VISUAL ARTS ‌ Mixed Media 

Brenda Cook brings a hectic New York vibe to West Ashley

Different Artists, Different Mediums
On view through Jan. 7
Free
1964 Ashley River Rd.
766-2200
A Matter of Light and Depth
On view through Jan. 13
Free
Robert Lange Studios
151 East Bay St
805-8052

R.T. Shepherd gets bored easily. Instead of sticking to one medium, he switches from landscapes to abstract acrylics to portraits in pencil. In Brenda Cook's Different Artists, Different Mediums show, Shepherd gets a large room to himself, but it isn't enough to contain his energetic creations, which spill down a corridor on each wall.

This is a man who has to create art, whether he has a canvas handy or not -- hence the flurried dashes of paint on a Delta boarding pass for "Double Breasted Mattress Thrasher." His sculptures have a similar spontaneous verve and often use found objects; one contains coins, another has a mounted staple remover. Shepherd says that he threw in the 3D work "to give the room muscularity," and while the space is busy enough without these oddments, their colors contrast well with his black-and-white sketches.

Shepherd's just one of 18 artists featured in this contemporary exhibition, which opened last weekend in the old 96 WAVE headquarters in West Ashley's Pinepoint Plaza. The skeleton of a radio station is still there, with soundproof rooms and windowed booths. Each room is self-curated by a different artist, and no space is wasted. With over 3,000 square feet to play with, participants have room to show old and new work to its best advantage.

The show mirrors Shepherd's eclectic interests with art in every nook, including installations in cubicles and a well-stocked office kitchen commandeered by Bea Aaronson. The wall cupboards display her sculptures, while another room showcases her abstract work.

Aaronson, who provided the image for last spring's Piccolo Spoleto poster, has never been sniffy about the location of her shows; radiant pieces from her "Synergies" series were recently displayed in the Earth Fare café. But here she has a better opportunity to show her range of abilities. Her "Exquisite Surgery" has a graphic art sensibility, using vivid and glossy collages to sell an idea. "Inspiration" shows a pen overlaid on a lightbulb; "Carpe Diem" evokes strong emotions, with a hand pushing flora aside. Aaronson successfully elevates everyday objects, giving them a Hollywood sheen.

Organizer Brenda Cook recently moved back to Charleston from New York and brings a frenetic Chelsea art scene sensibility with her, transforming a wasted office space into a gallery. Keen on giving young artists a break, she's included paintings by Jesse Hendrix, whose ambiguous figures are carefully composed, creating a sense of depth combined with a fluidity of line. Hendrix makes a confident use of colors, making brighter objects shine by placing them on dark backgrounds.

Christina Bailey, like Hendrix, works at the Gibbes Museum. She uses discarded canvases for her own work. In one example of her "Falling With Hope" series, a matchstick man dances on a background of green, white, and red verticals reminiscent of the Italian flag. A tulip motif keeps the mood light. Bailey hasn't found a niche yet, and her playfulness could be mistaken for a lack of vision. Yet she's obviously enjoying the process as she explores the potentials of line and texture.

All the show's artists are from Charleston, including Trey Beasley, Julie Townsend, and the ubiquitous Phillip Hyman, whom Cook describes as "the Barnum and Bailey of all the artists." Leo Hamsberry provides colorful oil on canvas work, some with an ancient Egyptian influence, others akin to Picasso's cubist portraits.

There will be receptions every Saturday night (6-11 p.m.) through the show's run, giving visitors a chance to hear music and sound installations. There's such an array of art work on hand that viewers may need more than one evening to experience it all.

More sedate but no less appealing, Robert Lange has a new exhibition of oil paintings at his downtown East Bay Street gallery. The 25-year-old hyper-realist also tackles different subjects, juxtaposing still lifes with figurative paintings. They're by turns winsome, melancholy, and teasing, with a knowing nod to viewers that's evident in witty titles like "Lonesome Pear."

"Tucked Away" (oil on linen) depicts half a row boat moored at the top of the frame, floating on unnaturally smooth inky blue water. There are no ripples or reflections other than a few shadows on the surface, in parallel to the curves of the boat. Conjuring a mood of isolation, it's as if viewers are witnessing an interlude, an empty moment between events.

"Why I Paint" is one of a series featuring a girl in a kimono, her back to the viewer. She's looking through a window at a yellow, parchment-hued sky. The choice of colors and the girl's posture create a wistful quality.

The studio's latest offering makes good use of a cozy downtown gallery space. Frustratingly, many of the contents are variations on themes that the artist has explored before. Lange is capable of so much more. Perhaps his more experimental work is tucked away to make room for the pieces that sell. One hopes we have a chance to see them one of these days.


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