Posts Tagged ‘Nina Liu & Friends’

Timing Is Everything In The Life Of An Art Viewer – A Trip To Charleston, SC

Saturday, December 8th, 2012

A week or so ago, Linda, my better half, asked me at the end of a totally unrelated conversation, “Are we going Friday?”. I asked in return if she wanted to go to some Pearl Harbor memorial, being the smart-aleck that I am – knowing she was talking about Friday Dec. 7th – which would also be the first Friday in December. That would also be the date of the mega art walk in downtown Charleston, SC, with both the First Friday on Broad and the French Quarter Gallery Association’s art walks taking place. The December art walk in Charleston is the best as it is actually dark during the walk and a good bit of the area would be in full Christmas decor. You see, that Friday would be the rare occasion when Linda would not be working and it was a first Friday. The fact that she could just ask, “Are we going Friday” and I knew exactly what she was asking is the sign of a old married couple and that I spend most of my time each month working on our calendar listings and I was fully aware that it was going to be one of those special first Friday opportunities.

In the course of working on those gallery listings I knew there were going to be some interesting shows to see that Friday. Karin Olah, one of our favorite abstract artist was returning to Charleston, from wintery Colorado, for an exhibit at Corrigan Gallery. That was a must see. Karen Vournakis, a mixed media/photographer was having an exhibit at a new gallery in town, the Atrium Art Gallery, across the street from Corrigan Gallery on Queen Street. We have not seen her work in a gallery in some time. Mickey Williams was having an exhibit at Ella Walton Richardson Fine Art Galleryand there was always Nina Liu & Friends (843/722-2724). As things turned out – the day before the art walk we learned that Smith Killian Fine Art would be showing an exhibit of works by Trip Smith – the photographer in the talented Smith Family clan of artists. And, as usual, as the days wound down to that Friday, other tasks popped up making our trip to Charleston a narrow window of opportunity – making another quick in and out visit. And as usual we spent more time in the car coming and going than we did in galleries in Charleston. My apologies go out to those galleries that with more time and energy we would have liked to visit, but didn’t get to. The major victims here were the Mickey Williams’ show and Hamlet Fine Art Gallery – Stephanie we’ll have to talk (perhaps on the phone). Plus, I always end up talking too much at each place as we run into folks we haven’t seen in awhile. But we got to four galleries and one of them twice.

Our first stop as usual is always Nina Liu & Friends gallery as we never know when it will be the last time to go there and I seem to always be able to find a parking space on her street (State Street) if we can get downtown before 5pm. We arrived on State Street and found a spot at 4:59pm.

As I titled this blog entry – timing is everything. We were the first to arrive at Nina Liu & Friends gallery and as it turned out so had a shipment of Aggie Zed’s small animal/human figures – just that afternoon. So we were lucky to get Nina Liu to set one aside for us. I don’t know why it has taken us all these years to add a Zed to our collection, but we were very lucky. Liu said about a half-dozen had already sold between the time they had arrived and we walked in the door to folks who have been waiting for that shipment. They’re still priced right too. I’m not going into the saga of Liu trying to sell her gallery/home, but the prime location is for sale. But I’ve got to say, she had more work in the gallery for sale than I’ve seen in a while.

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Work by Jeri Burdick

The gallery is showing an exhibit of Lowcountry landscapes by Katrina Schmidt-Rinke through December. But, there are lots of other things to see there. I took a few photos of a great wall piece by Jeri Burdick, who is doing something different every time I see her work. She has to be the most creative artist I know in South Carolina – no moss is growing on her talent. I also took a few photos of a multi-media piece by Cynthia Tollefsrud – not a Carolina artist, but one of the few outsiders in our collection. Her work is that good.

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Front of work by Cynthia Tollefsrud

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Inside view.

While at her gallery Liu told me about a fundraiser using art that was a win win situation. She knows I’m no fan of the over used practice of non-profits raising fund by having art auctions. I hope to have more details on this issue soon. It sounded good, but from what I heard it wasn’t 100% good, but closer than most events come to being ideal.

Next we walked across the street to Smith Killian Fine Art to see that photography show by Trip Smith. Some of you know our history in photography in Charleston – running a custom photo processing lab for 16 years and a photography art gallery. We seem a million miles from it now, but photography played a big part in our lives, so as I walked into the gallery and ran into Betty Anglin Smith, I announced I was here to see the real art in this gallery. Which was a little joke everyone enjoyed as they know we are big fans of the talented Smith clan – including Betty and the other two-thirds of the triplets Jennifer Smith Rogers and Shannon Smith, but we never get to see much of Trip’s work. Tonight was his night – finally – another joke.

Of course we started, or should I say I started talking photography with a few photographers there and time was slipping away. Things have changed in Charleston – which still has a long way to go in giving fine art photography its due respect. Photography was being shown in all four galleries we visited that evening (highlighted in two) and it is on view all over Charleston when just a decade or so ago that was not the case. But photography is still a step-child in South Carolina – things are much better in North Carolina, but the buying public still just doesn’t seem to give it the respect it deserves. Go see this show.

Now, stepping down off the soapbox, I want to tell you of another rare observation at Smith Killian Fine Art. If you are a fan of the Smith clan’s work, but feel the works are normally priced out of your pocket-book range – the gallery was full of small works with small prices on them. In fact there was on group of works on paper that were priced at only $800. Here I am talking like my son when he says something he likes and wants is only $100 or $200 – as if all I have to do is go to the backyard and pick a few bills off our money tree, but in respects to these artist’s works which are always in high demand – $800 is an opportunity for someone to get an original Betty, Shannon or Jennifer piece. I’ve included an image of one of Betty’s works. Excuse the reflections from the glass – as always art looks so much better in person.

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Work by Betty Anglin Smith

Linda had to point out to me one of Betty’s abstracts – as if I wasn’t going to notice it – that just happened to be in her favorite colors – purple. In another corner of the gallery we found one that I liked ever better. I told her we’d stop and buy some lottery tickets on the way home. As someone introduced us on this evening as having Carolina Arts, I corrected them and said Carolina Arts has us. But we can still like things and dream – can’t we.

I’ve developed expensive tastes, but with nothing to back it up, but I’m not mad when others who can are able to and do purchase things I would – if I could. It just shows me I’d know what to do with money if I had it – in case anyone is listening. Remember that old TV show the Millionaire? Mr. Buffet if you’re reading this – just saying.

Next stop was down Queen Street to see the show at Corrigan Gallery. Here was another example of good timing. Since Karin Olah has left Charleston for the wilds of Colorado I’ve managed to be in Charleston at the same time and run into her twice. Once was an unexpected meeting during a Colin Quashie exhibit at Redux Contemporary Arts Center and the planets aligned for this show. I’ve always loved her work from the moment I first saw some and I’m never disappointed. Karin and I had many a good discussion about art when she was managing the Eva Carter Gallery. A lot of the works in this show were smaller than I’m used to seeing, but that’s a good thing as they were priced to match the size – another good opportunity for anyone looking to add an Olah to their collection or start a collection. I took a photo of my favorite.

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Work by Karin Olah

I got a chance to tell Olah to stop posting those outrageous photos on Facebook of the deplorable landscape in Colorado. If I hadn’t been there before I’d think most of them were Photoshoped. These people that go west have no right to shove those kind of images in our face on Facebook.  It’s just not the Lowcountry thing to do – showing off your environment. That goes for you too – Susan Mayfield (West).

There are lots of other great things to see and buy at Corrigan Gallery – including photography. Of course you better get there fast in case my ship comes in during the next lottery drawing.

Time was slipping by and we ran across the street to the new Atrium Art Gallery to see Karen Vournakis’ exhibit Working Charleston Plantations, on view through Feb. 28, 2013. Vournakis is another photographer who began old school, so our discussion soon moved to how fast digital photography has taken over. It wasn’t that long ago that she made her prints in a darkroom and hand-colored them and today she’s all digital – except for still making images on film. We old timers used to claim we’d never go to the dark side of the force, but you can’t hold back when the new kid on the block is better – much better and easier than the old ways. Believe me, from spending years in darkrooms – there’s nothing glamorous about it. It’s like working in a toxic landfill and it’s dark.

The gallery was a nice new addition to Charleston’s gallery scene and was full of local artists I did not know – except Vournakis. It was nice to see her work hanging in a gallery in Charleston again. Go check out this show and the gallery.

In the last week I’ve had conversations with a few gallery owners who were asking if I knew of anywhere art was selling. These folks were from different parts of the Carolinas and I had to tell them that I didn’t know for sure, but I had my own barometer on that subject. No big galleries in Charleston have closed and it seems new ones were popping up all over – some I hadn’t even seen yet. After visiting just four galleries during the art walk I think Charleston is selling art – they were that evening. There was a time when they were not and other areas were, but I think that trend has changed, but there are a lot of galleries in Charleston – more than anywhere else in the Carolinas, so four is not a great sample.

On the way back to the car we popped back into Smith Killian Fine Art – just to make sure we weren’t dreaming and they really did have photography featured – just kidding. The crowd seemed to be getting larger and as soon as we pulled out of our parking space someone was right there to take it.

On the drive back home when I tend to run the evening’s events over in my cluttered mind I realized that I didn’t take one photo of any of the photography on exhibit. I guess as an old photographer I just have a deep rooted thing about copying other photographer’s work. And when I think about it I don’t think I’ve ever taken photos of photography on view in a gallery. I’m not doing them any good by not showing their work, but I’m going to have to think about that some. I’m not really doing justice to the other art I take photos of either, so I’m going to work that out, but the main point of any of these blog postings is to get you to go see the art in the galleries. So go do that.

Oh, I almost forgot. Karin, I finally noticed that thing you do with your signature. Boy that took a while.

A Trip to Charleston, SC, to see Colin Quashie’s Exhibit at Redux and the French Quarter Art Walk

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Some people say that 60 is the new 40. Maybe, but on this day I was feeling my 60 years in full force. Last week I spent three fast days taking in the arts. I was in Columbia, SC, for a few hours on Thursday doing an emergency gift trip to One Eared Cow Glass. I spent more time in the car than in the gallery, but it was worth it. On Friday, I went to Redux Contemporary Art Center in Charleston, SC, seeing the exhibit that helped set a record for viewers of Carolina Arts and doing a bit of the art walk in Charleston. By Saturday morning I was back in North Charleston, SC, doing the North Charleston Arts Festival I blogged about earlier. On Sunday, I was dead.

I did the blog about some of the North Charleston Arts Festival exhibits first as they will end on May 12, 2012. For info about other exhibits being offered visit (www.NorthCharlestonArtsFest.com).

So, Friday I went to see The Plantation (Plan-ta-shun) featuring works by Colin Quashie as it was going to end in a few days. I didn’t want to miss the exhibit that launched over 112,000 downloads of our paper. It was the first time I’ve been to Redux since their major renovation and the place looked great. Seeing Quashie’s works up close was a testament to the mission of our paper. We exist only to show you what you have an opportunity to go see every month. We don’t want to be your outlet to the visual arts in the Carolinas – we want you to go see art. No matter how good things look in the paper, they will never look as good as they do when you’re standing in front of them.

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Quashie’s works were even more powerful seeing them in their true scale – something we can’t duplicate in our paper. These works were much larger than I expected. I know we sometimes give the dimensions of works with some images we present, but they’re just numbers until you’re standing in front of the actual works. It works the same way for smaller works too.

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I love the works that poke fun at how “Madison Avenue” might market slavery today. They’re clever statements about the past and present, but I loved Quashie’s portraits more. I can’t write in “art speak” but I hope this exhibit finds other venues in the Carolinas and I hope Quashie continues the series. And, I sure wouldn’t mind featuring more works by him on our cover – someday down the road.

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While at Redux I discovered they have another gallery space, called the Conolly Studio Gallery which features current works by some of its studio artists every eight weeks. This was news to me and a slip by the folks at Redux by not informing us about it. It was a good thing I checked it out, as while there, I ran into one of my favorite artists, Karin Olah Knowlton, who left Charleston for a Rocky Mountain high to live in Colorado and got to meet her very new daughter Ali. Karin has some of her new floral works (fabric paintings) on exhibit at Robert Lange Studios in Charleston. That was an unexpected pleasant meeting.

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Go see her works at RLS soon – I bet they won’t last long before they are sold and off to new homes.

Next stop – Charleston’s French Quarter and my first stop there was Nina Liu & Friends, on State Street, as Liu was back in town for the Spoleto season. She finally moved to her new home in Mexico this winter, but is still looking to sell her “prime location” home in downtown Charleston. And, Spoleto visitors always bring a new crop of future Charlestonians – they come – they fall in love – they move to Charleston.

The gallery is presenting the wonderful black and white photographs of Michael Johnson through June during Spoleto. You would think that since she moved to Mexico the gallery would be a little sparse, but it was full of art. So all of you Nina Liu & Friends fans – the gallery is open and ready for business, but the building is also for sale.

You hear that greater visual art community out there? A gallery/home in the heart of Charleston’s French Quarter art district is available for anyone interested in opening a gallery or expanding their business to Charleston. Of course I’m not looking forward to the day when Liu is gone to Mexico for good – I’ll miss her and our conversations.

I got to Nina Liu & Friends well before the Art Walk officially opened and she was having some new lighting installed, so I slipped out to go over to Robert Lange Studios, just around the corner on Queen Street, to see those works by Karin Olah Knowlton, and then I walked over to Lowcountry Artists LTD on East Bay Street to see the exhibit,  Painting With Fire: Lowcountry Impressions in Clay, featuring works by Marty Biernbaum, on view through May 31, 2012.

That’s the beauty of the French Quarter – you can’t toss a stone in any direction without hitting an art gallery. If you run and just barely stick your head in each door you might be able to visit them all in one art walk, but you really have to narrow your visits to a few if you want to see some work and if you’re like me – there will be some talking going on too. I don’t get to the art walks that often, but I still know a lot of folks there.

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Biernbaum’s works looked great in our paper, but also much better in person. And in person you can get that tactile experience too. I’m not saying you can touch all art works, but it’s usually OK with pottery. Just remember – you drop it – you bought it. And you don’t always have to pick things up to get a little feel.

That exhibit was about 20 minutes from officially opening, yet they say they had already sold a third of the works. Better get down to see this exhibit fast. Of course they have lots of other art there too, so you won’t have to leave empty handed if the pottery is all sold out, but I bet Biernbaum has some backup works on hand.

I checked back in at Nina Liu & Friends, but Liu was busy with another art walk matter and it was just after 5pm so I headed across the street to see the exhibit, First Light by Shannon Smith, on view through May 18, 2012 at Smith-Killian Fine Art, on the corner of State and Queen Streets.

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I’ll never admit to having a favorite out of the Smith clan, but Linda claims I’m partial to Shannon’s work. I’ll invoke the 5th in any court, but she had some spectacular works on display, but I also saw a pretty fantastic view of Charleston from Mt. Pleasant by Jennifer that evening and it was just a year ago when Betty’s abstracts knocked my socks off. And, being an old black and white guy myself – Tripp holds his own in that clan of artists. So, how could anyone pick a favorite? That’s what I say and I’m sticking to it.

My next stop was going to be Corrigan Gallery, further down Queen Street, to see the exhibit, Landscape Reconfigured, featuring new works by Linda Fantuzzo on view through May 30, 2012. I don’t know if it was the heat and humidity, the week of work, or the fact that my age was catching up with me, but that walk seemed like a couple of miles instead of a few blocks, and I was feeling it all.

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The one disadvantage of the May art walk in Charleston is that at this time of year in Charleston, at 5pm the sun is still bearing down and well after the art walk is over the sun is still up. Because I’m an hour plus away, I can’t show up fashionably late like some when the temps are a little better and I still have to make that hour plus trip back home.

I finally made it there and I’m glad I did. I’ve known Linda Fantuzzo for a long time – way before Linda (my Linda) and I started doing an arts newspaper, and her works just keep getting better and better and they started out good. She was part of the old John Street art colony – back in the day with Manning Williams, Bill Buggle and Bobby Brown. If you know these folks – you’ve been around Charleston for a long time. We (Linda and I) were doing photo processing on John Street, but the City ran us all off when they built the Visitor Center causing high rents to settle in on John Street.

I got in a few words with Fantuzzo and Lese Corrigan, but this gallery was filling up fast and these folks needed to talk to some real customers. While I was checking out some of the other works in the gallery, I was offered some help by a young lady who I guessed was helping Corrigan out, she might have been an intern from the College of Charleston, I’m not sure, but she told me about Mary Walker, Kevin Parent, and John Moore’s work – which I was checking out. I never know what to do is a situation like that. I know these artists’ work well, but she didn’t know that and I didn’t see any reason to say anything – why should I, and what would I say that wouldn’t seem rude? She knew her stuff – much better than some I’ve encountered in a similar situation. I once had a gallery helper try to tell me Corrie McCallum was dead long before she passed and there was nothing I could say to change her mind.

Situations like that make me think of saying – “Look, I know Corrie McCallum, I’m a friend of Corrie McCallum – you don’t know diddily about Corrie McCallum,” and then storm out – but I don’t. What would be the use in that? I’m just an old dude who has forgotten more than some know, but a new generation is in control now. This wasn’t the case – this young lady knew her stuff and she was a real asset to the Corrigan Gallery. And, the next person might not know who these artists are.

I hate to admit it, but after Corrigan Gallery I was finished for the evening. I was going to be lucky to get back to my car and endure that hour plus drive home. Luckily, a good night’s rest made it possible to do the North Charleston Arts Festival’s Main Event the next day.

If people want to sell me on the notion that 60 is the new 40 – I know I felt a lot better when I was 40 and I’m not doing too badly now, but what else do you want to sell me – the Brooklyn Bridge?

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You can read more about these exhibits in the May 2012 issue of Carolina Arts. You can download a copy of the paper at this link (http://www.carolinaarts.com/512/512carolinaarts.pdf).

Finally a Trip to See Aggie Zed’s Exhibit at The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art in Charleston, SC

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

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One of the cruelest things in life is that we don’t get to do everything we want and sometimes even when we do get to do something – it’s too late.

In this instance, I’m lucky I got a chance to see this exhibit at all, but it was too late to do so and encourage others to do so, as the exhibit ends on Saturday, Mar. 10, 2012. Of course we did feature this exhibit on our Jan. 2012 cover of Carolina Arts. I guess that’s something.

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But, if you can, I’d advise anyone who likes what they see here in this posting, to try and go to The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art at the College of Charleston School of the Arts in Charleston, SC, to see Aggie Zed: Keeper’s Keep, featuring new works by Virginia-based artist Aggie Zed. I’m sorry about the short notice, but I think this exhibit may be coming to a facility in North Carolina, but I have no details at this time.

Aggie Zed was born in Charleston and raised on Sullivan’s Island, SC. So, like Jasper Johns who was once from Edisto Beach, SC, we can claim her as one of ours. But, for anyone who has been a regular visitor to Nina Liu & Friends Gallery in Charleston, Zed’s paintings and sculptures are old familiar friends. Some of her human/animal creatures have been featured in one of the gallery’s windows for 20 years or more. Of course not the same figures – they never lasted that long before someone was taking them home and they would be replaced by others – stranger than the last.

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Once a Little Church, 2006

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Who Will Keep the Keepers Themselves?, 2009

I hate to admit it but I have never been a real fan of Zed’s paintings. That’s just me, but it’s why I’ve concentrated on the sculptures and installations of the sculptural figures I could photograph – some were under Plexiglas. I know there are tons of folks who love her paintings as much as her figures/creatures. Some probably love them even more than the sculptures. People have different likes. I fell for the creatures – the weirder the better. Again, that’s just me.

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Elephants Observer, (installation), 2009

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Elephants Observer, (detail)

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Elephants Observer, (detail)

I haven’t seen anything like Zed’s installations since the Sticks and Stonesexhibit offered at the Old Slave Mart building during a Piccolo Spoleto Festival – way back when, put on by LOCUS Contemporary Arts Center. If anyone remembers that exhibit, they’ll know what I’m talking about.

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Study for Debris Field, 2011

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Brainchild, 2009

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Feathers or ‘The Early Clone Gets the Contract’, 2005

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Red in Fashion, 2009

There’s no time to go on about Zed’s works at this point, so I’ll let the images do the talking. You can see more images and a video about Zed at this link (http://halsey.cofc.edu/exhibitions/aggie-zed-keepers-keep/).

The exhibit will be on view Friday, Mar, 9 and Saturday, Mar. 10, from 11am-4pm. There’s plenty of parking by the gallery as the College of Charleston is on Spring break.

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For further info call 843/953-4422 or visit (www.halsey.cofc.edu).