May 3 â€” June 16, 2014 eventually the pendulum swings Lester Merriweather Runâ€™s House Remix Black & Jones
A ship sails on an ocean of sparkling diamonds, rubies and gold. It’s labeled “The Mayflower II,” a full scale replica of the 17thcentury vessel celebrated for transporting the Pilgrims to the New World. An image in his series “Eventually the Pendulum Swings,” Lester Merriweather’s large scale collages examine conquest, wealth and power in an attempt to recontextualize race and class identity in contemporary American culture. Throughout the work, cutout forms appear to float through space or fall from the sky devoid of context. Much like how we consume imagery in the media, we see ads without connecting the history with why they exist now. Collected from fashion and lifestyle magazines, Merriweather’s work contains reccurring imagery of body parts (particularly hands and mouths), celebrities, drugs, alcohol and luxury items juxtaposed in odd conglomorations. In “untitled (whites gone wild: the one-percent edition),” a seductivelyposing Miley Cyrus is conjoined with a diamond earring and an arm holding a champagne glass. In “untitled (from the hulls series),” A Louis Vuitton bag becomes the hull of a ship at sea. The title “eventually the pendulum swings” references the 2013 Jay Z song “Picasso, Baby,” a song celebrating artists through the lens of conspicuous consumption. Eventually the pendulum swings Don’t forget America this how you made me Come through with the “Ye mask on Spray everything like SAMO I won’t scratch the Lambo What’s it gonna take for me to go For you to see, the modern day Pablo Picasso baby Written from a highly respected and successful hip hop musician, Jay Z shouts out a number of famous artists (Picasso, Rothko, Jeff Koons), yet not from the perspective of a fellow artist but of an art collector. Yellow Basquiat in my kitchen corner/Go ahead lean on that shit Blue/ You own it/
These are works of art he owns, just like his Lambo. More “bling.” Through the act of cutting apart and gluing back together again, Merriweather literally recontextualizes the media imagery, shedding light on the implications of our infatuation with conspicuous consumption, celebrity and entertainment, the commercialization of which is often erected on the talents and careers of black athletes, music and film stars. Down the hall, Kell Black and Barry Jones also piece together media that recontextualize race and class in contemporary culture. Instead of finding magazine images, Black & Jones remix sound and video found on the internet, and then use AudioMulch, Adobe Premiere, Quartz Composer, Modul8, and GarageBand softwares to create an interactive, multimedia collage. As you enter into the hallway that housed the one night installation “Run’s House Remix,” you’re invited to play a MIDI controller that manipulates a video projection. The left projection may be a 70s instructional dance video and on the right, a Run DMC music video. By pressing different buttons on the controller, the viewer creates his/her own music video compilation. For example, you could make the straight-laced dancers move humorously to the beat of Run DMC. In “Run’s House Remix,” Black & Jones take information from the internet, remix it, then present it to us to remake into something of our own. In their statement, they describe their work as based on several assumptions: “first, that life is good, second, that two artists working together are better than one working alone, and third, that information is there for the taking.” Black & Jones celebrate the appropriation that exists in contemporary culture and suggest that in taking information from one another, we inevitably recontextualize it to create a new language expressive of our time. Rachel Bubis is an independent arts writer and curator of Seed Space.
America has long been celebrated as a melting pot, but rapidly changing demographics have rendered our country more culturally diverse than ever before. It can be easy, in this multiethnic milieu, to convince ourselves that we now live in a colorblind, post-racial society. The work on view in Seed Space’s two latest exhibits, however, suggests that a fundamental tension between black and white remains at the core of our national identity. That tension isn’t always negative or destructive. Black & Jones’ video installation, “Run’s House Remix,” is a loving tribute to classic hip-hop that celebrates the ways AfricanAmerican culture has influenced mainstream culture, and vice versa. The Clarksville-based duo find within the music’s dense sonic layering a wide array of associations, which they playfully tease out in videos constructed from Internetsourced sounds and imagery — pastiche for the YouTube era. Black & Jones unselfconsciously insert themselves into these newly framed hip-hop tracks. They overlay their own vocals onto a version of Run-DMC’s hit “Run’s House” as footage of the rap stars plays onscreen. (And the artists’ logo, it should be pointed out, is a deft copy of Run-DMC’s logo.) In another video set to DJ EZ Rock’s “It Takes Two,” the artists act out awkward dance moves in jerky stop-motion animation. As these homemade remixes play on one screen, another screen to the left plays looped footage of various people dancing — a gyrating Tom Jones, exercise videos of indeterminately ethnic bodies in lockstep choreography. The reigning aesthetic is grainy and proudly low-fi, a reminder that our experience is constantly mediated by, well, media. At the same time, Black & Jones rejoice in just how democratic and leveling mass media can be — anyone can now reach across cultures or generations and transform a widely disseminated work of art into something at once familiar and wholly new. Popular culture, the artists remind us, is locked in a perpetual cycle of cannibalization and regurgitation, ready to spew out the next generation of recycled influences. Lester Merriwether’s accompanying exhibition, eventually the pendulum swings, forms
a striking counterpart. Working in two dimensions, the Memphis-based artist ventures into related thematic territory — recontextualizing hip-hop and popular culture — yet emerges with wholly different results. Merriwether literally cuts and pastes his constructions using imagery drawn from print advertising. The results can be jarring, with disembodied heads, arms and pieces of bling floating freely in space, as if a glossy magazine had exploded just moments beforehand. The artist explains that his work examines the ways entrenched racial stereotypes help to perpetuate social hierarchy. And in isolating elements of contemporary African-American style — gold chains, sunglasses, ball caps — Merriwether comments on the ways in which fashion, instead of defining personal sensibility, render the wearer anonymous, dehumanized, a pawn in a capitalist game. With its profusion of glittering objects, his work is also slyly alluring, an acknowledgment that consumerism has an undeniable, often addictive appeal. Nowhere is this more evident than in “legend (aka hard to get a handle on this double-edged sword),” in which a ship floats on a sea teeming with jewelry underneath a beautifully collaged sky. The vision is wholly dystopian and — as with another Merriwether work that depicts Gucci bags as seagoing vessels — arguably a commentary on the Middle Passage. Yet rather than rebuking the viewer, this piece draws us in, awakening us to our own craving for luxury. Using means both blunt and subtle, Merriwether never lets up in confronting the socioeconomic divide that continues to define America in all of its ethnic complexity. Black & Jones’ work tells us that within the collision of black/white cultural traditions, we can simultaneously embrace and transcend racial differences. Merriwether responds by showing us that in the real world, where there is money to be made and spent, someone always comes out on top, and many more wind up losing. Jonathan Marx is a former newspaper journalist and critic. He currently serves as vice president of communications for the Nashville Symphony.
Artists Lester Julian Merriweather (b.1978) is a Memphis-based visual artist. He attended the prestigious Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture. He holds an MFA from Memphis College of Art & a BA from Jackson State University. Merriweather has exhibited extensively throughout the U.S. at various venues such as the Studio Museum in Harlem, NYC, TOPS Gallery, Powerhouse Memphis, Diverseworks in Houston and the Contemporary in Atlanta. He has also exhibited abroad at the Zacheta National Gallery in Warsaw, Poland. He currently serves as the curatorial director of the Martha & Robert Fogelman Galleries of Contemporary Art at the University of Memphis. He also serves on the board of Number, inc. and as a member of ArtsMemphis’ Artist Advisory Council. Black & Jones is comprised of Austin Peay State University art professors Kell Black and Barry Jones. Using the techniques of digital sound and video editing — both in the studio and in live performances — their work explores the history of cinema, the culture of the Internet, the richness of language, the pervasiveness of music and all the ways in which media intersect and interact to create new languages expressive of our time.
Writers Jonathan Marx is vice president of communications for the Nashville Symphony, where he is responsible for developing cohesive communications strategy and supervising the institution’s public relations, website, social media, graphic design, publications and archives. A former journalist with 18 years’ combined experience as an editor, critic and reporter for the Nashville Scene and The Tennessean, he has also maintained a side career as a musician. He performed, toured and recorded widely with the group Lambchop and has appeared on recordings by Yo La Tengo, Portastatic, Vic Chesnutt and others. Jonathan’s wife, Lesley Patterson-Marx, is a printmaker, book artist and art educator, and serves on Seed Space’s Artist Advisory Board. They have one son, Abraham, and have been members of Hill and Hollow CSA in Edmonton, KY, since 2000. Rachel Bubis is an independent arts writer, curator of Seed Space, and gallery manager at E.T. Burk. Her writing has appeared in Nashville Arts Magazine, Nashville Scene, Native, Art Now Nashville, Art Art Zine, Nashville Wire and Examiner. She holds a BA in Art History from Rollins College.
Seed Space is a lab for site-specific installation, sculpture and performancebased art in Nashville. We support our program in three specific ways. We bring in nationally recognized art critics to write our exhibition essays. We host regularly scheduled public talks. We facilitate meetings among artists, critics and curators. Through these means we aim to foster an exchange between a growing network of local and national artistic communities, which we believe is one of the best ways to support the careers of emerging artists. Located in the Track One building in the Wedgewood Houston neighborhood of Nashville, Seed Space is supported by the Nashville Cultural Arts Project (NCAP), and is made possible with grants from the Tennessee Arts Commission and the Metro Nashville Arts Commission. Upcoming Exhibitions June 7 CLUB MSIF by Mike Stasny Aug. 1 – Sept. 8 By the Steeple Bell Rope by Scott Zieher and Mike Womack Aug. 2 Want by Soheila Azadi and Hanna M. Owens Sept. 6 U.S. Cities Contemporary Art Rankings by Andy Sturdevant Oct. 1 – Dec. 6 Athens of the South by John Warren Oct. 4 – Nov. 10 Greg Pond
Director Adrienne Outlaw | Curator Rachel Bubis firstname.lastname@example.org www.seedspace.org