With a bit of warm weather back on our collective skin, Nashville is ready for exciting spring art happenings, and March's First Saturday events are starting the season with a bang. Expect broken records, kaleidoscopes, Lipscomb students gone wild, a Memphis invasion and one spooky owl.
Rory Baron's sometimes startlingly affecting work consistently surprises. The artist invests his thoroughly contemporary sculptures and works on paper with increasingly rare sensibilities — like a real eye for detail and a thorough understanding of materials and craft. Baron's architectural sculptures play with anthropomorphism, and his backlit C-prints use common settings like a dreary, wintry backyard as a playground for fantastic apparitions, like a statue of St. Francis or a mischievous gnome popping out of a garbage can. Look for Baron's spooky "Owl" sculpture at Coop Gallery on Saturday night. It's part bird, part religious totem, part stealth bomber — and it'll have you hoping that the answer to the question "Who?" isn't "You!"
The Coop show alone is enough reason to visit the Arcade on Saturday night, but wait, there's more: Watkins Arcade Gallery's Blocks: Constructed Exclusions is a compellingly titled display of collaborative photography and video art by Watkins students Mika Agari, Upreyl Mitchell, Sharon Stewart and Weng Tze Yang.
Down around the mezzanine at Open Gallery, Benjy Russell's exhibit Soft Butch is also compellingly titled, and the press release is an over-the-top poem begging to be quoted: "We are creating an advertisement for the children of the spectrum, we will give them a space where dreams are reality and everything is free, separate masses of energy riding the singular consciousness that connects us all, these images and objects becoming the future ruins of a soon-to-be mythology." That's Matthew 5:7, right?
The crawl's biggest draw will be the grand opening of David Lusk Gallery in the Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood. Lusk's Memphis gallery has been a cornerstone of that city's art happenings for nearly two decades, and his decision to open a Nashville space right next to Zeitgeist feels more like a seismic event than just another expansion of the WeHo scene. This move creates an unprecedented connection between local artists and their Memphis peers. It also brings together a few choice creators, making this debut group show feel like a convergence of The Art Avengers. Lusk already represents Memphian Hamlett Dobbins — one of the best abstract painters in Tennessee. Now, Mary Addison Hackett — one of my favorite local painters — has joined the gallery as well. Lusk also represents an artist who needs no introduction and whose photographs have appeared on record sleeves and on museum walls worldwide, but I have no idea whether or not William Eggleston will be attending the opening.
Zeitgeist Gallery opens two new shows at the crawl, including an exhibit by one of the gallery's best painters. Lars Strandh's big canvases masquerade as monochromatic geometric paintings, but are, in fact, composed of a spectrum of hues applied in hundreds of thin, repetitive horizontal stripes. Strandh's work recalls several art movements — Op art, trompe l'oeil painting, neoplasticism and minimalism — and they manage to be at once flat and cool, sensuous and sexy. Now that Zeitgeist boasts a large gallery space that allows viewers to see Strandh's work both up-close and from a distance, these beauties have never looked better. The show will also feature an installation of broken vinyl records from Phillip Andrew Lewis and Kevin Cooley.
Wedgewood-Houston's Track One building will be the other center of attention on Saturday night. The warehouse space is also the new home of Seed Space, which was previously located inside Adrienne Outlaw's Chestnut Square studio. I haven't seen the gallery, but the fact that they're holding a display of prints and a multimedia installation at the same time tells me the new room must be much larger than the Lilliputian environs of the old gallery. Matt Gilbert's Font Flowers prints examine the formal aesthetics of typographic fonts, turning letter and number designs into flowering forms. Travis Janssen's Conversion/Convergence combines printing, projections and a hacked box fan into a kaleidoscopic swirl of colors and textures. Long-suffering Seed Space curator Rachel Bubis fit her programming into a pantry-sized space for years and still managed to garner a number of Best of Nashville notices from yours truly. I can't wait to see what she can do with the luxury of some practical square footage.
Track One will also be hosting a long-form modular synthesizer improvisation by Carl Oliver during the crawl, and the LightJazz multimedia extravaganza will take over at 9 p.m. for the official crawl after-party.
Let's plant some seeds of our own, crawlers. It's springtime. Here comes the sun.
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Megan Fox and Dave Barry
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