by Joe Nolan
One of the more interesting aspects of gallery art is the way in which a particular space can influence an artist’s work. Nashville’s most difficult and easily overlooked space goes by the no-bones name Nashville’s Smallest Art Gallery. If you don’t know where this space is, you should make a game of seeking it out. It’s a little bigger than a kitchen drawer, it’s located in Hillsboro Village and — given the new show on display — it shouldn’t be too difficult to find.
The World and Its Music presents Jeff Bertrand’s cassette tape portrait paintings of a pantheon of 20 musical giants — including Etta James, Buddy Holly, James Brown and John Lennon. In another context, painted on large canvases, hung on white walls, I wouldn’t bother to mention these. But here, at this scale, the cassette tapes are an inventive solution and not just a kitschy device used to peddle hackneyed subjects.
Bertrand paints his portraits with the kind of formal boldness one might find in Mexican religious iconography, turning the slight space into a rock ’n’ roll grotto of greats. Those making the pilgrimage to find this shrine will be mucho blessed.