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Bill Gubbins, From This American Carnage at Modfellows Gallery

February is only a few days shorter than any other month, but even just a couple of lost sunrises can make March’s First Saturday events feel like they’re arriving unfashionably early. Luckily we’ve been anticipating this month’s events since the end of 2021, and March gallerygoers will be treated to a number of new exhibition openings that have been lighting up our radar. 

North Nashville

Benji Anderson gets the March festivities started early when he opens The Fitful Portal at Elephant Gallery this Friday, March 4. We’re glad this one is jumping the gun on the First Saturday events — Anderson’s show simply couldn’t have arrived quickly enough. We’re anticipating an all-over display of drawings and Etch A Sketch art from Anderson, and reports that the artist is repainting the walls and floors at the North Nashville space have us expecting the kind of playful, immersive installation the gallery is best known for. Anderson’s Instagram followers (@benjianderson3) have been treated to regular previews of what the artist might bring to the show, including elaborate, idiosyncratic scenes of magical monsters and fantastical environments, plus colorful collections of imaginary animals that recall the flat, graphic-like compositions of Mike Kelley’s glued felt menageries. If you’ve ever caught one of Anderson’s improvised musical performances, you’ll know there is a visionary component at work in Anderson’s sometimes frenzied-seeming expressions. All of these crazy creatures and transforming landscapes come from inside Anderson’s creative consciousness, but one gets the sense that he goes to a pretty far-out place to capture them in paintings and works on paper or on one of the screens of his sketching toys. Put on your kaleidoscope eyes for this one. 

Grassmere

The folks at Modfellows Gallery caught our attention last month when they opened their new satellite gallery at The Packing Plant with a strong display from East Nashville painter Ryan Michael Noble. This Saturday we’ve got our eyes trained back at Modfellows’ Grassmere headquarters, where they’re opening a supremely satirical display by Nashville street photographer Bill Gubbins. Gubbins’ show arrives on the heels of Michael Ray Nott’s epic February Honkytonx exhibition at Chauvet Arts, and we’re starting to get the feeling that local street photography is low-key trending right now. There’s an intrinsic — sometimes ironic — glamour to Nott’s black-and-white images of Lower Broadway debauchery, but Gubbins’ exhibition is a full-flush display of colorful characters on the front lines of the culture wars. This American Carnage takes its title from Donald Trump’s unforgettable dystopian inauguration speech and the cultural divide it was emblematic of — or at least playing to. Today this often surreal struggle continues to play out in the real world in pockets of protest, in consumer goods messaging and — mostly — in the corporate media and on social platforms. Local music scenesters should be familiar with Gubbins’ excellent book of Frank Zappa photographs, documenting the recording of the mustachioed maestro’s groundbreaking Hot Rats LP. Gubbins brings the same sly and satirical sensibility to his snapshots that Zappa brought to his composing. A little irony goes a very long way, but Gubbins’ detached lensing only helps animate and energize the frenzy tangled in our social fabric.  

Wedgewood-Houston

For March, Julia Martin Gallery is hosting a pair of local artists whose creative practices document Nashville’s relentlessly transforming streetscapes. Peggy Snow’s decades-long painting practice finds her bringing plein air traditions to the urban settings where she documents golden-hour moments with Nashville structures slated for demolition. Snow has captured the kinds of historical architectural treasures that Nashville still struggles to protect properly, and she’s also immortalized cultural touchstones like the fabled J&J’s Market, freezing them forever in impressionistic applications of colorful globs of paint on canvas. Martin and curator Daniel Lonow have paired Snow’s work alongside a selection of sculptures from Emily Holt, whose assemblages and figures are made up of the concrete, metal, plastic and wooden detritus from actual demolition sites. The artist transforms these found materials into memento mori, recollecting the lost architectural spaces and structures that continue to disappear all over our city. Saturday evening’s opening reception starts at 6 p.m. and will feature live music from Ziona Riley. Rumors of a set from Snow’s longtime band Cherry Blossoms are rampant. 

East Nashville

We shouted out Lauren Gregory’s March show at Red Arrow Gallery in our Winter Arts Guide a couple months back, and this month’s display at the East Nashville space promises to be one of the best painting exhibitions of the season. Gregory is as painterly as Peggy Snow, but is best known for portraiture. Gregory has shown her work at venues around the world, including MoMA PS1, New Museum and MOCA Los Angeles, and the artist has recently relocated to Nashville. Gregory is also one of a small contingent of local artists pushing their traditional practices into the digital realm and onto pioneering blockchain platforms. Her generous application of oils brings energized textures to her expressive faces. This, combined with Gregory’s improvisational, instantaneous, one-sitting painting style, finds these works naturally lending themselves to the artist’s stop-motion-animated experiments, which have come to represent the ultimate expression of her art. Gregory brings a 21st-century multimedia understanding of creativity to painted portraiture, and the results marry the thrill-seeking of a pioneering practice with one of art’s oldest and most universal traditions. Expect to see Gregory’s paintings, abstract quilts and animations in Here for a Good Time, Not a Long Time. 

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