Black to Reality, Donte’ K. Hayes
February 1, 2013

Copyright © 2013 Mary Margaret Sparks. All rights reserved.

Welcome to my first in a series of First Friday Round Up articles. By highlighting specific exhibitions from the downtown First Friday Trolley Hop, I hope to call attention to the exciting visual arts community and encourage you to visit these locations (and not just on First Fridays!). Whatever is included here is but a random selection of what is offered in a range of Louisville galleries.

This First Friday was a cold one and not many people were out for the hop. I didn’t see any trolleys running, so I stayed on East Market Street and checked out most of the galleries there.

I started with PYRO Gallery. They’ve been at their new location (909 East Market Street, Suite 300, behind Cake Flour) for about two months. The current exhibition, called Natural Inclinations, features PYRO member Bette Levy with guest artists Vallorie Henderson, James Grubola and Kay Polson Grubola.  

All of the artists are well known in the Louisville art scene and bring unique, experienced work to the exhibit. The show overall was great, and I especially loved the hand-felted vessels by Henderson. Although the show had a cohesive theme, it appeared that four smaller exhibitions existed within the larger one, as each artist had his or her own designated space.

Polson Grubola’s work is delicate and shows viewers the fragility and beauty of nature. I especially liked her piece Belisama about the Celtic Goddess of light and fire, the forge and of craft. The tiny sculpture, enclosed within a clear case and stands only a few inches tall, resembles a fire but is made with Golden Rain Tree fruit, pheasant feathers and vine. Its connection to mythology and the use of primitive natural materials takes you back to ancient times. The series of small sculptures have a magical feel to them. When I saw the cicada shell covered in gold leaf, I was fascinated by the artist’s attention to detail. Polson Grubola’s work shows that not all moving and powerful sculptures must be large and overbearing.  

Bette Levy had some wonderful fabric wall hangings. I was drawn to one in particular where she used rust to dye the silk. Henderson’s vessels are stunning and represent the balance between delicate silk and the hardiness of felt. The natural shapes and colors appear perfectly blended. Although the artist leaves the edges in their natural shape after felting, they look pristine and delicate. The use of sticks and other natural materials connects well with the work of Polson Grubola, and the curved shapes in the vessels connect your eye to the faux calligraphy embroidered on Levy’s wall hangings.

The Slipper Room, Henry Hornstein
After PYRO, I made my way up to Paul Paletti’s Gallery. The current show is Different Worlds: Selections from Close Relations and Show and features work by Henry Horenstein. The work is all portraiture and brings you in to its singular world.  As Horenstein said, “Feel free to view Close Relationsas a kooky collection of pictures from the seventies. It is all of that. But I hope you’ll also see it as it was meant, as a history of a unique place and time.”  The portraits at first seem too normal, too everyday, but on closer inspection you see the photographer’s perspective and how each image is laid out and composed.  These works represent the beginning of Horenstein’s career and his newfound interest in documentary photography.  Showfeatures later work by Horenstein documenting the neo-burlesque movement. These photographs are part of the artist’s interest in preserving subcultures, with pieces that are provocative and direct but still depict the humanity of each character.  If you haven’t visited the Paul Paletti Gallery before, make sure to take a tour of their permanent collection. It houses wonderful photography masterpieces, and often someone is there to talk with you and show you around.

I continued on my path of reflection as I entered garner narrative.  I’ve been constantly impressed by the exhibitions at this gallery, and the current show again met my expectations. Featuring works by artist Donte’ K. Hayes, this series, which includes paintings and sculptures, follows the story of The Gingerblack Man. In his statement the artist says, “The Gingerblack Man acts as the consciousness of African Americans…the work peaks on how society shapes identity based on assumptions and accusations. While incorporating pop-culture, history, technology, and ‘cookie cutter’ mentality, the art opens the viewer to confront issues of imagery, stereotypes, and the social political realities of chasing the American dream.”

Once you’re drawn in by the brightly colored paintings, the viewer is hit with sad and depressing images. I connected with a painting called ‘Black to Reality’ where the Gingerblack Man is watching a TV and wires come down to his head that are connected to what appears to be a central brain transmitting the wires somewhere else. I felt that I needed to go home and read a book instead of watching the series finale of 30 Rock. I appreciate when artists use their work to stimulate change and I was impressed by the show. These works go against the norm of society and challenge the viewer.

The last two galleries I visited were Swanson Contemporary and Zephyr. Swanson Contemporary currently has a group show featuring 5 artists.  I really enjoyed a work by Cynthia Norton titled Pulidora II that consisted of a chess set made with vintage salt and pepper shakers, while Theo Edmonds has an installation called Hustler’s Paradise that combines a lot of mixed media including graffiti and is worth a closer look.

I also really enjoyed John Begley’s A Juried Show in the upstairs galleries of Zephyr.  The work is separated into three rooms: a Jury Room, an Evidence Room and a Court Room. It’s apparent that Begley is a curator because the exhibition is perfectly displayed.  Chalkboards with sketches and lines such as ‘to see is to think’ line the wall of the Jury Room next to old artist statements from throughout Begley’s career.  The Court Room includes two films while the Evidence Room features sculptures and installations. Everything from a 1993 jar of honey to a series of spiraled binders from 2012 characterizes the type of work you’ll see from this artist/curator. When I stepped into the gallery, I immediately walked over to a piece entitled, Artist’s Palette, from 2005 where Begley collected items on his walks from his car to the office. A vintage case is open and filled with screws, wires, rusted metal and other discarded materials.

All of these exhibitions are worth the trip to the NuLu neighborhood. Don’t wait until the next First Friday Trolley Hop to view these shows. Take some time to enjoy the visual art offerings of Louisville and grab lunch or dinner at one of the local restaurants right next door. You won’t be disappointed.

Natural Inclinations will be on display through February 17 at PYRO Gallery 909 East Market Street, Suite 300. Gallery Hours: Thursday-Saturday 12-6 p.m.

Different Worlds: Selections from Close Relations and Show will be on display through February 22 at Paul Paletti Gallery, 713 East Market Street. Gallery Hours: Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. or by appointment.

Donte’ K. Hayes’ work will be on display at Garner Narrative through March 30. Their gallery is located at 642 East Market Street. Gallery Hours: Wednesday-Saturday1-6 p.m., First Friday 1-9 p.m., and by appointment.

JP Begley – A Juried Show and Darryl Halbrooks – Fiberglass Paintings will be on display through February 9 at Zephyr Gallery, 610 East Market Street.