Edge of Urge isn't the first place a collector might think OF to shop for contemporary fine art. The Raleigh retail space is chock full of colorful clothing and accessories from independent designers, and the first group art show by a new cooperative called Peregrine Projects competes with dozens of much less expensive trinkets. It's a far cry from the sparse style of an art gallery, where the work is often the punctuation mark on a colorless wall.
But Peregrine's pieces seem to flow into the busy tableau without much trouble. Abstract portraits by Tim Lytvinenko are mounted in changing rooms with nails and binder clips, visible only when the thick curtains are pulled back. Brilliant paintings of small dogs by Casey Porn rest at eye level near a collection of navy blue feathers. David Eichenberger's pen-and-ink illustrations dangle above a rack of clothing, enticing a browser to investigate both.
Peregrine Projects is a group of seven artists—Lytvinenko, Porn, Eichenberger, Luke Miller Buchanan, Lincoln Hancock, Alexis Price and Shaun Richards—focused on showing work in non-traditional spaces and hosting events on nights other than First Friday. They say their aims are to expand arts programming in the Triangle and to give local artists a stronger voice.
The group is gathered in a roundtable formation upstairs at The Morning Times coffee shop, where 10 pieces made mostly of brightly colored yarn hang from exposed brick walls. Buchanan, who recently completed a large red mural on the side of a Raleigh landmark, the old Nehi bottling plant, makes a proposition.
"I haven't asked any of you this yet," he says with a grin, "but I want to do a show in the Nehi building. It's set up as a gallery space, with bathrooms and everything." Though the Edge of Urge show, which unveiled new work by all seven artists on Dec. 6th and runs through Dec. 30, is only halfway through, the group's excitement about a new potential experiment is palpable.
"We plan to do events, or 'happenings,' where we might create a piece of art in a pop-up location and leave it there overnight," says Richards, a mixed-media artist whose work has been shown at Wilmington's Cameron Art Museum and the North Carolina Museum of Art. "Or we might do shows in unexpected places—unfinished places where we'll need generators." Hence the excitement about the Nehi building's bathrooms.
These artists have been working in the Triangle for years and know how to support themselves here. They can find spaces in which to show their work without being bound to a contract. They can order their own food and drinks for openings. And they can promote their work without surrendering up to 60 percent of sales or being barred from showing within a 100-mile radius of a gallery.
"If you have a gallery show out of town, it's great," says Eichenberger, a painter and illustrator in Raleigh. "They'll set it up for you, promote it for you, and there's a built-in audience. But it doesn't always work that well for local artists."
"If I'm going to go out of my way to get people to the building, I want to fill it up with more art than just mine," Buchanan says. "But the great thing about this co-op is that if no one joins me and I do [the Nehi show] anyway, nobody will be upset. Right?" They all nod, though it's clear that they're interested. After all, spontaneity and flexibility are Peregrine principles.
The group calls the Edge of Urge show a "very soft opening," and though the exhibit was barely advertised, Price's work has already sold out. But the members are hardly competitive.
"Say we do put on the show at Nehi," says Price. "If someone buys one of Luke's paintings, but doesn't want mine, I think that means they're just not looking for mine. It's not like they're going to walk in and say, 'Oh, I'll just take anything'. We all complement each other, but we have different styles."
Kelly McChesney, who represented Richards for seven years and has also worked with Hancock and Buchanan, owns Flanders Gallery in Raleigh, the kind of box that Peregrine is trying to think outside of, though not in an antagonistic way. For her part, McChesney is glad to see this cheaper, more agile, highly contemporary trend flourishing in Raleigh.
"Like a gallery, Peregrine Projects is selecting a group of artists and planning exhibitions, but instead of signing a lease and paying traditional gallery rent, they are seeking places temporarily," says McChesney. "Some will do better in the long run to have a representational gallery, where it's actually someone's job to promote that artist and their work; however, having more variety, choices and opportunities is a great thing."
This article appeared in print with the headline "Art on the wing"