by Joe Nolan

Film still from by Brent Stewart from Quintet exhibit at Zeitgeist Gallery

Primarily a filmmaker, Brent Stewart has recently been creating work in various media for his shows at Zeitgeist. For his shared 2011 exhibit with local multimedia artist Patrick DeGuira, Stewart’s work was so enthusiastically diversified it was hard to tell whose work was whose. Stewart’s August exhibit Quintet was a multi-channel film installation that found the artist returning to moving images, delivering his strongest show yet. Using specialized video monitors on precisely fitted pedestals, the installation felt like a sculpture exhibition as much as a video show. The screens presented an improvising dancer moving through various wrecked environments, bringing grace to gravel and grime, the camera movements kept to a minimum. Many video artists make fundamental mistakes when filming performances, but not Stewart. He thoughtfully shot a captivating subject, involved in a compelling activity. Sounds easy, huh?

Video display by Brent Stewart from Quintet exhibit at Zeitgeist Gallery

Many art world gatekeepers separate graffiti, tattoos, and skate graphics from fine art. Of course, when canvases by graffiti artists sold for breathless ransoms in the ’80s few seemed to complain. In August, Blackbird Gallery and Tattoo bridged the gap between historic masterpieces and street art with Remasters of the Universe. Featuring new takes on old classics, my favorite was Randy McQuien Jr.’s Bird Girl Sitting in a Cemetery with Zombies, which reimagined Delacroix’s Orphan Girl Sitting in a Cemetery, complete with a Crumbesque, beaked heroine set in a blood-spattered frame.

Ostensibly a show of preparatory works, Constable: Oil Sketches from the Victoria and Albert Museum was the Frist Center‘s dark horse summer exhibition. This retrospective of the pioneering landscape painter’s career demonstrated how our contemporary conception of what a finished work looks like differs so vastly from Constable’s. It also revealed the painter’s prescient, impressionistic stylizing—a technique commonly thought to appear in painting only after the advent of photography.

John Constable. A Dog Watching a Water-vole in the Water at Dedham, 1831. Pencil and watercolor, 7 1/4 x 8 7/8 in. Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 235-1888. © Victoria and Albert Museum / V&A images



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