New Arrivals 

September's exhibitions see galleries lightening up

click to enlarge On view at a gallery near you this fall season: 'Suitors' by Philip Inwood; 'East End X' by Kathleen Earthrowl - LESLIE MCKELLAR
  • Leslie McKellar
  • On view at a gallery near you this fall season: 'Suitors' by Philip Inwood; 'East End X' by Kathleen Earthrowl

The kids are back at school and local big-shot art collectors have returned from their summer vacations, so it's time for Charleston's galleries to put up their shiniest new shows. The Gibbes, Halsey, and Redux are all exhibiting the work of innovative artists this month. There are also 100-plus private galleries with exhibits on view downtown.

The sheer range of available art can be bewildering, and there are too many new exhibitions to mention in one article, but here's a bunch worth checking out.

iShow: You Are Where
Modernisme, the Gallery at Avondale
21 Magnolia Road
On view through Sept. 22
(843) 763-1551

Modernisme is celebrating its first year of existence by looking to the future. iShow explores the good and bad sides of technology, from the virtual highways of the internet to public transport.

Julie Henson continues to explore the theme of isolation with white silhouette subway passengers. The large image creates a powerful impression of perspective; stand back and it's possible to see into the further reaches of the train.

Nathan Durfee is showing digital art at Modernisme for the first time. It's as distinctive as his painting. His figures have square, cheeky faces, and the colors suggest a dark storybook world. In keeping with the show's central motif, he examines the good and bad sides of the digital age. It can be a great source of information; one piece shows a web page full of doughty information ballooning from a man's open-topped head. It can be a waste of time; he shows this in a painting where a sheep's fart is broadcast for all to hear. One of the male figures is so eager to share some vacuous thoughts that he hasn't got round to putting his pants on. It's not the first presumptive prick we've seen hanging out in an art gallery, but this is a unique occurrence for the modest Modernisme.

Durfee also presents a pixelated take on Marcel Duchamp's "L.H.O.O.Q.," the French iconoclast's comment on poor prints of "La Giaconda." In Durfee's version, a scrubby digital version of Mona Lisa is returned to her original size, left seriously blurred but still recognizable. Imagine La Lisa arrested for enigmatic smiling on Cops, her face fuzzed out, and you'll get the idea.

Some of Modernisme's artists have contributed very different examples of contemporary photography. Sarah Fitzgibbon Bernardi has taken small details from a decomposing tractory. Katie Leonard juxtaposes text with everyday objects such as a typewriter and a clock, shot on an incongruous patch of grass. Kevin Hoth uses Facebook images in his very own version of mix 'n' match.

iShow effectively demonstrates the ingenuity of Modernisme's artists. The high concept inspired them to come up with user-friendly work that — unlike the iPhone — won't drop in price by $200 as soon as it's purchased.

Reorientation
Redux Contemporary Art Center,
St. Phillips St.
On view through Sept. 22
(843) 722-0697

With low cost studios and a loyal following in the local visual arts community, Redux has attracted some imaginative artists to its circle. For its second Reorientation show, College of Charleston Assistant Professor Lori Kornegay culled indicative work from some of the gallery's best and brightest.

Erik Johnson displays rusty tie wire and mixed media sculptures in "Line Up," giving old fashioned and easily recognizable objects extra depth. He magnifies the size of most of the objects (a revolver, an old phone) and shrinks others (a fire hydrant, a T-Rex). Playthings and dangerous items become strange neighbors, casting their skeletal shadows on the white wall.

There's a light thread of humor running through this show. Jonathan Brilliant's cast/aluminum polished Starbucks-style cups are a wry comment on consumer fetishism. Townsend Davidson continues the consumer trend with "Real Estate," in which the Mayflower goes shopping for land and finds a coastline sporting a For Sale sign. Colleen Terrell acknowledges the power lines, telephone poles, and other urban scabs that most local artists choose not to paint. Terrell takes these lines and continues them off her canvases, onto the walls.

It's important that these serious artists don't take themselves too seriously. By laughing at themselves, they stop their work from becoming stale or repetitive. Kornegay, just back from a year in Tokyo, is the perfect objective curator to reorient viewers to Redux's potential. Realist architectural art, "three-dimensional line drawings," screenprints on glass, woodcuts, oils, and photographs all coexist and complement each other. Maybe it will take that kind of objectivity to help Charleston continue to build a cohesive profile like this on a larger scale, while retaining its sense of creativity and fun.

Philip Inwood
John Dunnan Gallery,
131 King St.
On view through Sept. 21
(843) 720-7425

Charlestonian Philip Inwood's solo show covers three years of work. He paints layers of oil over India ink drawings on heavy textured paper; his style is partly inspired by Japanese ink drawings. But these aren't formalized, hard-lined landscapes or dainty collections of shapes. They're oozing abstracts full of rural gold and burnished red, depicting moods rather than places.

Some suggest figures — in "Suitors," purple arms stretch out toward a yellow and pink companion. "Torso" features a loose-boweled look at an x-ray of multi-colored organs. "Summer Dance" shows a number of curving shapes, arms outstretched, looking out at the viewer.

As he makes new attempts to suggest nimble movement with his strokes, Inwood's enthusiasm is palpable. Once he settles on a color or motif that really expresses his style, that excitement will be easy for viewers to pick up on and enjoy. His current show at the Dunnan Gallery is more of a sampler, full of ideas and never settled.

Kathleen Earthrowl: New Arrivals
Eva Carter Gallery,
132 E. Bay St.
On view through Sept. 26
(843) 722-0506

Texan Kathleen Earthrowl's Abstracted Landscapes show mesmerized us back in March. Now Eva Carter is officially representing her work and devoting considerable space to her New Arrivals.

A few lines are all Earthrowl needs to suggest tree branches and vines. The V shapes of the branches reach up toward golden sunlight. The twigs stretching over the artist's trademark ponds are made with deft scratches in the oil. Reeds are conveyed with glowing strokes layered over the rest of the image.

There are shimmering reflections in "Lawton Pond Memoir I" and a couple of examples from her "East End" series, but there's also a calming aspect to the circular blue pools of water. The artist has also developed some broader landscapes that play up her strengths — what seem like blue skies from a distance are actually an intricate mass of purple, black, grey, and rust colors. In Earthrowl's world, nothing is cut and dried. There are always complexities flowing below the surface.

click to enlarge 'Catherine' from 'Arms in the Man' by Lindsey Quay Sikes - LESLIE MCKELLAR

Render
Lime Blue,
62B Queen St.
Opening reception Sept. 20.
On view through end of Oct.
(843) 722-1983

Usually, interns get told off for sketching when they should be working at a gallery. Lime Blue's different. While working there, College of Charleston student Lindsey Quay Sikes was encouraged to originate the art that forms Render, an exhibition of design sketches, paintings, patterns, and fashions hung on the walls.

Sikes, a senior at the college, has penciled a broad range of period and contemporary fashions. There are framed images of '40s-style gowns, '80s-type pants and low-cut blouses, and a dress made out of Skirt! magazine. The show makes good use of Lime Blue's confined space and accomplishes the gallery's goal of varying its fare.

Sikes has described herself as "just a costume designer," but her colorful, well-drawn figures hold their own against work by the other artists Lime Blue represents. (Its roster includes Susan Avent, Matt Overend, Lynn Riding, and Jeff Kopish.) — Nick Smith


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