A train-turned “kinetic light sculpture” with a curated passenger list is somewhere between Kansas City and Sante Fe by now. Station to Station, brainchild of experimental artist Doug Aitken and sponsored by Levi’s deep pockets, is “a nomadic happening”. And whatever is happening will happen in a total of ten cities across the country, through the efforts of the multi-media artists on board and the general public meeting up with them along the way.
That Memphis isn’t on the itinerary could ostensibly be written off as a routing issue. The passenger line that hits Bluff City follows the Mississippi River from New Orleans, passing St. Louis, then veers off to Chicago and back before returning down river. (If only someone would revisit Banvard’s Folly, but as a riverboat rock-and-booze cruise!) Of course, if your city isn’t on the selected rails, you can still take part by dipping into the project’s depthless online presence: A Tumblr – endlessly refreshed – with blog entries and 140 character Twitter wit (twit!?), plus loads of slick video: Snippets of railway ennui, momentary “jam sessions”, and capsular pre-recorded interviews of the map’s cultural doers. All the trappings of all that’s happening.
Meanwhile in Memphis, a different kind of re-imagined art space opened its doors for a special preview of Cargo, an exhibition on view Friday, September 27th in conjunction with the city’s art walk. GLITCH is an impressive non-profit gallery space disguised as a punk house party. The exhibition of mostly paintings by Brooks staffers Jeshua Schuster and Alec McIntyre featured a performance this past Friday. Outfitted in blue collar onesies, Schuster and McIntyre commenced to a series of fruitless labor. They scrubbed 17 railroad spikes of their rust, pounded chunks of cement to near oblivion, stripped some wires, and painted vaguely Marxist clichés on black paper in which they nailed to the wall. It was all set to a soundtrack of noise-influenced audio collage recalling sounds of industry, worker drone and mass transport. Yet it never left 38104.
This summer was the Summer of Cloar; as well, the southern issue of New American Paintings has just left the racks. An exhibition-in-print, South #106 was juried by Miranda Lash, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at NOMA. Her introductory words are well-suited here as we say farewell, but not goodbye, to the unforgettable work of Carroll Cloar; as we embrace the landscape-revisited by Memphis artists Maysey Craddock and Erin Harmon; as we reinvent traditional art spaces; as we soldier on while staying put. To paraphrase Lash, southern artists tend to use narrative painting, Regionalism, and Realism as a segue to Surrealism. The South attracts those seeking a sense of history and roots. Against this backdrop of traditions, they live independently from fads and pressures. Traditions provide endless inspiration and, at times, frustration that provokes questioning.