Regional Update: Nashville

Alexis Esquivel, "Como fuego arde en vivas llamas", 2018. Acrylic on canvas, 140x 200 cm. Courtesy of the Afro-Latin American Research Institute, Harvard University.
Alexis Esquivel, “Como fuego arde en vivas llamas”, 2018. Acrylic on canvas, 140x 200 cm. Courtesy of the Afro-Latin American Research Institute, Harvard University.


Currently on display at The Frist Art Museum is J.M.W. Turner: Quest for the Sublime, an exhibition recounting career highlights of one of the greatest romantic artists in the Western canon. Known for his intense and turbulent landscape painting, William Turner’s dramatic evocation of evanescent light and hues has inspired awe for nature’s unmeasurable magnitude and power ever since. The work on view is selected from The Turner Bequest, a unique collection of Tate Britain containing the artist’s studio materials, which was bequeathed to the nation after his death in 1851. Sketches, watercolors, and large oil paintings give insight into Turner’s practice and the origin of his pursuit of the Sublime that eventually lead to iconic masterpieces. David Blayney Brown, senior curator of 19th Century British art at Tate Britain, gave a lecture on the topic on the opening day of the exhibition.



Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery hosted Visionary Aponte: Art and Black Freedom. This traveling exhibition originally opened at Art Basel Miami Beach in 2017 and is curated by Édouard Duval-Carrié and Ada Ferrer. It brought together twenty international contemporary artists who each present a piece based on the long-lost “Book of Paintings” by the Afro-Cuban revolutionary José Antonio Aponte (1760 – 1812). Among a wide array of subjects, the book contained representations of a diasporic black history that connects the shores of Cuba to faraway lands like Ethiopia and led officials to declare Aponte as the leader of an island-wide colonist rebellion. The book disappeared after his execution in 1812. Today, Visionary Aponte is a vibrant legacy to the document, one that strives to rethink historic black narrative and the role of art in creating social change.



Also on view during the first quarter of 2020 were two photography exhibitions with regional artists documenting life and change in the South. Throughout January, Zeitgeist Gallery featured Nashville Now: New Photographers, New Work in which nine local artists exhibited segments of their ongoing projects of capturing (extra)ordinary moments in Music City, including its growing pains, tourist traps, acts of activism, and ordinary suburbia. A wider, regional perspective is currently presented by Ground Floor Gallery with the juried show Stories of the South: A Photographic Exhibition. Selected images from photographers across the region highlight the deep-rooted traditions and changing culture of the American South. Curated by Mattie Ott and Janet Yanez, this exhibit documents natural beauty alongside decaying infrastructure, unique communities with idiosyncratic conventions, and a challenged new generation who will shape their future. Ultimately, these exhibitions offered insights into the complexity, contradictions, and questions of sustainability of both the city and the region.



Lastly, Red Arrow Gallery presented a new solo exhibition by Ohio based artist Dana Oldfather. Her jam-packed, abstract paintings layer familiar landscapes and interiors spaces with piles of bodies, objects, drips, and glazes. These ‘scenes-in-flux’, as the artist describes them, question traditional ideas of femininity, motherhood, and the fragility of contemporary American life.




Inge Klaps was born and raised in Belgium and earned a MA in Art History at KU Leuven. Since 2015, she lives and works in Nashville.