Selected Art Reviews by Amy White
Southern Accent @ Nasher (BurnAway)
Kara Walker’s 8 Possible Beginnings or: The Creation of African-America, a Moving Picture (2005), a grainy black-and-white film, unfolds in shaky, animated-by-hand silhouettes. At a crucial juncture, the figure of a well-muscled African-American male, presumably a slave, is impregnated by a besuited, presumably white plantation (and slave) owner, who delicately inserts a single cotton boll up the slave’s ass, who in turn gives birth to a phallic abstraction – an unformed fetal figure, an amorphous tar baby that further morphs into a tree from which lynched black bodies hang.
Walker’s work of incendiary eroticism is one of a kaleidoscopic array of some 60 artists responding to or in some way channeling the American South in “Southern Accent: Seeking the American South in Contemporary Art,” a joint curatorial venture between the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University and the Speed Art Museum in Louisville. The hallucinatory quality of Walker’s work is in keeping with the tone of the exhibition. Co-curators Trevor Schoonmaker of the Nasher and Miranda Lash of the Speed have opted for an almost surrealistic approach to the question of regional identity, which is a good thing. The anticipatory tension at the prospect of strict or literal delineations is met with exuberant problematizing.
The Future We Remember @ SECCA (BurnAway)
The conceptual underpinnings of the exhibition speak to the idea of a new era, the Anthropocene, in which the impact of human life on the planet has reached a sufficiently critical mass as to affect fundamental long-term environmental and even geological outcomes. The two iconic images of the exhibition are a hunk of meteorite, a kind of mineral spaceship that rips through interplanetary space and displaces landmass as it hits the next planet in its path, and a “plastiglomerate” rock, a neologism that describes composite geological material in which earthen minerals and human-made plastic have been inextricably fused.
“Alternative Modernisms” @ SECCA (BurnAway)
The exhibition brings together five artists whose work calls into question the nature and function of representation through a range of image production strategies. The diverse practices of Harun Farocki (1944-2014, Berlin), Leslie Hewitt (NYC), Pedro Lasch (Durham, NC / NYC), Jumana Manna (Berlin), and Jeff Whetstone (Durham, NC) give rise to photographs of photographs, photographs of subjects who self-consciously represent for the camera, photographs of paintings, filmed paintings of objects and objects being photographed, and fictive cinema inspired by archival photography. In each case, there is an undercurrent of the anthropological and a self-conscious approach to artmaking as evidence of human cultural production.
Bill Thelen @ Spectre Arts (IndyWeek)
The exhibition consists of several hundred works in sumi ink on bamboo paper, which cover the walls in loosely constructed grids. Each drawing evolves a single theme—visual, conceptual, textual. The show can be read as an immersive Rorschach test, with individual drawings functioning as forceful projective stimuli. There's a cinematic impulse at play as we jump-cut from frame to frame. It's a multi-dimensional Kuleshov experiment from which we each walk away with a different story to tell.
Nancy Rubins @ Weatherspoon (BurnAway)
If an artist spends several decades in pursuit of a singular mode of production, we are compelled to consider that work differently than work that has been conceived and executed in the short term. While the longevity of a practice does not ensure quality or value, there is, nevertheless, a cumulative accrual of intent that merits consideration. “Nancy Rubins: Drawing, Sculpture, Studies,” recently on view at the Weatherspoon Art Museum in Greensboro, North Carolina, provided a sweeping evolutionary vista of a formidable artist’s output over three decades, focusing on her massive graphite drawings and behemoth assemblages of found objects, which are traceable to the earliest days of the artist’s practice.
Gabriel Dawe @ CAM Raleigh (IndyWeek)
A swath of rainbow light cuts diagonally across CAM Raleigh's main gallery. When you approach the shimmering, spectral form, thousands of tautly strung colored threads come into focus, revealing the luminous presence as a material one. This is Plexus No. 25, the most recent in a series of site-specific works by Dallas-based artist Gabriel Dawe.
Hateful @ Lump (IndyWeek)
The word "idioglossia" describes a secret language shared by twins. Lydia Moyer and Tory Wright are not twins, but they have cultivated their own secret visual language in a collaborative 'zine called Hateful, a virtually wordless collaged compendium of archival images, cut, pasted and photocopied in utilitarian black and white. But there is nothing mundane about Hateful's refined yet cryptic aesthetic.