'll cover at length in coming issues — the Scene is partnering with Metro Arts for a daylong summit of the city's most insightful creative talents. The panel discussions will be broken into three segments that address interdisciplinary topics like storytelling, visual imagination and the future of art in Nashville. Wayne White, the painter and former Pee Wee's Playhouse puppeteer, will deliver the keynote speech, and panel participants include fashion journalist Libby Callaway, filmmaker James Clauer, and Eisner Award-winning graphic novelist Janet Lee. 10 a.m. at the Frist
Burnham holds a BA and MFA degrees from Harvard and Yale, respectively. Her work is crumbled cityscapes that she creates out of paper, masking tape and gesso, and installs as mini-cities within the gallery space. Look for film noir overtones, but a cartoonish exuberance that never lets the work get too serious. Opens Nov. 9 at Lipscomb —LAURA HUTSON
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