Frist Center for the Visual Arts through October 8
WORDS Kathleen Boyle
In 1940, art critic Clement Greenberg made a bold statement hinged upon art’s route to abstraction: “… abstract art like every other cultural phenomenon reflects the social and other circumstances of the age in which its creators live.” Although published over the latter half of a century ago, Greenberg’s position on abstraction still maintains an authoritative pulse. Communicative in ways that lexicon is not, abstract art enables the expansion upon naturally occurring forms. Such discourse hovers throughout Pattern Recognition: Art and Music Videos in Middle Tennessee, the latest exhibition on view at the Conte Community Arts Gallery at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts. Consisting of digital photography and videos by area artists McLean Fahnestock, Morgan Higby-Flowers, Joon Sung, and John Warren, Pattern Recognition is a collection of active yet heavily abstracted imagery that flusters the senses.
A pattern recognition is, as explained by Frist Center Chief Curator Mark Scala, a computer-science term that denotes the process of “the identification and organization of patterns, combining data from across the information spectrum.” Useful in areas such as image recognition and medical diagnosis, pattern recognition is a technological practice whose results determine repetition as a catalyst for source information. And what better avenue to rupture such a system than with art? “Artists in this exhibition explore patterns not to establish predictability so much as to undermine the expected,” said Scala. “There is a sublime irrationality in their works, which in the end points to the human side of any equation, the ghost in the machine.”
While the artwork of Fahnestock, Higby-Flowers, Sung, and Warren each maintains distinct visual sensibilities, their grouping delivers a subversive dynamic largely due to the exhibition’s theme. Pattern Recognition explores a candid break from expectations via a computer analogy, yet the digital media used by these artists is quite thick, pronounced—it is artwork that utilizes semblances of pattern recognition as it combats its necessity. And it works. From oversaturated hues propelled at dizzying speeds, to geometric forms that dance to piano sonatas; jarring nautical juxtapositions, and hand-painted film strips frantically spliced together— each of these works successfully alters reality in unprecedented beauty. And while these compositions may not necessarily connect with one’s rationale, it does evoke aesthetic resonance, a disconnecting breath from our digital age. A calming paradox.
Pattern Recognition also features music videos for various Nashville recording artists (Ancient Ocean, Sturgill Simpson, and Cortney Tidwell to name a few) who have upheld experimental videography in their productions. “For years, we have been witness to the flowering of our creative community, with an increasingly energized relationship between disciplines,” remarked Scala. “These artists, musicians, and videographers represent a generation that seeks experiences that are transformational, pushing boundaries and raising questions about perception.”
Pattern Recognition: Art and Music Videos in Middle Tennessee was organized by the Frist Center for the Visual Arts and is on view through October 8. For more information, please visit www.fristcenter.org.