Dadu is happy to announce our first kids' art show and mural project unveiling! Joined by Nashville Classical Charter School art club 3rd graders and designer, Channing Bailey, Dadu is adding to the murals in the alley (further realizing an "alley art gallery" dream by neighbors).
Come hang for the Art Stumble, see the mural and more collaborative projects!
Channing Bailey is a Tennessee native, New York-based artist and designer. Heavily inspired by animation and manga, Channing is focused on leveraging technology and a variety of media to create a unique art style and repackage subcultural elements for the high-art market. He is the founder and managing partner of Channing and Company, an innovation studio specializing in brand identity, brand strategy, and creating immersive on-brand experiences.
Nashville Classical is a charter school in historic Lockeland Springs in East Nashville.
CONVERSATIONS: Christopher Roberson
interview with Jodi Hays
Hosted by galleryELL
04 April 2016
In Conversation with Christopher Roberson, by Jodi Hays
NASHVILLE, TN — I first began to follow Christopher Roberson’s work through on the suggestion of artist Patrick DeGuire. At the time I was curating for a University, and hoped for a chance to get to show his work if it ever made sense. I was not too long after that I met Christopher while helping install some of my student’s work at Cummins Station in Nashville. He was an art handler for a colorful and kind (and sadly, recently departed) man, Gene Sizemore. Christopher allowed one of my students to understudy some basic art handling and installing. He didn’t get paid a lick for being nice and generous with his time. That alone might not be the only reason for DADU to host his work, but it sure makes the whole thing more fun.
— Jodi Hays, DADU, April 2016
DADU presents River Rat, an exhibition of Drawings and Sculpture by Christopher Roberson on April 9, 2016.
Jodi Hays: Thanks for showing your work in your home-town and at DADU. Can you talk a bit about your work for River Rat?
Christopher Roberson: There’s a certain ambient comedy I’m hunting with this work. Imagery that is a little too slippery to hold, or completely wrap your head around. I’m thinking about the dead, dark space within a joke or story and the pressure that builds during the silence – this is the zone that I want my work to operate, especially with the works on paper. At this point, I am instinctive with my materials. I allow them to lead the way and reveal connections over time. In this case, there is a type of sublimation that occurs with black rubber that I am very attracted to. It’s a very erotic material, but also, obviously, very industrial. Throw into the mix memories of oppressively hot southern summers, floating around lakes and rivers in rubber inner tubes and I can begin to play with these layered perceptions. Sculpture has always led my practice, but just before leaving Nashville for New York I started to take my drawings more seriously. They are very much a pulse in my practice that allows me to keep a rhythm within the work. So when you proposed the idea of putting together a works on paper show, it was very exciting. Its an opportunity to really bring these drawings to the surface and what better place to show them than another artist’s studio in Nashville – a place I have a complicated relationship with.
JH: We both went to undergraduate in art at University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Lately I have been thinking through abstraction in the south, specifically Tennessee, and the legacy of professors there. How did that program shape you and your work?
Christopher Roberson, Trap (Asshole), 2016, sumi ink on paper, 30 x 22 in.
CR: I had a very good experience in Knoxville. The professors at that time, specifically in the sculpture department — Jennifer Odem and Jason Brown, really fostered a spirit of experimentation and research — this in combination with space, facilities, and wild early twenties mania produced some very strange and special work by the students around me. There was often a fair amount of danger involved, especially at the annual iron pours, but also just daily at the building — kicked back wood flying around the wood shop, people lighting artworks on fire, access to chainsaws — there was a fearlessness that was contagious and productive. There was also a palpable competitiveness — who could make the most work and who could sleep the least. The thing that really opened the gates for me is that people were willing to have in depth conversations about the absurd. I remember an early piece I made that involved a heap of spaghetti and meatballs on top of a revolving record player that had a slow drip of water coming from a bucket that I installed near the ceiling — it felt like a privilege that I was able to make these things and have a serious discussion about it. I still feel very fortunate to be an artist.
JH: Will you also talk a bit about Artist-Run spaces, from your perspective, both in Nashville and New York?
CR: I have a deep belief in artist-run spaces. I actually first encountered these types of initiatives in Chicago, where I lived for 5 years after undergrad. There is a midwestern stubbornness in Chicago. People work hard and play hard. Plus there is the influence of SAIC and various MFA programs around the city. The art market, from my vantage point, really lives in the shadows of some really exciting and sustainable artist-run spaces and projects in this city. I’m thinking here of ACRE, Roots & Culture, the Co-Prosperity Sphere, The Hills, among others.
I see Nashville as a place where these types of spaces could really help broadcast the solid work of local workers to a larger audience. And since the market in Nashville is super thin, I think there is a real opportunity to show some challenging, unfriendly, or politically charged work. And what better time than when your city is on every top 10 list of places to visit or live.
RIP Fugitive, Open Lot, Joint Projects, etc.
Viva DADU, 40AU, Coop, and the Packing Plant.
Christopher Roberson, Trap (Citrus), 2016, sumi ink on paper, 30 x 22 in.
JH: Yes, Viva! Our first show at DADU was curated by my friend John Ros (who runs galleryELL). He was recently interviewed by Sluice out of London on artist-run spaces (and specifically, galleryELL). What struck me as a prompt for so many spaces is the ability to be nimble within “the system”, to work alongside it, not necessarily against it. In our “super thin” market here in Nashville we can find a lot of freedom, as long as criticality is not thrown out in the process, at least, that’s what a lot of my community here keeps in mind (ahem, Campfire).
CR: The exciting thing about artist-run or alternative spaces, apartment galleries, pop-ups, etc. is that the goals for each can be so vast. I think there’s room for projects with a very punk approach — in direct opposition or indifference to any sort of system. But I also think its important for artists to come together and present work in a very professional way with a strong backbone of criticality. This is something that Coop has done very well in the past — showing challenging work in a way that doesn’t alienate or ignore the viewer. Many of the spaces in Brooklyn work successfully alongside larger commercial galleries. I’ve seen many of these mature into non-profits, which allows them to fund some ambitious projects, offer residencies, and really act as a conduit for younger or under-represented artists.
JH: Do you think about your position as an artist and your choice of materials related to “working-class” (prompted by your choices of material like rubber, but also past work around basketball games — insert thud of a deflated ball here)?
Christopher Roberson, Trap (Pelican), 2016, sumi ink on paper, 30 x 22 in.
CR: I treat art-making like a trade. My work ethic was inherited and probably not so different from any of my grandparents, who were farmers and sawmill owners. It is an everyday activity. I don’t think my father took a single sick or vacation day his entire career and my mother is the hardest working person I’ve ever met. I am also completely dependent on work for my own sanity. There is a great Chuck Close quote that I think about often:
“Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work. And the belief that things will grow out of the activity itself and that you will — through work — bump into other possibilities and kick open other doors that you would never have dreamt of if you were just sitting around looking for a great ‘art idea.’ And the belief that process, in a sense, is liberating and that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every day. Today, you know what you’ll do, you could be doing what you were doing yesterday, and tomorrow you are gonna do what you did today, and at least for a certain period of time you can just work. If you hang in there, you will get somewhere.”
As for my materials, I’ve never thought of them as directly “working-class”, though I do look for things that are willing to work with me, not against me. I’m not interested in using all of my energy fighting against a material. This is why I abandoned concrete. It satisfied a set of ideas at the time, but I nearly ruined my back. I now ask my materials to collaborate with me, surprise me. Maybe that sounds corny but I’m okay with getting a little new-agey in the studio.
Christopher Roberson / River Rat / DADU / April 9, 2016
Krazy Kat and Ignatz Mouse have a tenuous relationship. Krazy nurses an unrequited love for Ignatz, who finds sport in throwing bricks at Krazy’s head. It’s a nauseating cycle and a messy place. This imbalance, paranoia, ambient fear, and warping instability are vibes that have been appearing in my recent drawings. Culling together a lexicon of appropriated imagery (primarily backgrounds and peripheral objects found in animations), typography, and scaled-up marks, the images are unified through a restrained palette and emphasis on hard-edged line. While my practice oscillates between drawing and sculpture, River Rat brings the works on paper to the surface and examines how every move in the studio informs the whole.
Christopher Roberson was raised in Franklin, Tennessee and currently lives in New York. He holds a BFA from the University of Tennessee and is an MFA candidate for sculpture at Hunter College. His work has been shown at The Frist Center for the Visual Arts (Nashville, TN); Zeitgeist Gallery (Nashville, TN); Chicago Cultural Center (Chicago, IL), Field Projects (New York, NY), among other venues. He has worked on various artist-run initiatives and has a gray cat named Mapplethorpe.
For questions contact jodihays at gmail or East Side Art Stumble.
Excited to announce our April 2016 show, Christopher Roberson. Thanks Laura at the Nashville Scene for a write-up in the Winter Arts Preview (see also below
Jodi Hays' DADU Gallery behind her East Nashville house just down the street from Five Points is consistently surprising. On April 9, DADU will be opening an exhibit of drawings by former Nashvillian Christopher Roberson, whose fantastic inkjet-on-silk work was most recently seen in Nashville at Zeitgeist. It's an offbeat space, but this is a show you'll want to make time for even if you aren't a regular East Side Stumbler.
Chris will be showing drawing, as related to his practice as a sculptor, and will be a guest artist at Watkins College of Art and Design. See you April 9th! Come on, Spring!
New shows planned for spring and fall, 2016! Announcing soon!
See our online Store to preview and purchase work.
The first pop-up is a brick-and-mortar realization of a series of online exhibitions curated by galleryELL’s founder/artist/curator John Ros (NYC/London) in collaboration with director/artist Jodi Hays (East Nashville). Notions of home, place and space are contemplated and examined in each artists’ practice in this inaugural exhibition.
Conversations is an investigation into specific ideas within artists’ practices, specifically those of space, place, landscape and architecture and how these things affect our own sense of space, place, home, memory, intimacy, ritual, landscape and memory.
Digital catalogue will be available.
Anna Freeman Bentley