This time of year, most Nashville galleries offer affordable works by a broad, unconnected selection of artists in an understandable attempt to maximize holiday gift-buying exposure. That said, LeQuire Gallery is not known for following trends, and their holiday show feels more like three complete exhibitions in one.
Alan LeQuire's "Dream Forest" installation is an artificial forest of concrete torsos installed outside his gallery's front door on Charlotte Avenue. No cold, featureless monoliths these, LeQuire's voluptuous and virile pillars contain figures, but they're sexier than his "Musica" nudes, specifically because they are far more abstract. The project continues inside with LeQuire's massive "Dream Forest Prints." The foliage-pattern pieces are printed from huge hand-carved blocks using sheets of paper that have been embossed with the patterns of actual leaves. You need to step back to take these large pieces in, but their surface details repay closer inspection.
The "Dream Forest" project is captured in limited-edition books that feature one-of-a-kind covers and poetic text by novelist Madison Smartt Bell. In addition, Bell's writing appears in a pair of collaborations with artist Jean de la Fontaine. The duo's most unique offering is a printed scroll inside a wooden box. The text on the scroll is Bell's oddball narrative Mr. Potato Head in Love.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Ford teams up with Jane Kent to create the installation "They Argued About Love." In it, separate printed pages document a conversation between lovers near the end of an extramarital affair. The printed elements and the words don't marry especially well — indeed, they seem wholly unrelated. But Ford's writing here repeats poetically, and that resonates especially well within a show of printing, itself an easily reproducible art. Other handmade and limited-edition books on display include contributions from Richard Schweid, Victoria Rabal, Tom Leech, Susan Hulme and Frank Hamrick, whose A Rabbit Runs in a Circle features do-si-do binding that makes the book of photographs seem never-ending.
The highlight of the display is a mini-retrospective of work by Jim Sherraden, best known as manager, curator and chief designer of Hatch Show Print. The retrospective, titled 32 Years of Printmaking by Jim Sherraden, spans recently completed prints to those produced when the artist lived in Norway during the 1980s.
Most of the work Sherraden has created using Hatch Show Print's archive of printing blocks can be thought of as a collaboration with Charles and Herbert Hatch — the brothers who opened the original print shop — and Charles' son, the master woodblock artist Will T. Hatch. The archive's iconic fonts and figures usually give Sherraden's work a familiar look, but the artist's latest pieces are inspired by his acquisition of a small selection of antique Cuban printing blocks — their intricate details and exotic designs are quite distinct from the Hatch-inspired pieces. It feels like a bold step — and it's a welcome one. I'd like to see an expanded exploration of this imagery by Sherraden in the future.
Regardless of the visual style he employs, Sherraden gives all of his work the same treatment when attempting to realize larger pieces — defaulting to seemingly random and sometimes repeated imagery, juxtaposing disparate figures and text with mixed results. Setting the scene for a happy accident is a good strategy, but just because an artist has created the conditions for a random connection of ideas, it doesn't mean one has actually occurred.
Sherraden gets it right when he pushes these techniques to extremes. His "Paper Crazy Quilt" is exactly what it sounds like: Odd bits of designs from different prints are patched together to create a paper collage. In this piece, the figures and text on the individual elements are nearly unrecognizable and washed in muted colors. The overall effect is energetically abstract, and its installation — hanging from a rod like an actual quilt —completes the homage.
"Purple Dancing Girls" is my favorite. Here, the artist's layered printing is pushed to a point that nearly obliterates background figures and text, leaving only a dramatic negative space that sizzles and pops with blasts of gold, red, orange and violet. Sherraden adds a chorus line of sexy dancers on top of this — their gyrations seem to give off sparks.
This unexpectedly ambitious holiday show takes a lot of chances. LeQuire's installation contains figures, but these abstracted forms are some of the most compelling in the artist's history, and Sherraden's show finds the artist reaching beyond the style he's most associated with, as well. Established artists don't take chances to be financially successful — they take chances to continue to actually be artists. And in this show, it's the audience that ultimately enjoys the rewards.
Thank you for the write up. We greatly appreciate it! Hope we raise the funds…
Looks like he was a great Artist.......who left his Legacy behind for others to follow.....
Indianapolis (CA-35), not Indiana.
There were plenty of jumps and screams at the severed-head reveal at the Sunday night…
I just...this recap...why did I not know these were here until now?! 4 times on…