Among the many encouraging signs that Charleston is reopening, the flurry of local visual arts events may be the most inspiring sight for sore, screen-tired eyes.
In some ways, the timing is strange. A typical cultural year in Charleston often features new summer shows at local galleries and art venues that are strategically scheduled to ride the arts-centric groundswell of Spoleto Festival USA and Piccolo Spoleto.
Like festivals, visual arts centers are making a comeback as well – and in a major creative splash meant to rekindle spirits for much of Charleston’s summer.
Informed and sometimes even enriched by their pandemic isolation, artists and arts practitioners demonstrate that they are more than ready to re-engage with the Charleston community.
At the Redux Center for Contemporary Art this week, executive director Cara Leepson was in full pre-show mode, working with a team to line up dozens of divergent works along the center’s main gallery wall, putting themselves back on the right track. way for “Creative Corridors”, their annual exhibition which presents new pieces by artists from the Redux studio.
“We expect the artist’s studio exhibition to be presented during Piccolo Spoleto every year to have that local element there. I think this is the perfect time to showcase our resident artists in the front gallery,” he said. she said, noting that the smooth reopening last year in June also featured studio artists.
“It’s kind of a full time for us, coming out of the pandemic really strong,” she said.
For the artist’s studio exhibition, the work presented relates to a specific invitation given to the artists by Leepson. This year, this invite asked artists to reflect on the “why” of their individual artistic practices, offering them an opportunity to reflect on the intention of a work.
Artist Celeste Caldwell, for example, created a series inspired by the desire to connect, each piece representing a daily and intimate moment.
“I hope my work relates to the quirks of the outside life and emotional environment of a viewer,” she said.
Connor Lock has created a piece that is an extension of his “LOVE MORE” art series exploring and questioning what we want to love more about this world.
“The found object that I painted on is a steel music record from a Polyphon music box from the 1800s. Inspired by the way this record plays music with a series of tabs patterned, I explored a lettering motif with my brush to send a visual message to the viewer, ”he said, adding that the process places him in a deeply focused state of reflection.
The exhibition represents the creative output, “why” and all, of the approximately 40 current resident artists of Redux in works which are then organized as a group exhibition in the main exhibition space of the art center.
According to Leepson, the work at Redux studios has collapsed.
“We have had a very difficult year, like everyone else last year,” she said, explaining that in terms of Redux’s triple mission of a gallery, educational programming and an artist-in-residence program, the first two slowed down intensely, but the resident artists who had access to the 38 on-site studios never wavered.
“They really kept the place alive,” she said. “And you saw this energy of the artists working here as a testament to this connection people had to art and the ability to survive as a living artist.”
“The tiger hits the green lane”
A new public art project, “Tiger Strikes Greenway”, has been created in partnership with Piccolo Spoleto. An installation of three works by Southern artists is mounted in white wooden gallery boxes on the West Ashley Greenway between Coburg and Timmerman Roads.
The inaugural trio of artists includes two locals, Camela Guevera and Jonathan Rypkema, as well as Atlanta artist Rebecca Rodriguez.
The project is part of TSAGVL, a regional arts collective with members in Charleston, Asheville and Greenville that is part of the national collective Tiger Strikes Asteroid.
It evolved from last summer’s outdoor show, Yardwork, which shared socially distanced artwork in courtyards concentrated in Charleston’s North Central neighborhood. The boxes were inspired by similar structures in Greenville’s Yardwork.
“What I like about these boxes is that they are beautiful creative spaces, but in the open air so that everyone can stumble upon them,” said Hirona Matsuda, artist and member of the group who worked with artist Susan Klein on the project. “I also think it’s a great way to get kids involved in the arts. We’ve intentionally made them short enough that most of them can take a look.”
“When the conversation started about making another outdoor public art exhibit, we decided to ask the city if they would allow us to move to the Green Lane,” Matsuda said, before thinking that it would be logical to install them in the run-up to the Piccolo Spoleto festival.
“The support from the city has been tremendous and the Avondale neighbors we met were extremely supportive of more public art in their area,” she said.
Two Halsey shows
The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art has regularly launched summer shows, kicking them off with both festivals. On May 14, he opened two simultaneous exhibitions.
“The two have radically altered their respective galleries, which is an exciting way for us to welcome and encourage visitors to return to the Halsey Institute,” said Katie Hirsch, director of Halsey, who designed the plan. with curator Bryan Granger, director of Halsey Exhibitions and Public Programs.
“Dan Estabrook: Wunderkammer,” which was originally scheduled to be on display in the spring of 2020, has been delayed due to the pandemic, which Halsey says has allowed the Brooklyn, New York-based artist to resolve lingering questions and create some new works that were included in the exhibition.
Using archaic forms of photography, such as salt prints and tintypes, Estabrook explores the objectivity of photography and its ability to represent truth.
In “Jibade-Khalil Huffman: You Are Here”, the artist uses the moving image to offer an immersive and multisensory experience to viewers.
“Huffman’s work has been on our radar for a few years and we’re delighted that he accepted our invitation to create a brand new work for ‘You Are Here’,” Kirsch said.
The two shows are informing each other. “We felt that Huffman’s exploration of truth through video and new media was a fruitful contrast to Estabrook’s own subversion of the idea of truth in photography,” Hirsch said.
In the summer
When festival staff hit their sets, the walls of Charleston will remain rich in art nouveau.
Many exhibits will remain open for weeks into the summer, giving locals and tourists an aesthetic boost – not to mention a temperature-controlled respite while the heat sets in.
The Redux exhibition “Creative Corridors” and the two Halsey shows will be available until July 17th.
Tiger Strikes Greenway will also go all the way, and it might even be the start of a bigger effort to move forward.
“If this is well received, we hope it will be something that we can continue to do with different artists and guest curators,” Matsuda said. “We would like to have the opportunity to create more boxes on other sections of the Greenway or maybe the Lowline.”
At the Halsey, the team can’t wait to be part of the daily lives of those here in Charleston again.
“I would like a visit to the Halsey Institute to be added as a regular ‘habit’ for Charlestonians,” Hirsch said. “We look forward to the day when we can all come together again in person to celebrate the work of the artists featured in our space.”
Of course, no one is more energized by public performances than the artists themselves.
“While thoughtful alone time is important to the creative process, community engagement is paramount,” Caldwell said, noting that Redux provides a platform for artists to interact with each other and in the greater Charleston area. , which allows their work to be much more meaningful, diverse and knowledgeable.
“I see the opening of ‘Creative Corridors’ as an opportunity to come back to that state of community, as we begin to feel more comfortable spending dedicated time together,” she said.
Lock said community is key to him.
“There has been a dump truck full of different emotions swirling in and around people’s hearts and minds since COVID-19 crushed us in 2020.”
A positive point was the time he had to slow down and recalculate, which led to Redux’s new work to focus on the “LOVE MORE” concept.
“As you step into this New Year, ask yourself, ‘What will you like most? ” ” he said.
For her part, the artist is hoping we can all love more art exhibits as the pandemic comes out.