Forbidden Fruit: Cuba’s Booming Art Industry

posted by – 07/22/15 @ 4:40pm

With the restoration of U.S.- Cuban relations this year, many aficionados of the art world are predicting a rise in sales of Cuban art. U.S. collectors were already able to purchase Cuban artwork due to a loophole in the trade embargo allowing for the purchase of cultural assets. However, the Havana Biennial in May was a major destination for American collectors, and a 2014 Wall Street Journal piece predicts an increased interest in the country’s artwork as it becomes easier for Americans to travel there and discover new artists.

El Caiman by José Betancourt

El Caiman // José Betancourt

The unique situation faced by Cuban artists – isolation, lack of supplies – lends itself to an art scene unlike any other. Many Cuban artists incorporate found objects and weathered materials into their work. Artists such as Los Carpinteros deal with social issues facing Cubans today. Increased accessibility to the nation will provide an unprecedented look into the work of talented, previously undiscovered artists.

Sea Escape // José Betancourt

In his upcoming exhibition at Tinney, Cuban-born artist José Betancourt explores his own relationship with his native country, which he left in 1971 at a young age. Cuba: Reconstructing Memories presents a series of altered photographs inspired by Betancourt’s memories of his childhood and provides a fascinating glimpse into his relationship with his past.

 

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Art Heals: Charleston Comes Together

posted by – 07/09/15 @ 5:13pm

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We have all heard about the atrocity, which was racially charge, that occurred in Charleston recently that resulted in the death of 9 people at a church meeting. With many facets of life, it is difficult to express emotion in a healthy way, and for Charleston, art has become one way in which its citizens have been able to convey their feelings towards this incident.

I believe that it is the want and need to connect to something on a deeper level. In the broader scheme of things, the creation of something meaningful out of meaninglessness can be therapeutic in its own right. Many times in the creation of art, artists are reaching a point where the conscious and subconscious work together. The conscious act of working on a work of art subconsciously helps one, especially in this case, deal with the results of foreign concepts and incidents. The joy that spectators receive from the art helps to put them in a better space as well. All justification to the why is speculative, but it is a fact that the passion felt through the creation and viewing of art reaches us in an almost inexplicable way, giving us better, healthier perspective and understanding.

Read more here in this Huffington Post article that chronicles the transformative ways in which art is helping Charleston heal. #CharlestonStrong

Instagram as Art: Richard Prince’s “New Portraits”

posted by – 07/03/15 @ 4:33pm

The Huffington Post recently published an article about appropriation artist Richard Prince, the artist who refurbished random Instagram photos in his 2014 exhibition “New Portraits.” The exhibition sparked controversy, raising questions regarding copyright issues and originality.

"New Portraits"

“New Portraits” / www.richardprince.com

The show is made up of enlarged copies of Instagram photos, posted by both celebrities and ordinary people, with Prince’s own comments at the bottom of each. The pieces reportedly sell for $90,000. The exhibition calls into question the notion of ownership in the Internet age, as well as the importance of personal branding.

"New Portraits"

“New Portraits” / www.richardprince.com

“New Portraits” also highlights the role Instagram plays in today’s art world. As a purely visual medium, Instagram offers everyday users a way to express themselves, as well as a platform for artists to promote their work and establish their brand. The age of social media calls for fluidity and flexibility, and Prince’s work highlights the changing nature of ownership.

Printing the Past and Present for the Future

posted by – 06/23/15 @ 3:39pm

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A recent article in The Atlantic describes the formative steps the Smithsonian is taking in order to preserve and protect the artifacts so delicate and yet so critical to understanding human history and culture, or what I’d simply like to call the Smithsonian’s attempt to create a “future for the past.”

Essentially, technicians and conservators at The Smithsonian take an object, scan it, then create a 3D cast of the object, which is further processed to make it look like the original. These copies are kept by the Smithsonian to be brought out for special occasions, as the original collection owners rely on the income from these artifacts. The concern here is, do the objects hold onto their authenticity once there are copies? This highly intriguing article discusses the “benefits of accessibility…pitted against those of authenticity” and the ongoing quest by museums and others of how to integrate the ever-changing world of technology into the world of antiquity.

Not only is 3D printing going to be progressively used in preserving the past, but it is also going to be transformative in the contemporary art world as artists, including our very own Carol Prusa, as seen below, are ever increasingly experimenting with and using 3D printing as a medium of artistic expression.

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3D printing is literally and figuratively shaping the worlds around us, keeping our head on a swivel while leaving us attentive to the subtle nuances created by increased use and appreciation for rapidly changing technologies.

 

 

Romancing Banality: The Art of Lyle Carbajal

posted by – 06/19/15 @ 2:33pm

Lyle Carbajal’s roving exhibition Romancing Banality incorporates elements from years spent traveling, absorbing new cultures. Nashville is the exhibition’s third iteration, following openings in Seattle and New Orleans. Carbajal lives in each city for months leading up to the opening, incorporating himself into the city’s culture.

“It’s a city’s Zeitgeist that interests me,” said Carbajal, “The sights, the sounds, the way its people either cherish or disregard artistic forms, the city’s visual connection to the past and whether or not it recognizes its indigenous culture.”

Romancing Banality

Visitors to Romancing Banality find themselves immersed in an authentic, urban/primitive experience completely lacking in pretense. Capturing the spirit of anti-artistry and folk art, Carbajal seeks inspiration in the everyday.

“These are the truths I perceive through my eyes, my journeys, and my exploration as an artist,” said Carbajal of his work.

The effect of Romancing Banality in the gallery space is truly transformative. In addition to the paintings and multimedia works adorning the walls, Carbajal installed a half-scale model of a carcineria in the center of the gallery. He is also exploring film as a medium, and a film shot and produced entirely in Mexico is projected onto one of the gallery’s walls, furthering the multi-sensory experience that is Romancing Banality.

Art Basel 2015 Opens

posted by – 06/16/15 @ 5:05pm

With the opening of Art Basel 2015 in its founding city this week, I’d like to shed some light on this wonderful European exhibition of art from around the world.

 

Distinctively located on the borders of Switzerland, France, and Germany, Basel provides the most strategic location for the exhibition of over 300 leading galleries from Europe, North America, Latin America, and Asia. The works presented at the 2015 Art Basel show encompass most mediums of Modern and contemporary art imaginable from sculpture and painting to videos to performance art by both well-known and newly emerging artists.

 

Over 90,000 art lovers—collectors, gallerists, artists, curators, and simple art enthusiasts—from across the globe attend Art Basel each year. The attendance and the involvement of buyers has been crescendoing recently as the arts become more prevalent in the public’s eye. Founded in 1970 by a few gallerists in Basel, the show has increased its attendance from 16,300 people in its initial show to almost 100,000 people estimated for this year. Basel is not the only location for this sophisticated “arts fair” either, which also takes place in Miami Beach in December and Hong Kong in March.

Described as the “Olympics of the Art World,” Art Basel has figured out the formula for an art show: find and provide the platform for excellent art and let it speak for itself. Each work of art has a unique effect on every individual. We are all idiosyncratic with distinctive perspectives stemming from our own experiences in life, and the discernment we all have for art is just as original as the art itself. With Art Basel, the collection of art of over 4,000 artists from these hundreds of galleries drives the success of this “arts affair.”

 

Already at the incipient of this year’s showing, Leonardo DiCaprio has shown his man-bun and museum and private collectors have been seen in full force. (artnews.com)

 

Among the attendees for the Miami Beach Art Basel in 2014, were our very own Susan Tinney and Sarah Wilson, who hope to some day make the trek to Basel for the experience of a lifetime.

Spanish Sculptor Jaume Plensa Exhibits at Two Nashville Venues

posted by – 05/06/15 @ 1:33pm

Jaume Plensa is the latest international artist to bring his internationally acclaimed art to our city. Exhibiting work here for the first time,  the artist is bringing work to display at Nashville’s two largest art venues: The Frist Center for Visual Arts and The Cheekwood Museum & Gardens. Though the majority of the large-scale works will be installed in the Cheekwood Botanical Gardens, the Frist will also share a few pieces of the collection.  Plensa’s large-scale sculpture Isabella will be displayed at the entrance of the Frist Center, accompanied by a “sister” sculpture in the Cheekwood Gardens. there will be a series of small-scale works inside the Frist, as well.

"Sho" stainless steel, 2007

 

Plensa’s work deals with the human figure, transforming the dimensionality of the human form to create intriguing silhouettes while manipulating the material to transform the way we think of the human experience. “Plensa’s body of work is primarily inspired by the complexities of the human condition. He is known for the exploration of the tension between the interior and exterior life. The artist uses a variety of materials—from cast iron to steel and bronze to alabaster and synthetic resin—choosing the material which will best communicate his idea for the image. Plensa’s portraits are a radical reinterpretation of what is usually considered the domain of a more classical art.” (www.cheekwood.org)

"Paula, Rui Rui, and Awilda"

 

The artist’s work is likely to raise a great deal of conversation while on exhibition. This is the most in-depth display of his work in the country since 2010. While the artist has publicly exhibited in many major US cities, there has never been a show in our region. This should be a fantastic and rare opportunity for our city to experience world-class large-scale sculpture.

Vanderbilt’s Hamblet Award Exhibition

posted by – 04/15/15 @ 1:26pm

Each year, Nashville’s own Vanderbilt University gifts one of the most impressive undergraduate art prizes in the country.  The Margaret Stonewall Wooldridge Hamblet Award, or “The Hamblet” as it’s known colloquially, awards a $10,000 prize to the runner up, and $25,000 in the form of a travel and research award to the winner. Since 1984, this prize has been given by the Hamblet family to allow for graduating art students to travel and make work that was inspired by their experience abroad. The department brings in three outside jurors, all of whom are respected practicing artists and academics in their own mediums. This year, the Tinney Contemporary’s own Carol Prusa was selected as one of the three jurors who had the responsibility of choosing the recipient of this impactful award.

 

Prusa is a professor at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida, and has been represented by the Tinney since 2010. Prusa’s work is both intricate and otherworldly. Her silverpoint methods are dazzling in their technical application, and she continues to push the limits of her work, incorporating three-dimensional forms, as well as multi-media aspects in many pieces. Prusa was joined on the judging panel by Billy Renkle, of Austin Peay State University, and John Douglas Powers of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. It is notable that Powers was a winner of the Hamblet Award in 2001 as a Vanderbilt graduate.

Alexis Jackson's "1,437,201,654 Black Lives"

This year’s show was a beautiful and ecclectic gathering of works that represented the diversity of the art department at Vanderbilt. As a B.A. program, the department requires that students take courses in each of the mediums offered. From meditative video, to complex and immersive installation, to portrait painting and photography, the show reveals the essence of the department’s character. As many of the students major in other departments as well as the arts, the influence of other academic and social interests was apparent. This year’s winner, Alexis Jackson, impressed and challenged the viewers in the gallery with her piece 1,437,201,654 Black Lives. Her poignant discussion of the history of racism in this country, as well as events in recent years was powerful yet non-confrontational. The work consisted of photographic prints depicting recent young victims of racial violence done in the iconic style of the Obama “Hope” campaign posters. These still pieces were accompanied by a running video of portraits of black individuals throughout history, with soundtracks running from racial protest events. The second place winner, Emily Neal, displayed her piece Clonal Colony in the very center of the gallery. This three-dimensional work incorporated an actual tree stump in an installation depicting relationships of time and organismal ancestry.

Crowds around Emily Neals' "Clonal Colony"

Altogether, this show was a strong display of well-developed student work. It is exciting to see the abilities of these young artists, as well as to know that they are receiving critique and guidance from such well-established and talented artists. As the concepts discussed in their shows become more developed, it is almost certain that the research and time invested into the work will compound to produce even more impressive pieces. Make sure to watch for the return show for the winner held at Vanderbilt’s Space 204 gallery this coming January.

 

SGC Knoxville; A Conference for a Creative Community

posted by – 04/03/15 @ 3:09pm

The Southern Graphics Council printmaking conference is an annual affair of ink (whether there is more in on paper, or on the arms of the attendees is still up for discussion). The conference usually gravitates toward the typical artistic destination cities; Portland, San Francisco, and New York City are found among the short list of recent host-cities. However, the neon allure of middle Tennessee seems to shine as a beacon for creative individuals across the world. Knoxville, an oft-overlooked town in art conversation, has been home to one of the top printmaking departments in the country for decades. The University of Tennessee volunteered as host school for this year’s conference titled Sphere. They undoubtedly delivered on the expectations of southern hospitality and home-cooked creativity. During my four days among the Knoxville downtown area, I met printmakers from Belgium and Birmingham, Texas and Tacoma. It’s interesting to see how an art process can unify such a diverse group. Not only does the conference aim to host helpful workshops, informative and interesting speakers, and portfolio sessions, they also work to build a community among the artists in attendance. Throughout the week, there were official conference social events scheduled and aimed at facilitating the camaraderie of creativity, and even more were spontaneously born at local social establishments. It seemed that everyone was there to share their knowledge and learn from each other. Tips and tricks of the trade were passed around like the latest gossip on the playground, jokes were told that only a seasoned pressman would catch. As a student I was astounded at the breadth of technique I found in many of the artists’ work both in casual discussion and the workshops. One workshop was particularly impressive (and over my head). Ohio University professor Art Werger demonstrated how to achieve an infinite range of tone in his etchings through a two-plate, à la poupée inking technique using complimentary colors. The process was delicate, intricate, and innovative. Undoubtedly, the most memorable event hosted by the conference was the printmaking/performance piece by Midwest Pressed titled Freebird. Througout the day images of iconic Americana were heavily screen printed on oddly shaped pieces of plywood nailed together in a structure reminiscent of an 8-year-old’s fantasy backyard fort. During the performance, members of Midwest Pressed and their friends strummed through a rough rendition of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s famous track of the same name. Then, all of the sudden, in a fight for freedom the lead guitarist and operator of Midwest Pressed, Tim Dooley, swung his instrument into the broad side of the fortress splintering and shattering the rickety makeshift building. Blow by blow, the red white and blue clad plywood crumbled, and by the final swing, the guitar was wedged perfectly horizontal in the center of the wall, declaring its defeat over the contrived edifice. The performance perfectly depicted the expressive spirit of the conference.

The final day of the conference was a full open portfolio session. Every artist who was able to register for a table displayed their work for an hour. The sea of work was dizzying and after the first hour, I found that my mind had a hard time deciphering one image from the next. It was like a year’s worth of Saturday Art Crawl’s in one afternoon. But, by the end of the conference, I found myself already thinking of ways to emulate some of the new and interesting things I found there. I contemplated the use of new methods, and relished my new friendships and acquaintances. Among my new friends were many of the entertaining folks who work at Hatch Show Print, Nashville’s most famous letterpress shop. Many other of our town’s locals made the drive down I-40 for the conference, and I realized how lucky we are as a city that the printing industry is alive and well here.  It’s a funny thing how travel can make you appreciate where you came from. The community of printmaking, especially in middle Tennessee, is a thriving source of creativity and culture.

 

 

Discovering Jaq Belcher’s “Hidden Light”

posted by – 03/11/15 @ 4:35pm

Jaq Belcher’s newest exhibition Hidden Light is her second solo exhibition in the gallery, her first since 2011. Perhaps it is thousands of tiny shadows cast on the paper that create this “hidden light” referred to in the show’s title. Maybe, though, it refers to the contemplative nature of these meticulously hand-cut works. Jaq Belcher’s works “testify to the idea of ‘being’ in the moment, the idea of staying in the ‘now’, the ‘present.” Inspired by esoteric philosophy and the notion of converging ideas, these works beg the viewer to invest a patience and mental energy when viewing the work. At times, the dizzying array of cuts can seem overwhelming; an arrangement of shapes in all directions. After a time, though, they unite to form singular images characterized by the delicate play of light and shadow, and positive and negative space. It is in this moment, when the shapes converge into a whole, that this “hidden light” is revealed. The light might be embodied by an idea, a realization, or maybe the enlightenment or serenity that these works seem to bring those who stand before them.

Belcher’s framed works rest in delicate balance between two and three-dimensions. Though they are cut from a single sheet of paper, the raised pieces lend a dimensionality that is both physical and visual. Her installation piece, titled Lunar Codex, is a true three-dimensional work and was perhaps the most entrancing of any of the works on display during the First Saturday Art Crawl. The striking balance of light and shadow comes alive in the installation. Bringing elements of the physical space together through an arrangement of 70,000 of her cut paper “seeds” on the floor and a mesmerizing rectangular prism suspended from the ceiling, Belcher gives life to the “hidden light” she wants the viewer to find in her pieces through this work. It seems that these works are present with the viewer, engaging in a dialogue that evokes a sense of serene contemplation; a contemplation that is certain to yield rewards of discovery, in the work as well as for the self.

"Lunar Codex" installation at the March Art Crawl