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At Zeitgeist, Nashville's underground arts district has a new home, and an old friend to christen it

Hagan's Hero

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Everyone who got upset when Zeitgeist vacated its now-demolished building in Hillsboro Village should visit its new digs on Hagan Street this weekend. Greg Pond: I'd Leave the Whole World Round is smart, precise, and has the unusual combination of warm and icy elements. It's the perfect match for a space that could be described with the exact same words.

Zeitgeist's new location, which lies just around the corner from Gabby's Burgers near Greer Stadium, signals a shift in ambition from a commercial storefront to a hub for the future of Nashville's art scene. (Leave it to a gallery owned by an architect to dictate purpose through a built environment.) Artists collective Fort Houston, indie galleries Seed Space and Threesquared, and studios for some of Nashville's most talented artists are all coming up within blocks of each other. Now that Zeitgeist, a stalwart of the independent creative community, has joined the fold, the neighborhood is shaping up to be the antipode of 5th Avenue of the Arts' safe middle-of-the-road fare.

It makes sense that Zeitgeist, under the guidance of owner Manuel Zeitlin and gallery director Lain York, chose Pond as their inaugural artist. He cut his teeth as a founding member of Fugitive Art, the collective of Nashville artists who set up shop in the same neighborhood a more than a decade ago. In a 2004 Scene cover story, David Maddox hailed Fugitive's attempts to enliven the local art scene: "The group runs this large, raw space on a cooperative basis, with the goal of showing art that would not otherwise be seen in this town and making the building available to young artists and locals."

Ten years later, the tables have turned, and Pond has become a name that lends credibility to an esteemed gallery — and one that is run by York, himself an original Fugitive member. That full-circle evolution from punky rebels to prolific professionals lends the area an artistic authenticity — it's as if the weirdo kids from high school all grew up to became exactly what they said they'd be, and they're coming back to let the principal know they're doing just fine.

For I'd Leave the Whole World Round, Pond has managed to squeeze seven software-generated digital archival prints, four monumental sculptures, a sound piece and two smallish 3-D printed pieces into one show, and still leave plenty of room to spare. What's more, he took a risk and filled the show with new work. The exhibit is expansive and varied enough to make you feel like you're seeing a mini-retrospective, but all the works were made in the past few years, and the prints are all dated 2013.

The show's scope and quality are exemplified by Ghost in the Canyon, a massive tumble of twisted tree branches that expands outward from just a few points that touch the ground. From a distance, the sculpture looks as delicate as a house of cards, but up close you see that each intersecting branch is bound together with surgical precision by a tidy plastic wrap. A roof of nylon and brass mesh covers the bushel like a cobweb; the combination of scientific and organic materials calls to mind a tech-savvy Andrew Goldsworthy.

The biggest complaint about Zeitgeist's Hillsboro location was always its cramped quarters, and openings often felt like an attempt to throw the office holiday party inside the office. But the new warehouse-sized building is 10,000 square feet, and its ceiling reaches high enough to fit at least two more floors. A venue that open and spacious could potentially backfire and be intimidating to an artist used to showing in smaller white-box spaces.

But Pond's I'd Leave the Whole World Round feels contained in its Hagan Street home, as if the wasp nest, acrylic polymer, brass and electronic software he uses as media are exorcising the space from all its previous functions, reclaiming it as a place for artists to show genuinely great work. And with Zeitgeist, the arts district once anchored by the Fugitive experiment may finally have its focus — and its flashpoint.

Email arts@nashvillescene.com.

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