Although there's snow on the ground as I sit down to type up this month's column, the April crawl will be the first art crawl of the spring, and I'm hoping it will herald a permanent turn toward tulip season — and all the open windows and patio beers that implies. With that in mind, there's plenty blooming downtown, including a new venue on Fifth Avenue, an unexpected gallery mash-up and a painter who happens to be a rock 'n' roll legend.
You won't find any burning missions, tiny dancers or rocking crocodiles here, but Elton John lyricist Bernie Taupin's paintings at Rymer Gallery are sure to draw big crowds in April. Like John Mellencamp, whose paintings showed at the Tennessee State Museum last year, Taupin packs the one-two punch of being both a music celebrity and a visual artist — a combination Nashvillians can't resist. Though Taupin paints large, geometric abstract canvases, their bold, colorful palettes nod to pop art. What else would you expect from the guy who wrote the line, "She's got electric boots, a mohair suit / You know I read it in a magazine"?
I've enjoyed Denise Stewart-Sanabria's work in the past. A display at the airport ticketing lounge in 2004 featured the artist's nearly life-size wooden cutout figures grouped together to mirror the actual people queueing up for boarding passes. The project revealed a smart understanding of the space and a unique strategy for a nontraditional art environment. Stewart-Sanabria's show at The Arts Company this month features drawings and wall sculptures of figures wearing contemporary clothing in ancient settings. The propaganda says it's an exploration of Nashville's "It City " popularity, but it's too soon to tell if this is another savvy scheme or just a convenient theme for pulling together a body of work.
I was recently reminded of painter Anna Jaap's work when I saw one of her large canvases on display in a lawyer's office downtown. The artist will be showing her abstracted evocations of natural spaces at Tinney Contemporary this month alongside the photography of Carla Ciuffo.
Up the street at 219 Fifth Ave. N., the Tennessee Art League will join the heart of the crawl at its new location. The gallery opens four shows on Saturday night, including an exhibition of work by intellectually and developmentally challenged artists organized by Open Arms Care Corporation.
In his essay "Formless," writer/philosopher Georges Bataille posits that people bring form to the formless universe, creating meaning, value and tenured professors in the process. Bataille's idea inspired Philippe Pirrip's mixed-media exhibition at Blend in February, and now it's inspired Leigh Anne Chambers to create a show of paintings at Blend using discarded materials like house paint and linoleum flooring to address our tendency to order the environments we inhabit.
The biggest curveball of the night comes from Megan Kelley at 40AU. I named the 40AU space the Best New Contemporary Art Gallery in the Scene's 2012 Best of Nashville issue specifically for Kelley's keen curatorial skills, and I was surprised to hear that for 40AU's April exhibit, she was showing work by Gallery One artists. I've written many good words about the Belle Meade gallery and its artists, but the work they promote strikes me as too commercial to catch Kelley's eye. That's why I'm so interested to see The Weight of Air and Water: Atmospheric Investigations, featuring art by Brian Borrello, Patrick Adams, Steven Seinberg, Marc Civitarese and Henry Isaacs. This show of abstract landscapes may demonstrate how a fresh curatorial eye can organize selected works in a manner that redefines how we look at a specific group of artists or even a gallery as a whole.
Lauren Kussro's elaborate sculptures at Twist are cut from handmade paper and decorated with woodblock designs. One thing I've always liked about Kussro's objects and installations is their evocation of the graceful femininity of natural forms and systems, sans heavy statements about the environment. Kussro pursues beauty for its own sake, upholding poet John Keats' assertion that "Beauty is truth, truth beauty."
Coop will be showing an installation of photographer Ben Sloat's night shots of Beijing streets drenched in flashing police lights. The images will be projected on a wall, reinforcing the shining lights of their subjects.
That's it for April, crawlers. I'm predicting a balmy spring event. I also probably just jinxed it. Bring a sweater.