by Joe Nolan
Summer can be a slow time for gallery going, but three recent shows found me beating the heat, staring at walls full of drawings, paintings, and photographs.
Bill Traylor was born into slavery in 1854. An illiterate farmer, Traylor didn’t begin creating his startlingly modern drawings until he was 82 years old. The artist’s images of animals are loaded with personality, and his depictions of characters engaging in frantic, bizarre, unexplained activities positively crackle with intensity. Traylor’s eponymous exhibit at the Frist Center is required viewing for anyone going to see their Creation Story: Gee’s Bend Quilts and the Art of Thornton Dial.
Hans Schmitt-Matzen’s Aerial Maneuvers at Zeitgeist found the artist continuing to explore the relationship between painting and photography, applying his own expressions to the surfaces of appropriated black-and-white aerial photos. Schmitt-Matzen added thick, oozing gestures of black-and-white paint as well as repetitive patterning that spoke to and contradicted the images he obscured in the process. The work contrasted the strict, still pictures created by airplanes and cameras with the flowing, sensual capacities of paint put at the service of an artist’s hand. Aerial is on my short list of the best of 2012.
Photographer Shane Doling and painter Dooby Tomkins opened their Brick Factory show during the July Art Crawl. Dooling’s surreal photographs referenced the 1970s thriller Possession, and the artist’s no-nonsense clipping of his shiny, unframed prints directly to the wall gave them a sensual presence that felt almost sculptural. Tomkins’ large paintings combine pop culture imagery in absurd compositions. Work similar to Tomkins’ is often accomplished through printing, and his comparatively painterly panels stand out in contrast. Tomkins becomes a better painter with every exhibit, and his new images are all the more striking and hilarious when his rendering is at its most rigorous.
fristcenter.org zeitgeist-art.com brickfactorynashville.com