Nashville and music are nearly synonymous. During my last visit, I toured the amazing (I know it is overused, but it fits) Ryman Theater - Home of the Grand Old Opry - also known as the Mother Church, where it all started. I have great appreciation for supporters keeping open that historic site of music history, but I was ready to see what visual arts Nashville had to offer and I was not disappointed.
Staying on the preservation tour: The Frist Center for the Visual Arts. The Frist Center - the former Downtown Nashville post office and a Nashville architectural treasure from the Art Deco period - showcases regular visual art exhibitions. For those interested in its architecture and the Art Deco period, it also offers a regular Saturday Architecture Tour or an audio tour.
But it was the art I was after. My visit coincided with a fashion exhibition: Italian Style: Fashion Since 1945. It chronicles the birth and growth of the Italian fashion industry from the post-World War II recovery years to the present day.
The show did an excellent job of juxtaposing film with the fashions displayed on dress forms and bringing the exhibit to life. The actual dress, worn by Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady, was paired with video from the film. Audrey Hepburn dancing in the film, showed the movement of the actual dress positioned in front of me. I ended up walking the whole show; it was very good. Without the video, it could have been much less interesting.
But it was Human Landscape, an second exhibit of Jaume Plensa 's figures which stole most of my attention. Large in scale, some pieces over seven feet high, often illuminated, his sculptures are transfixing. Housed separately in a large room, three immense figures, internally illuminated, representing See no Evil, Hear no Evil, Speak no Evil were superimposed with representative words. The effect was alternatively distressing and transformative, certainly mesmerizing.
While not walking distance from The Frist, Nashville has it's own downtown 5th Avenue of the Arts. There are several galleries and an Art in the Arcade building, housing artists studios. The Art in the Arcade is only open fully for the First Saturday Art Crawls. Three galleries are close together across from Art in the Arcade, allowing a visitor to see a number of different artworks in a short period of time.
The Arts Company gallery space is well staffed with engaging employees. I think for most visitors the artwork would appear the most accessible of the three galleries. It was full of interesting work. The featured artist was Charles Keiger, an important artist based in Atlanta. John Petrey's sculptural dresses of found objects, including aluminum siding were particularly captivating.
Two other exhibits of artwork by Daryl Thetford and Jorge Yances filled the space. Thetford's photo collage's felt very Nashville, guitars and music scenes, though he hails from Chattanooga. I have since seen more of his pieces and they are very diverse, sometimes immense in scale. Very likable. The Arts Company is a visitor friendly gallery, full of work without being overcrowded, and showcases artwork at competitive prices.
A few doors down are the Rymer Gallery and Tinney Contemporary. Both, at the time I was there, featured artwork at higher price points. The Tinney Contemporary had a large exhibition of Lyle Cabajal works, a multimedia artist. The exhibit included a large installation piece which was very interesting. This is a very contemporary gallery space with good works.
The Rymer Gallery also had a number of contemporary pieces, including several wrapped and set aside for sale. Always good to see artwork going out of the gallery to new homes. The staff was very engaging and offered a lot of knowledge about the variety of artists represented. It also carries Herb Williams, a now nationally known Nashville - based artist, creating artwork using crayons as his medium. Excellent. Both of these galleries were very nice to discover.
I wanted to come home and tell Tampa artists to raise their prices. All worth a visit.