Nashville falls into the autumn gallery season with September's First Saturday festivities 

Crawl Space

Crawl Space

While the heat has yet to beat a final retreat and we have several weeks left before the official beginning of fall, the kids are back in school, there's football on TV and Nashville's autumn exhibition season kicks off at Saturday night's Art Crawl. It's our favorite time of the year for gallery gawking, and this month's highlights include Warhol Superstars, gift-wrapped canvases and a visitation from The King of Rock 'n' Roll.

At Twist Gallery this month, Johnathon Kelso displays his quirky photos of the quotidian South. While his work can feel uncomfortably poised between posed and candid, Kelso's best snaps show an eye for composition and everyday abstractions. His I Want to Die a-Shouting series documents contemporary Sacred Harp singing groups, and Twist will host related music events later in the month. At Twist Etc., J. Todd Greene's First Class Animal prowls its cage for another month. A show of 12 small sculptures, Animal was greeted with both delight and disgust in August. Stop in and see for yourself.

For the September crawl, COOP Gallery opens Improve Upon Perfection, an exhibition of mixed-media sculpture from Seattle-based artist Dawn Cerny. Cerny's show takes its title from a haiku by poet Grant Cross: "Improve butterflies / Improve upon perfection / If you're so godlike." The messy and the mysterious come together in Cerny's black-comedic work, which is by turns trashy, flashy, energized and elegiac.

On Fifth Avenue, Claire Cotts' Lost in the Night Garden continues at Tinney Contemporary, held over from the August crawl. The artist's biomorphic paintings evoke the submarine undulations of plants and creatures in the sway of an abiding tide, while her figurative canvases relate personal narratives that ask questions about faith, relationships, memory and hope. And in Tinney's Rear Gallery, don't miss Andy, The Factory and Me. Tinney's back space is one of the Art Crawl's best-kept secrets, and this show of Raeanne Rubenstein's photographs is the perfect complement to the Frist Center's Warholpalooza.

Crawlers who saw the ZieherSmith pop-up gallery show in August will recognize the work of Vadis Turner at Rymer Gallery this month. Turner's ribbon paintings aren't the flat, woven affairs we'd expected. Thick layers of the colorful stuff undulate across her surfaces while gorgeous loops spill over the edges, only to curl back in voluptuous arcs of luxurious physicality. Turner's Ribbon Paintings and Flower Figures hangs alongside painter Gabriel Mark's Thoroughbred, which examines social ideals by exploring the relationship between horse and rider.

At The Arts Company this month, Inside Out: New Paintings by Charles Keiger presents narrative canvases that read more like myths than linear stories. A confident dalmatian holds the reigns in "Dog and Pony Dream," and "Tidal Audit" recalls the movie poster for Being There. It's tempting to describe these works as surreal, but it's more to the point to equate them with magical realism, the literary genre in which the supernatural is super natural. After this exercise in make-believe, stroll up the block for a cool show of kids' art at Downtown Presbyterian Church.

Up on Broadway, The Tennessee Art League opens four new September shows. Cindy Billingsley is a popular Franklin-based painter and sculptor. Her show in the Premiere Gallery explores Alzheimer's and aging as well as the plight of endangered species. The Poston3 Gallery will display work by homeless artists who've been participating in the art program at Room in The Inn. Shows by the Studio A Group and Tennessee Art League members round out TAL's September offerings.

Knoxville's own Gary Monroe is best known for his large charcoal drawings of frenzied snake handlers in the midst of their fang-fueled ecstasies. For his show at Estel Gallery this month, he forgoes the fervor of such festivities for illumination of a different kind. Monroe's new series serves up worship-worthy images of Elvis Presley. Despite choosing such a hackneyed subject, Monroe avoids cliches through his sure-handed craftsmanship, his straight-faced appropriation of religious iconography stylistics, his art-historical allusions to various Baroque masters — and what appear to be a few hints of William Blake.

Speaking of Blake, it was the great poet, painter and printmaker who wrote in "To Autumn" that this was the time of year to celebrate the harvest and to "Sing now the lusty song of fruits and flowers." As Nashville's best art season begins blazing into full color, we can't think of a better spirit in which to celebrate.

Email arts@nashvillescene.com.

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