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Cumberland Gallery’s Small & Large Packages is Full of Surprises

Alex Lockwood Shinging Snake

Alex Lockwood “Shining Snake” (2011)

A bustling group of gallery-goers braved the beginnings of this weekend’s bad weather on Thursday night to participate in a Nashville art scene holiday tradition: the opening reception for the 19th Annual Holiday Exhibition: Small & Large Packages at Cumberland Gallery.

It was a friendly hang that found artists, collectors, dealers and designers looking back on 2013 – some were even overwhelmed by a sense of Déjà vu as they seemed to pick-up last year’s Packages talk right where they’d left off about 365 days before.

For holiday shoppers, the show is a display of mostly-smaller works of art accompanied by appropriately modest price tags. For those with a deeper interest in Nashville’s art scene, Packages always offers a dynamic overview of Cumberland’s creative stable which includes Marilyn Murphy, Bob Durham, Jeff Danley, and Patrick Brien who created the small, limited edition screen print the gallery included with their holiday card this year.

In addition to the gallery’s more-familiar faces, this year’s Packages show included work by two of the gallery’s newer artists: Greg Sand and Alex Lockwood.

Photographer Greg Sand’s process isn’t hard to understand, but that doesn’t make his techniques any less impressive or his results any less magical. Sand photographs photographs. The artist’s modus operandi recalls everything from contemporary digital scanning and copying to the kind of appropriated images that Richard Prince first presented as his own in 1975.

One can see both the old and the new in Sand’s work. The digital technology the artist employs is what makes the images possible – in this sense the work is utterly contemporary. However the photos that Sand’s manipulates are vintage, black and white images. The fashionable trend associated with vintage goods bring an air of preciousness to the proceedings, but this too shall pass. In the end, Sand’s results sidestep any questioning of his means.

Sand digitally manipulates his nostalgic scenes, erasing the face of a woman on a couch with the blast from a flashbulb. In another, two children stand side by side and marvel at their stretching shadows in the setting summer sun. But after Sand has his way, all that remains are their shadows anchored to their empty shoes.

Alex Lockwood’s website is a must-visit site for anyone who loves collage and mixed-media work. Collage artists sometimes get a bad rap for their lazy-seeming appropriations of textures, colors and imagery. The criticism can be spot on, but sometimes artists are able to transform the creativity of others into something far removed from the intentions and aesthetics of the original artist(s), making work that stands on its own in its own right.

Lockwood’s “Shining Snake” certainly qualifies as an alchemical transmutation of one form for another. By precisely folding and connecting handfuls of losing scratch-off lottery tickets, Lockwood creates snakelike shapes that bulge and twist in sinewy geometries, suggesting the rush of real scales and the bright flashing of fangs. But Lockwood’s reptiles are gorgeous – their bold, printed colors are dazzling; the shiny cards look metallic under gallery lights. The magnificent mutation is made possible by the artist’s flawless, attentive craft and the fact that the cards are rendered nearly unrecognizable in the process is the real jackpot here.

Lockwood’s snake doesn’t have a head, and the sculpture’s neverending structure recalls the ouroboros’ swallowing its own tail. Like Lockwood’s snake,  Packages reconciles beginnings and endings, tying one year to the next and offering a forward-looking present between old acquaintances.

Small & Large packages runs through January 4, 2014

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About Joe Nolan

Joe Nolan is the visual arts editor. He is a poet, musician, artist and critic who distills the city's gallery scene from Nashville's east side. Find out more about his projects at joenolan.com. (Photo of Joe Nolan by John Rogers)

Comments

  1. bob durham says:

    Good article, Joe. I was wondering what in the hell that snake was made of…..

    • Joe Nolan says:

      Thanks for reading, Bob! Yeah, great use of materials on that there piece.