Sunday, March 15, 2015

Storybook

 
 
"Now Here:  Theoretical Landscapes" is a show currently up at the Carnegie in Covington, Kentucky, curated by Matt Distel.  It opened on Friday, and I'm telling you what, it was a blast, lots of people, lots of art...  Just great.  Matt pulled together such a disparate collection of works that it's hard to figure out what makes the show so fantastic, outside of the fact that the inclusiveness inherent in the curatorial decisions expands ideas instead of claiming them.  "Theoretical" and "landscapes" are both loaded little terms that could have backfired pretty easily.  They evoke a starchiness somehow, a staid attention to what "art" is supposed to be, and yet every choice Matt makes in "Now Here" overturns that sense of preciousness.  It's a 6- or 7-ring circus, this show, and in a totally good way.  (One of the highlights, of course from my POV, is Bill's suite of Alice-inspired works/collaborations with Meddling with Nature's Jeremy Johnson, Sharon Butler and Bob Scheadler, a horrifyingly joyous set-piece comprised of his Technicolor paintings, a dead dryer, dead leaves and dead animals that comes off like a fever-dream/nightmare but also invokes the sad innocence of abandoned amusement parks.)   
 
Matt has created a weirdly cohesive, poetic plurality in "Now Here" by assembling all these artists and all these works made from every media you could think of (including duct-tape, the aforementioned taxidermy, cardboard, and cement, just to name a few, as well as the old oil and acrylic standbys), and when you walk through the whole shebang you feel as if your brain-space is being expanded so that all this cool stuff can get in.  Then you remember the topic (landscapes, theory, the now and the here) and you get the joke, while also understanding the serious and beautiful punch-line each piece evokes.  It's like Matt is taking you on a hot-air balloon ride over a little subdivision called The Land of Art, effortlessly educational, a little elevated, but totally storybook sweet, even while grounded in exactly what it is. 
 
And speaking of sweet, at least for me, I got to hang out with Kathy Brannigan, one of the artists (along with Krista Gregory and Jamie Muenzer) who were a part of a wall drawing escapade that truly feels magically delicious.  Kathy's drawings of airplanes and spaceships anchor the exercise, beautifully smudged graphite depictions that somehow feel both nervous and stately, like doodles done in a boardroom.  Glitter and geometric flourishes play back-up singers to these intimate aerospace drawings.  Somehow the whole enterprise feels like a microcosm of the rest of the show:  astute, wide open, frenetic, but also friendly, aligned, and just plain pretty.  Kathy (pictured above next to some of her graphite hieroglyphics) was one of the first artists Bill and I ran across when we started pulling together Visionaries + Voices years back, and she still hangs out there, but Friday night she was a part of a whole new landscape:  an astronaut finding a wonderfully temporary home.