CAN’T WALK AWAY: The Biennial 2015 showcases artwork of 43 Alabma contemporary artists
Published 2:00 am Saturday, August 8, 2015
Walking through the doors of the Johnson Center for the Arts you might feel like a kid in a candy shop.
“Celebrating Contemporary Art in Alabama: The Biennial 2015” is that kind of art exhibit. You run from one piece of art to the other with the excitement and anticipation of going from one candy jar to the next.
The Biennial opened at the Johnson Center on August 1 and those who have attended have had a candy store experience.
Mack Gibson, chair of the Johnson Center board of directors, laughingly, said he went from here to there and everywhere with child-like excitement.
“I’m so proud of what we have to show the public, he said. “This is an amazing, a phenomenal exhibit of the work of 43 of Alabama’s most outstanding contemporary artists. It’s fun. It’s exciting, and it’s a different kind of art show. You move through the exhibits exited to see what’s around the corner.”
Although Gibson said he approaches some of the artwork with a bit of apprehension, when he reads the tags about the pieces he immediately “gets it.”
“What these artists are doing is getting us to look at things in a different way, and, when we do, what we see is amazing,” he said. “Their art makes an impact, and you come away with much more than you had expected to get from the exhibit.”
The Johnson Center for the Arts will host a reception for the participating Alabama artists from 2 until 4 p.m. Sunday and the public is invited.
“I’m looking forward to the reception and to having an opportunity to talk with the artists about their work,” Gibson said. “Once you hear about the inspiration for their artwork and the process, you get a feeling for their work and have a deeper appreciation for it.”
Vicki Pritchett, Johnson Center executive director, said those who have viewed The Biennial have had the same response as Gibson.
“You have to react to the artwork of these highly recognized Alabama artists,” she said. “You can’t look at it and walk away. It makes an impact.”
The wide selection of media fills all eight galleries of the art center.
“The featured artists are current and past recipients of prestigious Visual Arts and Fine Crafts Fellowships from the Alabama State Council on the Arts,” Pritchett said. “Several of the artists have received the award more than one time. This is a very prestigious group of artists from all across Alabama. So, when you view The Biennial, you are getting a cross section of contemporary art in our home state and it is amazing.”
Michael Sims’ installation, titled “Plantation Cabaret” tells the story of the natural growth and decay that underscores his identity as an Alabamian. The installation features a rabbit at the center.
“Michael created the entire installation, from the dress the rabbit is wearing to its moss head of natural materials and reclaimed materials to make a personal statement,” Pritchett said.
Installations are a big part of The Biennial and Pritchett said watching the artists “install” their artwork was fascinating.
“They didn’t ship their pieces for someone else to install; they came from Huntsville to Mobile and installed their work to make sure the installations expressed what they wanted them to express,” she said. “The encaustic ‘Vernal Pools’ by Zdenko Krtic of Auburn makes a statement about wetlands and the rare plants and animals that survive and thrive in those harsh environments.”
Pritchett said “Queen Virginiana and King of Detritus” by textile artist Rachel Wright are commentaries on Mardi Gras.
“Queen Virginiana is named for the Southern Oaks along the Gulf Coast and is made from recycled materials,” Pritchett said. “The King of Detritus was inspired by a map of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta.”
The map is a part of his clothing and the background for the king is an aerial view of the delta.
“When the Swallows Return” by Janice Kluge is a flight of swallows made of clay and is representative of one’s rise above the fear of limitations,” Pritchett said. “‘The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light,’ by Karen Graffeo of Montevallo is about the aftermath of the chaos of the Tuscaloosa tornado. The crumpled, floating papers are human mementoes falling back to earth.
“There are many wonderful paintings, sculptures and pieces of glass art in the show and work together to make The Biennial one of the most fascinating exhibits ever at the Johnson Center.
“We invite everyone to join us as we recognize and honor the participating artists. Many of them will be here and will be available to answer questions and share their stories with our patrons.”
Pritchett said a few tickets remain for the Sock Hop at the Studio tonight.
“People are crazy about our featured band, The Fabulous Shades,” she said. “They are all Troy boys, and they play those favorite tunes from the 1960s and 1970s and kid-friendly songs like ‘Poison Ivy’ and ‘Hang on Snoopy.’ So, we invite everyone to put on their socks and bop on down to The Studio on East Walnut Street at 7 o’clock tonight. Admission is $20 and tickets may be purchased at the door.