As the big fall season of art openings kicks off, from Joan Miró at the Nasher to Click! Triangle Photography Festival shows all over the place, don't overlook riskier or more intimate exhibits in the Triangle's smaller spaces.
The phrase "by appointment only" might discourage the casual viewer, but consider contacting ANDRÉ LEON GRAY at email@example.com to schedule a look at his recent sculpture and assemblage, a meditation on melanin, at Switchhouse Studios in Raleigh. Gray, one of three finalists for this year's prestigious 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art, shows the work through Sept. 28.
This racially charged show connects the dots between current events, including Michael Brown's murder and the subsequent protests in Ferguson, Missouri, to historical ones such as the Civil Rights Movement and the slave trade. Expressing the perpetual trauma of systemic racial oppression, half of the eight pieces in the show incorporate crutches.
Gray has a knack for transforming and recombining objects. In "Black Man Down Ahead," he repositions the "PED XING" figure as if it's been shot in the street. "Membership Has its Privileges" is a tennis racket with a wooden panel in place of the strings, with the declaration "I am a man" from the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers strike branded on the wood.
You also have to make a little effort to see HEESEOP YOON's "Material World," a dazzling wall-drawing installation up through Oct. 3 at UNC-Chapel Hill's John and June Allcott Gallery in the Hanes Building next to the Ackland Art Museum. The space is only open during business hours, but it's well worth spending a lunch break processing Yoon's ornate, restless creation.
The Korean-born artist surrounds you with dense imagery of domestic objects—especially appliances, plugs and bales of electrical cords—rendering them as a gigantic line drawing using black tape. It's as if a Costco's inventory became sentient and replicated itself into architecture. Looking up at "Material World," positioned above eye level across several walls, the net effect is an insidious alternation between consumerist fantasy and horror.
Line drawings and other hand-drawn works create an intimate experience in the large North Carolina Gallery at Raleigh's North Carolina Museum of Art. LINE, TOUCH, TRACE, up through March 8, gathers the pen-and-ink, graphite, charcoal and crayon work of 13 N.C. artists. Organized by Greenhill, the show is complemented by a fiber arts exhibition at the Greensboro gallery through early November.
The NCMA show acknowledges FRITZ JANSCHKA, one of the founders of the Vienna School of Fantastic Realism, as an elder. Born in Austria in 1919, Janschka came to the United States 30 years later, sustaining an early Modernist sensibility throughout his career. His slightly shaky line, most evident in "A Beginning," the simplest of his four drawings, finds a balance between a freehand sketch and the hard draughtsman's lines of Fernand Léger or Max Ernst. Janschka is technical but not objective.
Also in the show, the work of KIKI FARISH, who just received a visual arts fellowship from the North Carolina Arts Council, recombines several modes in graphite-on-clapboard works that take some optical effort to sort out. They include banal sans-serif text; vegetal shapes such as flowers, leaves, grasses and underbrush; abstract scrawls, scribbles and spirals. All of these compete and accrete, positing detail as interference rather than clarification.
KENN KOTARA's two large-scale graphite-on-Mylar drawings are tour de forces on par with Yoon's installation, but they produce a meditative calm. "Category Two" is a galactic mandala of intensely precise, carnation-like florets, rendered in the thinnest possible line. There's an organizing mathematics at work, but it's neither cold nor formulaic. Instead, it's wonderfully undermined by a hazy perimeter of graphite hand smudges.
"Direction," TAMIE BELDUE's trio of graphite, watercolor and encaustic works, takes a smaller, iterative approach to meditation. In each, a gray figural shadow plummets through a space that's minimally defined by a broken green grid. The satin of the wax surface softens and enhances the figure's dimensionality. The repetition suggests that Beldue is trying to find how little imagery is required to convey the body's fall.
And don't pass by two red gouache drawings by KREH MELLICK too quickly. In both, expressionless and distended adolescent figures are shown against a depthless ground of Henri Rousseau-like forest. But the red makes the scene look harshly unnatural, not lush and mysterious. Mellick's decorative backgrounds have all gone to seed, producing a threatening ornateness that you have to push your attention into.
Durham-based independent curator Kate Swearingen adds to a growing wave of shows in the Southeast concentrating on queer identity. At Durham's Carrack Modern Art through Sept. 28, SOUTHERNERS: QUEER IDENTIFIED ARTISTS FINDING HOME AND FAMILY IN THE SOUTH features many Triangle and Triad artists as well as several from Atlanta, New Orleans and Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The work deals with gender identity, sexuality, discrimination and community.
Highlights include interactive wire sculptures by F.E. TOAN that dictate certain gestures or haptic experiences, handmade kaleidoscopes by CATHERINE EDGERTON containing objects such as bumblebees and anatomical slides, and a six-foot-tall stuffed bear that J GRAY SWARTZEL made out of his childhood clothing.
Squeeze the head of the bear's penis and it will talk to you.
Among many worthwhile Click! Festival shows, one highlight is SMOKES AND MIRRORS: REFLECTIONS OF THE SELF IN PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOHN MENAPACE at N.C. State's Gregg Museum of Art and Design. Called "the father of North Carolina photography," Menapace left behind thousands of prints and tens of thousands of negatives upon his death in 2010. Starting Sept. 25, the Gregg show draws from this archive to present never-before-exhibited selections.
Photographer JIM LEE has left the fold at Durham's Pleiades Gallery, but keep track of his crisply focused work at his Bamboo Turtle Studio website.
And mark down Oct. 4 for JAMNESIA, a music festival held at The Phelps Pharm (906 Terry Rd., Hillsborough) by the Durty Durham art and music collective. Hammer No More the Fingers and The Beast will headline the show, which will include several art installations around the concert site.
This article appeared in print with the headline "A line allows progress"