The Hunter Invitational III opened this summer to a warm greeting from the Chattanooga community. Featuring eight artists from the Southeast region of the United States, this exhibition includes various themes and mediums in order to bond these artists together through locality. On a personal note, this exhibit is all the more dear to Covenant students, as our own Jeffery Morton has several paintings and drawings featured in the show along with other friends to our community like Phillip Andrew Lewis and Jered Sprecher. The show will be at the Hunter through October 19th.
Morton’s kudzu paintings border obsession and the crowded, square compositions filled with the vine-covered landscapes become distorted as the viewer moves in for a closer look. The romantic jungle look is accomplished from a distance, but the pastel coloration begins to raise suspicion as the soft lines become menacing. Just like the stuff it’s modeled from, the soft layers of paint consume every under-form in a sort of parasitic grope.
The idea of place is a favorite theme in Morton’s work and I found the portrayal of the landscapes of the Southern kudzu landscape to be somewhat profound in its emphasis on geographic cues rather than architectural ones. For those of us, like Morty, who are southern transplants it can be difficult to appreciate what the South has to offer. Kudzu in particular is often known more for its ridiculously selfish growth making these works all the more surprising. The intimacy of canvas size as well as the coloration give these works a lovely endearment for this crazy town.
Jered Sprecher's paintings combine not only high and low visual source material but high and low aesthetic as well. From the color to the forms one may be reminded of a late summer Target catalog. The formal quality of the stripes in his large scale work "A Plane is a Pocket in the Corners of the Mind" are over worked with the giant flowers almost tie-dyed onto the frames in over saturated hues of purple, blue, pink and yellow. The spliced canvases are a visual headache and their combined size is similar to a billboard seen on the way to Hamilton place. However, seeing the work up close, one realizes the delicate visual fibs which make up this image. The visible strokes pull at the paintings materiality as they break up the image on the monumental canvas. From colors misplaced to the overall lack of negative space the canvas is a persistent war territory. The realized, broken image with its familiar visual languages distorted into borish line and shape bring the viewer to a inner tension. It would seem that this monumental painting may be showing us a little of ourselves in its fragmented aesthetic appeal.
Philip Andrew Lewis
Philip Andrew Lewis’s biography is key to the efficacy of Columns, a video installation featuring strictly disciplined ROTC candidates performing with serial accuracy some basic follow-the-leader commands. Lewis spent several years of his youth in a forced drug rehabilitation program of questionable legality. While Lewis does not give details about the nature of the treatment he underwent in the program, the work he has produced in response to that time gives some indication of the demands the program made on its participants. A strict discipline both in the boys movements as well as in their stillness suggests a stoic, mind-numbing sameness to the experience. But it is not perfect, as a closer inspection reveals, the boys make small mistakes like failing to keep proper pace or not turning at a precise angle on the exact spot. Sometimes their eyes fail to meet the back of the head in front of them and instead they stare down at the floor. These little mistakes are magnified by their surroundings and of the viewers perceived sense of perfection manifested in the white walls, clean clothing and neatly trimmed hair of each boy. In that sense, the work can be read as an institutional critique as well, as the boy’s location closely resembles the gallery space the work is inhabiting.