The effort of art is to slow the rapid motion, to bring it to a halt so that it can be seen, known. - Joyce Carol Oates

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Magenta Red

Jared Small Brings a Surreal South to David Lusk Gallery

Lusk’s Nashville outpost frequently closes its calendar year with a Small show. It’s happened often enough that I’ve come to think of these exhibitions as something like a holiday tradition. This year, it’s the present you knew you were going to get, but once you unwrap it you realize that it’s even better than you had expected.

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Jr nothing ever goes unseen

John Roberts’ “Nothing Ever Goes Unseen” at David Lusk Gallery

“I’m sitting here in the yard right now, and I feel like someone’s watching me from the window upstairs,” John Roberts tells me over the phone...“There’s just so much history here." This history and the legends that linger in the fabric of his environment have, in turn, laid the backdrop for Roberts’ first solo show: “Nothing Ever Goes Unseen.” In this series of paintings, various figures from the generations before him stare directly at the viewer without shame or menace.

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Artists Talk: Kelly S. Williams on Her Painting ‘L’Origine du Monde on Instagram’

“So it’s not only the history of the painting, but the way it was displayed, and how it’s treated now. For me, the vision of it behind curtains, shown in that original way, kind of led me to this framing of the painting with the triangle. There’s this on-display feel, and I’m pushing that further. The framing with the faux wood was just my way of creating an altar, a showpiece, a viewing room. Giving it all those things that I think it also originally had. It’s a deeply appreciative devotional altar to that painting."

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Hf red

With ‘Light is a Place,’ Huger Foote explores his Delta dreamscapes

Consider the lush rural landscapes, golden hour light, a summer deluge vaporizing instantly as it hits hot asphalt. Consider the beauty alongside cigarette butts, crime scene tape, decaying and overripe organisms. Many of these elements fit into the expected repertoire of Southern photography. However, Foote expands beyond the common themes with his contemplations of form: baroque diagonals, Fibonacci spirals, serene triangles. "Light is a Place" meditates on the mystic, unyielding composition of our seemingly disordered world.

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Art Meets Its Soundtrack Deep in ‘The Dirty South’

A second kickoff piece, “Summer Breeze,” by the Atlanta artist Paul Stephen Benjamin, sets a very different tone. Installed just outside the main galleries, it’s a pyramid of stacked video monitors. One plays a 1959 clip of Billie Holiday singing “Strange Fruit,” the chilling dirge about racial lynching that she made famous. But the tape incorporates an editing glitch. When she sings the line “Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze” it comes out “Black bodies swinging in the sun,” a description that corresponds to the single image playing on almost all the other screens: that of a young Black girl, bathed in sunlight and slowly swaying on a playground swing.

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Summer breeze

A Cosmos of Southern Black Expression: “The Dirty South” at The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Beckoning visitors to the exhibition’s entrance is Paul Stephen Benjamin’s Summer Breeze (2018), a large-scale configuration of various sizes of tube televisions in a form resembling an altar. The majority of the screens play a video of a Black child on a swing, moving back and forth toward and away from the viewer. At the installation’s core, a single screen plays footage from Billie Holiday’s iconic 1959 performance of “Strange Fruit,” flanked by clips of Jill Scott’s impassioned 2015 version of the same song.

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Beth install 3

Beth Edwards: Wonderstruck at David Lusk Gallery, Memphis

The entryway is light, and the gallery rooms are dim in Beth Edwards’ Wonderstruck, on view at David Lusk Gallery in Memphis. The exhibition is split between two spaces: in the one to the right are Zinnias paintings; and to the left, grassier paintings: Clover, Hydrangea, and Daisies.

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Mural of a Lifetime

A new mural in Cole Field House, home to the David C. Driskell Center, honors the life of the late David C. Driskell, renowned artist and scholar of Black American art, and longtime University of Maryland professor of art. Designed by David C. Driskell Center then-artist-in-residence Brandon Donahue, the 9-foot-tall, 35-foot-wide mural honors Driskell’s own background and bold, colorful art.

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Exhibits by Alicia Henry and William Eggleston Are Worth Your Time

If you’ve ever questioned whether seeing a work of art in person will change your perception of it, let two current exhibits on Hagan Street answer that for you. Start at David Lusk Gallery, where a grid of 23 never-before-seen photographs by the legendary William Eggleston is spotlit like a moody film-noir set. The shots were taken in or around 1990, and the title — For Lucia — references Eggleston’s longtime mistress Lucia Burch. But the rest of the story behind the scenes is a mystery. The photographs are quintessential Eggleston — the snapshot aesthetic he pioneered is so prevalent in the digital era that it’s easy to take it for granted.

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