February's First Saturday art openings deliver a candy box full of heart-quickening treats 

Crawl Space

Crawl Space

February has always been for lovers. While our Valentine's Day celebrations may have devolved into commercial stunting, it wasn't always so. In ancient Rome, men chased women while wearing the skins of sacrificed goats in a February rite meant to ensure fertility. While we're not about to break out our Zamfir pan flute classics, that's a Hallmark card we wanna see!

The creative energy that drives men and women together to create small people is the same force that finds artists seeking the embrace of the muse. Artists often refer to their works as "children" and, in this very real sense, they are. This month's Art Crawl follows on the footfalls of inspired Eros — and we're in search of something to swoon over.

In his collage "Devil and the Deep Blue Sea," Brett De Palma presents a smiling Beelzebub floating in a sea bursting with bathing beauties and schools of swimming dolphins. The unlikely juxtapositions remind us of David Salle's work, and that's no coincidence. Along with Salle, De Palma was a part of the '80s New York art scene, and the artist showed with Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and Robert Mapplethorpe at the now-mythic New York/New Wave exhibit. De Palma was raised in Nashville and graduated from Vandy, so pop by Tinney Contemporary for the opening of Return of the Native and give homeboy a shout.

The February Crawl's other don't-miss show is an exhibit of book art at COOP Gallery in The Arcade. Like De Palma, Robert Scobey is also a Nashville native who can't resist a jarring juxtaposition. Scobey's book sculptures find the artist digging into texts like an archaeologist digging into a ruin. Many of his pieces resemble landscapes, and his excavations create new narratives as text and images from unrelated passages synchronize and resonate in discovered compositions.

The artists showing at Twist this month aren't collaborators, but they're both process-oriented and preoccupied with materials. Ryan Hogan's amorphous illuminated resin sculptures affect a tenuous ontology despite their solid, glowing presence. The tension in Hogan's work pairs nicely with Jaime Raybin's PSA posters that offer up the artist's subversive take on the voice of scientific authority. Victor Huckabee is a graphic designer whose Illustrated Thoughts opens at Twist Etc. Huckabee's best images are fetching, spontaneous expressions that seem to spring fully formed from some fantastic dream journal.

The Arts Company's latest exhibit is a black-and-white time capsule of mid-20th century America. The Photography of Norman Lerner gathers images from the commercial and fashion photographer's documentary portraits of everyday New Yorkers. The images are at once timeless and evocative of period, and they remind us of photography's contradictory power to bestow immortality by creating ghosts.

Estel Gallery holds over its show by retro-pop painter Mr. Hooper. If you skipped the cold-weather Crawl last month, grab this second chance to catch this exhibit. The Tennessee Art League is opening several shows that range from painting to photography to the textile work of Arlene Wilson, whose fine art kimonos are worthwhile bookends to the Gordon Chandler show at Rymer Gallery.

Clicking through Gordon Chandler's digital archive, we found the artist's familiar, Japanese kimono sculptures along with 2D art made from repurposed signage and scrounged steel. The found nature of Chandler's work lends itself to varied expressions. When Refined ReUse opens tonight, expect the colorful kimonos as well as large, figurative pieces. While Rymer will be greeting gallery-goers tonight, they'll also be saying goodbye to gallery director Tonia Trotter, who is beginning a new project: motherhood. She'll be missed by those who've enjoyed the privilege of her hospitality. Of course, this news brings the February festivities full circle; back to the intersection of love and art, and the creative impulse that spurs us to both.

Happy Valentine's Day! Happy crawling!

Email arts@nashvillescene.com.


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