Manhattan art gallery ZieherSmith is hosting BNA: Brooklyn to Nashville, a show of work by emerging Brooklyn artists, in a one-month pop-up gallery exhibit at Icon in the Gulch. At last week's preview party, The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, Frist Center curator Mark Scala, artist Emily Leonard and Cheekwood president Jane Offenbach all mingled around a catering table filled with some unusual pizza (turkey and pear? Buffalo chicken?) and champagne, to see art that promised to bring Brooklyn to Nashville.
Art In America wrote up the BNA show, and spoke of Nashville as a "seemingly peculiar locale." We couldn't help but cringe when we read that — not because we were insulted, but because we felt a little disappointed in the lack of awareness the national public has about Nashville's art community. There's nothing like a visit from out-of-towners to instill pride in our hearts, and maybe a little suspicion.
The art in the exhibit isn't exactly groundbreaking, but it's all pretty good. The concept of the gallery — a pop-up space in the unfinished ground level of The Icon, a locale probably called “über-hip” by people who still say “über” and “hip” — is simply that Brooklyn artists are showing work in Nashville. The show flyers were designed to look like boarding passes.
One highlight was Kate Gilmore's video piece “Break of Day,” which begins with a white structure flanked by staircases that Gilmore climbs, expressionless, and throws pots filled with bright pink paint into its center, splattering paint and banging pots in the process. One of the great things about the piece is that Gilmore uses the model of an absurdly ostentatious artist without forgetting that the point of making videos is for other people to watch. (It sounds like a simple idea, but there's too much art that exists as a form of self-important expressionism. The bottom line is that art can only be relevant if people are willing to pay attention to it.)
Jeff Ladouceur's drawings (think Barry McGee meets E. C. Segar) and collage works by Samuel T. Adams and Javier Piñón were other standouts, as was Caroline Allison's beautiful archival pigment print of McMinnville's Cumberland Caverns — an image that might seem like a surrealist college if it were shown in Brooklyn and not here in Nashville, where the venue is more well-known.
Brooklyn's culture of hipster/precious/twee/style-for-style's-sake is no secret, and the backlash has been going on long enough for even Brian Williams to be in on it. The exhibit would have been improved by focusing more on opening up a dialogue between Brooklyn's artists and Nashville's, instead of focusing on the fact that these works have traveled from faraway Brooklyn to come visit. It felt less like Brooklyn was reaching out to Nashville, and more like Brooklyn was stopping by to scope the scene.
The art is worth seeing, though.
Kate Gilmore discusses her piece, and some of our other favorites from the show are below.