On February 15, Delta Axis and Locate Arts/Seed Space selected Memphis artist Desmond Lewis and Kenturah Davis, who practices outside of Tennessee, to exhibit their work together as a collaborative exploration of materiality and relationship. The exhibition was on view until March 10, 2019 at Crosstown Arts in Memphis, TN.
Delta Axis is a non-profit visual arts organization dedicated to bringing contemporary art to Memphis, and Seed Space, a project of Locate Arts, connects and promotes contemporary art scenes throughout Tennessee in a collective effort to establish ongoing dialogue between cities. This show in particular was intended to be the kick-starter for a series of exhibitions across the state in which Tennessee artists and artists from out of state collaborate with local organizations. The TN Triennial, a major initiative of Carrie and Brian Jobe the founders of Locate Arts, is to be the largest contemporary art exhibition the state has ever seen.
Kenturah Davis is a visual artist based in Los Angeles, CA, New Haven, CT, and Accra (Ghana). Her work revolves around the general concepts of portraiture, design, and hinges on methods of language. It takes various forms including drawing, sculpture, performance, etc. However, in this exhibition at Crosstown, Kenturah has built looms and woven found objects into their structure. In subtle juxtaposition to Davis’ large-scale looms, Desmond Lewis, a sculptor born in Nashville, TN but currently working in Memphis, constructs sturdy, concrete sculptures punctuated with industrial materials that evoke architecture and shared space.
The exhibition presents the viewer with a raw, stripped-down presentation of minimally designed sculptures and objects. Lighting is carefully positioned to enable the exhibition’s physical structures to carry shadows as part of their formal presence. This additional depth further piques viewer’s curiosity and desire to explore meaning. As a whole, the show focuses on materiality, object permanence, the formal language of objects, and viewer’s relationship to their rigorous treatment of space. The gallery has a marked flow, with Davis’ looms drawing the eye deep into their pattern, design, and hidden objects. Desmond’s large interactive sculptures feel more like landmarks, obstructions scattered throughout the exhibition drawing the eye up and around. For instance, in the first room, leaning on the back right wall is one of Davis’ L-shaped looms with Desmond’s largest, spindly concrete structure directly flanking it. The tall, black loom has found-objects woven into its pattern, creating a chunky and dynamic texture both in the physical sculpture and shadows cast on the wall behind. The viewer is invited to stoop down and follow the loom up the wall, closely revealing the “everyday” objects, such as rulers, cords, and even tennis rackets, concealed within. In opposition, the Desmond piece directly left attracts the viewer’s eye immediately with an assertive, dark rectangular concrete base. The sculpture draws attention upward with four vertical metal rods reaching toward and touching the ceiling.
There is a beautiful balance between their works allowing viewers to experience space in its totality as well as minute detail. Both artists stage art objects alongside everyday objects and prefabricated industrial materials. This strategy of comparison and underscoring of contrast breaks down meaning and perception in both visual and linguistic contexts. The artist’s sensitivity to material is an exploration of equilibrium, in space, language, and perception. The exhibition is intentionally void of descriptive text, leaving viewers without distraction to witness the space, the network of objects, and their own thoughts.