VISUAL ARTS ‌ Part of the Furniture 

Twenty artists get commercial for a weekend in a spacious, abandoned retail site on Upper King Street

click to enlarge The mononymous Anj exhibited abstract works inspired by 'creative energy release'
  • The mononymous Anj exhibited abstract works inspired by 'creative energy release'

Last weekend's hit-and-run group show The Chase Is On was an exhibit with many similarities to Different Artists, Different Mediums, an extended-run show still on view at the old 96 Wave offices in West Ashley. Both events commandeer unorthodox venues, championing local artists and giving them each a cohesive space to strut their stuff with few restrictions on what their work should constitute. The shows even share a few artists (Kevin Taylor, Philip Hyman, and Bea Aaronson). But the similarities end there.

The Chase occurred in the old Chase furniture store at 414 King Street, next to the old county library, with more room for visitors to appreciate the work from more than a few feet away. Slick oil paintings were displayed beside sculptures, textiles, ceramics, and jewelry. The store even had room for lighting and furniture, most notably Boyd Boggs' curly wood creations.

Many of the artworks benefited from having room to breathe. Typically tucked away in Studio Open on Folly Beach, Sherry Browne's collages looked complex and imaginative here, including Japanese-tinged pieces like "Eventide." EMS Barnwell's watery work in pen and ink also seemed better suited to this location than in its previous solo venue, Nula on lower King.

McLean Stith's work also appeared at this year's In the Spirit exhibit for Piccolo. Stith's impressive, larger-scale paintings featured ambitious, multilayered brushstrokes that gave weight to subdued colors in scenes of white woodland, dark skylines, and landscapes with bridges and powerlines.

Only one artist had a room of his own -- Kevin Taylor, holding what he described as "part garage sale, part art show." The ubiquitous artist was selling off private knick knacks along with his original art spanning student sketches from 1994 (hung on a clothes line) to paintings from the past couple of years. The area was intended to resemble his living room, complete with couches and TV sets. The artist's moving to San Francisco soon, and his adventurous, darkly comic work will be missed.

Taylor's cheeky nudes are likely to have angelic wings on their backs or fried eggs for faces. Peggy Howe's pastel nudes are more traditional but no less intriguing, capturing somber moments with stark figures on black backgrounds.

Alongside the familiar local names (Aaronson, Howe, Hyman) were other artists who don't always get much of a look. Lynne Riding's creative world is one of windswept beaches, bowed tree branches, and shifting sands. She describes her vertical paintings as "dimensional portals," made to scale with her body so that an outstretched arm can create a correlating line. Her oil on canvas depiction of Pritchard Island ("#46") includes twisted limbs like pale blue roots, with speedlines to suggest intense motion. Riding, a College of Charleston professor of Studio Art, also shows aptitude with collagraphs -- a collage printmaking technique -- in "Pritchard Island #37."

Anj is a local pioneer of Creative Energy Release, a technique encouraging people to let their energy flow freely through art. So it's ironic that she seems to be holding something back in her own work. Her abstract paintings are carefully defined; "Two Thoughts" is split in half, with a dark and light side. "Celebration" is divided vertically by a skinny sax shape. And her visual essays on emotion, "Anger" (using red and black colors) and "Fear" (with more cautious, tentative strokes) are also surprisingly subdued.

It's great to see contemporary art outside a gallery, in a prominent place where new viewers can see it. Shows like Read Brothers' outsider art events with Geoffrey Cormier and The Chase are obviously successful enough to make them a worthy part of Upper King's prettification. Best of all, though, the Chase artists mucked in together, helping to run the show and sharing some bright ideas. It's that kind of creative give-and-take that makes even the most commercially-concerned exhibition good for the city.


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