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This publication accompanies Channeling the USA, an exhibition featuring the work of Randy Shull, curated by Janet Koplos. Channeling the USA makes its debut exhibition at McColl Center for Visual Art in Charlotte, NC on November 16, 2012 in an exhibition that runs through January 12, 2013. After the inaugural exhibit, Channeling the USA will travel to the Neil Britton Art Gallery at Virginia Wesleyan College in Norfolk, VA and will be on display from January 29 to April 5, 2013. Funding for this catalogue and exhibition is made possible by: McColl Center for Visual Art John and Judy Alexander Hal Brown and Kathryn Brown Dr. Larry Brady Pink Dog Creative Dot Hodges Paul and Cherry Lentz Saenger Suzu and David Neithercut Christie Taylor Neil Britton Art Gallery at Virginia Wesleyan College Charlotte V. and Stephen A. Wainwright Helen and Sam Zell Publisher: McColl Center for Visual Art 721 North Tryon Street Charlotte, NC 28202 704.332.5535 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored, or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission from McColl Center for Visual Art. Cover: Box 25, 2011 Varnished pine, steel 76” x 80” x 11” Right: Diver with shoes, 2012 Plywood, paint, action figure 10” x 14” x 7” Photography: David Dietrich Design: Matthew Steele

TABLE OF CONTENTS 1 introduction 4 statement 5 essay/images 25 mccoll center for visual art

INTRODUCTION/MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT How to describe Randy Shull – artist, designer of furniture, landscapes, buildings and homes, colorist, sculptor, entrepreneur? Perhaps the appropriate word is “maker.” Shull admits to bringing together all of his interests with his sense of proportion, color, texture, and detail when designing spaces. What a maker he is - from small scale individual works to the redesign of homes, transformation of Depot Street in Asheville, NC’s River Arts District and renovation of Casa Contemporanea, a mid-century modern house in the Mexican state of Yucatan. The latter example sparked Channeling the USA, new work that evolved as a result of his new experiences moving back and forth between Asheville and the Yucatan. Channeling, receiving thoughts from the spirit world and passing on the insights and information, seems to us to be what he is doing. Using the familiar map of the United States as his symbol, he is bridging the gap between art, politics, geography, culture, environment, economics, and experience and inviting us to engage in conversation about different perspectives and world events as they relate to the U.S. and/or our sense of ourselves as “Americans.” There is another way that this body of work by Randy Shull is enigmatic. Randy’s artistic roots are in craft. However, he continues to push traditional definitions of craft and his own creative exploration. In this work, he ventures into conceptual art while maintaining a quality of “making” work. It isn’t work conceived of by him and then produced by shop assistants. He is intimately engaged in exploring the ideas while physically wrestling with the materials and scale. McColl Center for Visual Art has a commitment to craft as contemporary art. Over the last twelve years, the Center has routinely presented a craft exhibition each year and routinely had craft artists-inresidence. However, the Center’s commitment to craft was reinforced recently as a result of its strategic visioning process. The Center adopted a programmatic strategy called “Spheres of Impact.” (SoI) SoI aligns areas of programmatic focus with areas of community interest, such as craft, social justice, environment, technology, and education. With North Carolina’s rich history in craft and its leadership in contemporary craft and art, McColl Center for Visual Art continues to honor and support the artists who have led the craft movement regionally, in the U.S. and internationally through exhibitions and residencies. The Center enjoys the opportunity to showcase the work of these artists and provide them with residencies while introducing them to a broader Charlotte community. We hope that you will visit Channeling the USA by Randy Shull and engage with future craft exhibitions and artists-in-residence at McColl Center for Visual Art. Thank you.

Suzanne Fetscher President/CEO





There is a continuous public dialogue taking place about the role the USA plays throughout the world. This new body of work that I am making is part of that conversation. The work is not intended to be political yet the very outline of the shape we know as the USA takes on a stance that resonates beyond the visual. It resonates in the arena of power, history, geography, economics and politics to name but a few. My intention is to further explore this rich and fertile territory that I have come to know as ‘home’.



When do you feel most American? At home, you may never think about it, but when traveling abroad, it’s hard to avoid the awareness that you are different from the locals. For Randy Shull, an inveterate traveler, living in Mexico for four months of the year amplified that sensation. The result is a new, distinct body of work based on the continental U.S. map, an icon that stands for America like the Stars and Stripes flag does, less regular in form but equally emblematic. On the simplest level, Shull has outlined this land mass, elaborating upon a work on plywood that he made off-handedly at Anderson Ranch Art Center in Colorado as he was demonstrating the grooves he could make with a door plane, applied freehand. He added to that grooving the painted color that has long characterized the range of his work: the furniture that he still makes on commission, the wooden objects formed from large broken branches, and the distinctive painting-and-table or painting-andbench combinations that he has been doing in recent years.

Moving Blanket, 2012 Moving blanket, acrylic paint 76� x 67�




That spontaneous workshop piece (Land of Lincoln, 2011, 30 x 30 inches) hung in his Asheville studio for months, at the edge of his awareness, before he decided to explore the shape further. The permutations, all dated 2011 and 2012, make up this exhibition. Imagery has been part of many Shull works; even his furniture can be allusively figurative and include symbols such as stars. Large scale may have crept into his work through headboards for beds and various kinds of cabinetry. Creating a 36-foot painting (now in the Duke University permanent collection) was the release, if any was needed, from thinking modestly. The bountiful space of his studio—about 4,000 square feet, with 20-foot ceilings—probably also contributes to thinking big. The comfortably generous measurements of the largest paintings here are derived from a familiar set of dimensions: the four-by-eight-foot size of a sheet of plywood.

Land of Lincoln, 2011 Acrylic on carved wood panel 30” x 30”



Perhaps the most dazzling works in the show are Simultaneous Pattern and Red/White, both of which are spin paintings, simply enormous enlargements of the state-fair novelty technique. Shull set up a turntable (a potter’s wheel) in the studio with cross braces to support the plywood’s expanse, poured his paint and let it flow where centrifugal force took it. Other artists have used this technique— Walter Robinson in New York in the 1980s and Damien Hirst in London more recently—but what puts Shull’s own spin on it (pardon the pun), is the carved-out space at the center in the shape of the U.S. map. The contour is edged with short sticks, 9 inches long on Simultaneous Pattern and 14 inches on Red/White, set perpendicular to the plywood plane. You have to wonder about the implications of using the U.S. reference. It might be just a convenient and essentially abstract device on which to hang formal explorations of color, texture, etc. That’s believable because the high contrast of red against white and black against white has a great visual impact up close, and from a distance the feathery pooling of the colors is exquisite. Or the use of the map shape could express his sense of community identity or straightforward patriotism, although that would be a little too simple in art terms, rather obvious and unimaginative. Art should give you something to grapple with. So inevitably the viewer will look for deeper meanings and try out various possible readings of the work.

Blurred Interpretation, 2011 Acrylic on wood panel 96” x 96” x 8”


Although Shull says he is not a political person, it’s hard to avoid assuming some sociopolitical commentary. Artists have been known to work by instinct rather than conscious thought and to recognize only later the subtext of their expressions, so he may be making a statement whether he means to or not. The most interesting aspect of this use of the U.S. map shape is that it’s a void. A void is usually seen negatively, as an absence (although in Buddhist-influenced Asia, it is a site of potential, a positive phenomenon). To represent the U.S. as a void might question its substance or its values, to say that there’s no heart to our heartland. This interpretation might seem relevant because of the political tensions of this year’s presidential campaign, in which both parties are arguing for opposite values and practices, both lamenting the loss of things they see as inherently American. Still, Shull is going somewhere else with this, because the flung paint of the spin process gives a terrific sense of out-flowing energy. Taking that as a contemporary metaphor, we might consider how American visual culture, such as American movies and computer products and social networking, has spread around the globe. Or maybe how many jobs have moved offshore? But there’s one more puzzle here: Shull has lined the map shape with projecting edging. It looks like a fence. Would it keep out terrorists, for example? Or immigrants, people Shull might have thought about in Mexico? Or illegal drugs? Or unwelcome ideas? Or unpleasant microbes? The flow, in these two works, goes only in one direction, but fences can be climbed. The paintings hold our attention because no single meaning is specified.

......he was a big man, 2012 Wood carving, cowhide, acrylic paint 110” x 48” x 60”



Simultaneous Pattern, 2011 Acrylic on wood panel 73” x 96” x 8”


Poetic Fix, 2012 Duct tape on wood 48” x 48” x 6”


But the void is not a feature of all the works here. In the large-scale Guardian, horizontal planks, like old-fashioned wide-board siding, create a modest projection into the viewer’s space, and the map as a physical presence is given an intense inward energy by the tangles of grooves Shull carved with a door plane. How can that be interpreted? Networking? Bondage? Family ties? Electrical consumption? Narcissistic plugging into self? For Shull the allusion to lapped siding has personal meaning, recalling his youthful work alongside his father, a carpenter. The energy here moves in complex circuits, and the U.S. shape is isolated, as often in maps. But that, too, may evoke sociopolitical interpretations: the island fortress mentality and a lack of concern with the rest of the world, for example. The work is also engaging in its mix of hot (interior) and cool (surrounding) colors and in the surface tactility. Another work, which incorporates a mirror and a spider web, may imply a trap: as our image is caught in the mirror, we are stopped like a bug in a web. The matte black background is not as luscious as the spin paintings. The web is in relief and so are the colors behind it, which recall the worn-away layered pigments of Shull’s earlier sculptures, evoking the passage of time. In another work, Atlas, Shull emphasizes the outline of the map with dots of red, white and blue. The placement of the red and blue lacks the current political application; rather, the three colors against a night-sky background suggest ground lights seen from a satellite, or recall population maps (but the U.S.’s middle is certainly not that empty), or maybe evoke a neon sign or a spectacular fireworks presentation. As a furniture maker accustomed to the third dimension, Shull also rendered the map as sculpture, most made from the boxes in which his work was shipped for a previous traveling show. He thought the boxes were beautiful, so why not use them?—an ecologically sensible attitude that has also spurred him to rehab derelict Asheville houses. The fact that the boxes have volume relates them to the dimensions of his furniture and to cabinetwork in general. In Box 25 the map appears as two bites out of the edges. The map is cut and flipped so that the coasts are adjacent and the Texas-to-Dakota center is drastically bifurcated. In Box 15 the centered map forms a long passage through the box, lined with the same fencing as the spin paintings. Because of its 19-inch depth the sticks look smoother and more continuous; the vacancy becomes almost a form of its own. Shull made it into a spin sculpture by placing it on the potter’s wheel used to make the paintings. Suddenly its implications shift to display an advertisement. It’s like a rotating signpost or, more amusingly, like a frenetically rotating model, soon to be impossibly dizzy. The reference to a model is made literal: Shull attached the hands and legs of a battered mannequin, suggesting a figure encased in a magician’s box. The legs, on their backs, and the clenched hands, from a face-down individual, give the implication an extra twist (literally), and the rotation of the sculpture would kick off anyone ascending the platform on which it is set. Again, Shull has made a work that’s both physically open and open to interpretation.

Guardian, 2011 Acrylic on carved wood panel 70” x 96” x 4”




Two other figurative works, even more surprising and engrossing, make use of the parts of a fleamarket statue of a pioneer fur trapper—an import from the Philippines, he learned. In Hothead the bust portion has a thought balloon in the form of the U.S. map. Shull was inspired by a Mexican street performer he saw breathing fire to make this map of a heating element. The rest of the figure appears in a two-part work titled …he was a big man. The hands hold a flintlock rifle and what may be a wild turkey. The painting behind him mounts the map/void on cowhide, which makes a beautiful abstract composition, interrupted by the fence and an outward splashing of gold pigment somewhere between coagulating blood and a blaze of glory, which also appears on the figure’s waist, marking another cut at which he is slightly offset. This could speak of the hunter, the rugged individual—but also of an anachronism. Furniture has always been an object of skill and service that speaks of its time and also has the potential to express the personal style of the maker. As compelling as his furniture has been, Shull has reached for something different in this new body of work. Continuing his strong form and even stronger surface emphasizing color and spontaneity, he now finds metaphor in ordinary materials and found objects, and with them generates provocative questions.

Janet Koplos, September 2012 Janet Koplos has been a highly influential voice in framing the critical discourse on contemporary craft and has contributed significantly to our knowledge of the field. A graduate of the University of Minnesota School of Journalism and Mass Communications with an MA in Art History from Illinois State University, Koplos has been writing about art since 1976, publishing more than 2,000 articles, reviews, and catalog essays in the USA, Europe, and Japan. She is the author of Contemporary Japanese Sculpture (1991), Gyongy Laky (2003) and (with co-author Bruce Metcalf) of the recently published Makers: A History of American Studio Craft, intended as both an important resource for the field and a much-needed college level art history survey. Koplos was senior editor at Art in America (1990-2009) and served as guest editor of American Craft in 2009. She lectures, juries, and critiques frequently and is a member of the Association Internationale des Critiques d’Art and the College Art Association. She has taught criticism at the Parsons New School of Design and other schools.

Box 25, 2011 Varnished pine, steel 76” x 80” x 11”


Hot Head, 2012 Found carving, electrical coil, electric cord 76” x 43” x 23”


Box 15, 2012 Museum crate, plastic, painted wood, potters wheel 43” x 130” x 130”


Box 19, 2012 Museum crate, duct tape 61” x 97” x 14”


Randy Shull with Image Cascade, 2012 Acrylic in wood panel 96” x 69” x 7”


RANDY SHULL EDUCATION 1986 BFA Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York 1982 AA Lincoln College, Lincoln, Illinois SOLO EXHIBITIONS 2012 McColl Center for Visual Art, Charlotte, NC, “Channeling the USA”. 2012 5 Walnut, Asheville, NC, “Not A Pretty Picture” 2009 Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans, LA, “Crossing Boundarys”. 2009 Bellevue Art Museum, Bellevue, WA, “Crossing Boundarys”. 2008 San Francisco Museum of Art and Design, Raleigh, NC, “Crossing Boundarys”. 2008 Gregg Museum of Art and Design, Raleigh, NC, “Crossing Boundarys”. 2005 Swann House Coach Gallery, Atlanta, Georgia 2005 Blue Spiral Gallery, Asheville, North Carolina 2002 Hodges Taylor Gallery, Charlotte, North Carolina 2002 John Elder Gallery , New York ,New York 2001 Snyderman Gallery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 2000 Tercera Gallery, San Francisco, California 2000 Albers Fine Arts, Memphis,Tennessee 2000 Hodges Taylor Gallery, Charlotte, North Carolina 1998 John Elder Gallery, New York, New York 1998 Zone One Gallery, Asheville, North Carolina 1997 Albers Fine Arts, Memphis, Tennessee 1997 Mint Museum of Art, Art Currents, Charlotte, North Carolina 1996 Hodges Taylor Gallery, Charlotte, North Carolina 1995 Franklin Parrasch Gallery, New York, New York 1994 Franklin Parrasch Gallery, New York, New York 1993 Snyderman Gallery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1992 Cannon Gallery, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina 1991 Hodges Taylor Gallery, Charlotte, North Carolina 1991 Snyderman Gallery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania AWARDS 1994 1993 1992 1992 1991

North Carolina Arts Council Fellowship Grant NEA Southern Arts Federation Grant Artist in Residence, Altos De Chavon, La Romana, Dominican Republic North Carolina Artist’s Competition Merit Award, Fayetteville, North Carolina Connamara Foundation Grant, Dallas, Texas

PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE 2012 Board of Directors, Asheville Area Arts Council; Chairman 2012-2013 2012 Consultant to Monitor Institute, San Francisco, CA 2008-2012 Consultant to Innovation Institute at McColl Center for Visual Art, Charlotte, NC


2011 Founder, Pink Dog Creative, Asheville, NC 2010 Instructor, Anderson Ranch , Snowmass, CO 2008 Nominator, US Artists, Los Angeles, CA 2009 Designed home in Amagansett, Long Island, NY 2003-2009 Board of Trustees, Asheville Art Museum, Asheville, NC; Vice-Chairman, 2008-2009 2008 Named to design team for the Pack Square Renaissance Project, Asheville, NC 2006 Artist-in-Residence, Oregon college of Art and Craft, Portland, OR 2005-2006 Commissioned to preserve and re-design 1956 Modernist classic home, Asheville, NC 2005 Speaker, Furniture society Annual Conference, Savannah, GA 2000 Instructor, Penland School, North Carolina 1998 Guest Speaker, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia 1998 Guest Speaker, Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, North Carolina 1997 Guest Speaker, The Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC 1996 Adjunct Professor, California College of Arts and Crafts, Oakland, California 1995 Instructor, Anderson Ranch Aspen, Colorado 1994 Instructor, Penland School, North Carolina 1992 Guest Artist Yuma Symposium Yuma, Arizon 1992 Artist in Residence Altos De Chavon, La Romana, Dominican Republic 1991 Guest Director, Horizons, Amherst, Massachusetts 1989 Slide Lecture, Atlanta College of Art, Atlanta, Georgia 1988 Artist in Residence, University of the Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1987-91 Residency at Penland School of Crafts, Penland, North Carolina

COLLECTIONS AND INSTALLATIONS High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York Museum of Art and Design, New York, New York Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans, LA Racine Art Museum, Racine, Wisconsin Mint Museums, Charlotte, North Carolina Gregg Museum of Art & Design, Raleigh, North Carolina J.B. Speed Museum, Louisville, Kentucky Mobile Museum of Art, Mobile Alabama Gulf Coast Museum of Art, Belair, Florida Asheville Art Museum, Asheville, North Carolina Well Fargo Bank, Charlotte, North Carolina Fidelity Investments, Raleigh, North Carolina First Charter Bank Headquarters, Charlotte, North Carolina Independence Center, Charlotte, North Carolina Kids Discover, New York, New York Duke University School of Law, Durham, North Carolina Piedmont Natural Gas Headquarters, Charlotte, North Carolina Contract Compression, Austin, Texas Private Collections: Australia, Japan, Columbia, Venezuela, Germany, Mexico and USA


McColl Center for Visual Art is a nationally acclaimed contemporary art center dedicated to connecting art and artists with the community. Located in a historic, neo-Gothic church in Uptown Charlotte, the Center houses nine artist studios and over 5,000 square feet of gallery space. The Center welcomes the public to explore exhibitions and connect with artists through various programs including open studios, community outreaches, workshops and more. McColl Center for Visual Art is supported, in part, by a Basic Operating Grant from the Arts & Science Council, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; as well as the North Carolina Arts Council with funding from the State of North Carolina and the National Endowment for the Arts, which believes that a great nation deserves great art; and the generosity of corporate and individual donors.




Profile for McColl Center for Art + Innovation


Catalogue for the Channeling the USA exhibition


Catalogue for the Channeling the USA exhibition