January 12, 2012

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AVA Gallery opened its member show ON JAN. 6 to 
enthusiastic attendance as a dozen artists presented works exploring a range of media. This show was “Juried” by Rocky Horton, who is chair of the art department at Lipscomb University. Lauren Goforth facilitated this presentation with an easy flow among the pieces that included a sense of harmonic symmetry of the whole.

Over in the Bluff View Arts District, the River Gallery presents works by Sammie Nicely and James Conner, who are African-American artists both with different approaches. Nicely engages in both two- and three-dimensional collages in which his original works in clay, ceramics and paint are developed into further intricacy by a collage process. He also creates ceramic jugs that combine facial features with a variety of finishes.

Nicely’s more two-dimensional works seems to bring a cubist sensibility to his portrayals of faces, but the artist insists that this approach is more directly African. I found myself reminded of Joseph Holsson’s recent show here that also featured cubist portrayals in his presentation of African-American history. Nicely explains that a direct result of the colonization of Africa brought African art into European contexts.  The growing familiarity with African forms led to the development of cubist presentations. You may recall that the second surrealist manifests published after World War I included both primitive and occult forms as elements of surreal creations. Nicely’s primary subjects bring forms of the African face; adorned with found objects or are enhanced using other means of emphasis, into acquaintance with the viewer suggestive of a deep and complex spirituality.

James Conner’s work, including 19 paintings of acrylic on canvas, focuses on emotional content through largely realist approaches. For each piece, Conner chooses a palette coherent with the tone he expresses from quiet, religious peace, as in “Family Legacy,” to the excitement of a train arriving in the large “Chattanooga” painting. Conner’s subjects range from the flight of ducks to fighter-plane dog fights with much rural imagery where a sufficient of detail supports his emotional tones.

The River Gallery always presents a rich diversity of styles from innovative fine-arts approaches to imaginative, whimsical products. Nicely’s and Conner’s work presents a range of spiritual expressiveness through aesthetic variations.

With regard to the Association of Visual Artists show, I need to make a prefatory comment. I have always understood the word “jury” as a collective noun. This is not the first show I have encountered here that has been “juried” by an individual. Why has the word “judge” become to “judgmental?” Frankly, it’s not too difficult to trust a collector to collect quality work, but individual “juries” smack more of the convenience then the collective acuity.  

Notwithstanding, the artists presenting here are finding innovative approaches, particularly with regard to the human figure. Work by Gabriel Regagnon, including “Bock” and “Oracle,” push at the usual parameters of portrayal. Sara Rouse’s hanging canvas diptych, “Autopsy,” presents both a male and a female figure opened to reveal an inner “light.” A remarkable concept, difficult to realize, but her attempt here really stands out. Brava! Lynda Johnson presents an excellent, fanciful “Gemini” in “May and Meg,” with the sculpted girls augmented by a copper “fool.”

Gretchen Wagner’s “Synthesized Mandela” includes three pieces of etched plexi-glass in various geometries. This relatively new medium embraces gallery light to complete its aesthetic effect, high-energy work.

Jake Kelly’s “Soul Crusher” deserves a word of warning. His title pushes a work that might be viewed as weird, semi-geometric abstract into a deep, spiritual vertigo. This work is unique in that I’ve never seen this image attempted as visual arts. But I have encountered this image twice in the writing of Aleister Crowley. Once, in a horrific story that actually requires editorial disclaimer in which the fictional context suggested a Buddhist connection to his essay on the tarot. It appears likely that Crowley used one version as elaboration of the other. In any case, what Kelly seems to be portraying should be approached with great care. This show offers a number of other interesting works.

Also, Devon Kronenberg opens at Hefferlin-Kronenberg from 5:30-8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 12.


AVA Members Juried Exhibition

(thru Feb. 11)

AVA Gallery

30 Frazier Ave.

(423) 265-4282

“Past and Present”

James Conner and Sammie Nicely

(thru Jan 31)

River Gallery

400 E. 2nd St.

(423) 265-5033


January 12, 2012

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