Having grown up in the 1980s, I felt an immediate smile cross my lips when I saw a prominent wall at if ART Gallery displaying hyper-realistic drawings of VHS tapes, created in permanent marker, surrounded by hideously ironic yellow flowered wallpaper. Hollis Brown Thornton always brings a sense of humor to his works, and these — along with his acrylic pixelated Chewbacca portraits (what he terms pigment transfers) — are no exception. Living in a digital age and speaking to both the mundane and bizarre remnants of pop culture that surround us, Thornton’s work is brilliant.
The latest exhibition at if ART Gallery in the Vista, Across the Board: New Works, features works by 21 artists from throughout the United States, plus one from the Netherlands. Many are from Columbia or the Southeast. The thread that runs throughout is simply that these works are recent.
From landscapes to abstract explosions of color to a five-foot-tall pig idol going for $35,000, the show has works to appeal to a wide range of artistic tastes.
Among the artists in the show: Brown (Aiken), Leo Twiggs (Orangeburg), Diane Kilgore Condon (Greenville), Leslie Hinton (San Antonio, Texas), Dorothy Netherland (Charleston), Tom Stanley (Rock Hill), Mary Gilkerson (Columbia), Philip Morsberger (Augusta, Georgia), Sjaak Korsten (Netherlands), Edward Rice (North Augusta), Ashlynn Browning (Raleigh, North Carolina) and Phil Garrett (Columbia). The gallery never disappoints in having a top-notch selection of contemporary works by exceptional artists.
Another interesting young artist in Across the Board is Leslie Hinton, who creates small ceramic sculptures that address real-life issues — with a twist. Hinton, who has exhibited at the Blue Spiral Gallery in Asheville — a well-respected venue for contemporary Southeastern artists — addresses relationships and animals stemming from her own imaginary world. On a scale to that of a child’s toy, Hinton creates playful, surreal creatures that combine animal and human body parts. San Antonio Zoo shows a plump child with a hippopotamus head eating a popsicle in each hand while donning a backpack and sneakers. Having been a follower of Hinton’s work for nearly eight years, I was excited to see it has slowly evolved and refined in its technique, while still staying true to the artist’s inner child.
Dorothy Netherland’s recent works put the focus on her daughter, exploring the many different faces and emotions of being a teenage girl. In an age of selfies and changing explorations in sexuality and femininity, Netherland shows the many facets of a young girl’s self-discovery. These mixed-media works on wood panel include magazine model’s eye cutouts, acrylic paint, Mylar and other media. A grid of more than 15 8-by-10-inch panels displays a young brunette wearing all sorts of outfits and a facial expression that seems to say, “I don’t care what you think, but ... how’s my hair?” The works are bright, flashy and full of mystical charm.
A series of works in the back of the gallery carries a visual presence different from other works in the show. Diane Kilgore Condon’s paintings of animals and immensely lush environments, painted in a more traditional representational style than some of the other art in this exhibition, show the incredible beauty of a bird’s movement across the canvas, almost frame by frame but within a confined canvas. With an incredibly rich use of color, Condon demonstrates a true mastery of her medium (oil on panel) while also showing nature in a beautiful, almost surreal dreamlike state.
The talent and color on view in Across the Board is almost overwhelming. The works, though widely varied visually, somehow work harmoniously within the space, ebbing and flowing from wall to wall. Across the Board truly lives up to its title, giving the viewer a good snapshot of what today’s artists have to offer — not just in Columbia, but everywhere.
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