One of the things that gets me really excited is when artists and curators find a way to relate art to other cultural references, inspiring an audience whose preconceived notions of what art is or is supposed to be typically preclude them from any interest.
For example, in April, Cherry Street gallery Joseph Gierek Fine Art hosted an exhibit of the gallery owner's baseball memorabilia and art (yes, there is such a thing as baseball art), which he said attracted more than a few passersby who confessed to him they wouldn't have walked through his door had they not seen those helmets through the window.
And this month, Living Arts, 307 E. Brady St., is hosting CIPHER, a showing of work about and inspired by hip hop culture. Presented in cooperation with Inclusion in Arts, a nonprofit that promotes racial diversity in Oklahoma's visual arts community, CIPHER is an exhibit of experimental film, performance art, conceptual sculpture and mixed media by artists of varying backgrounds, some of whom have no connection to hip hop culture. Each of the works on display is an effort to explore and understand the words and meanings of hip hop lyrics.
Arthouse Hip Hop.
"If the exhibition included the usual suspects of graffiti and rap only, it would be a repeat of past shows that explored hip hop," curator Nathan Lee said. "This event forces the artists involved to participate and learn about a very specific aspect of hip hop -- lyricism -- and apply it to their artistic expression. The result is work that not only explores the lyrics themselves, but (also) truths and meanings of words according to a diverse group of people.
"This is what hip hop was: an individual expression where originality was welcomed."
Among the artists exhibiting in CIPHER are Lieneke Mous, Lania Lee and Marlon Ladd. Mous is an accomplished dancer who also lectures on modern dance at the University of Oklahoma. Her piece, "Battle Royale," re-enacts, through dance, two rappers/poets locked in a battle of wordplay.
Lee is a self-taught artist whose gritty, poetic paintings are transformed into animated video installations that document inner-city life, and Ladd is a filmmaker whose three-part film Lyrical Transitions explores the beginning and the end of love. Its dialogue is comprised of spoken word and rhymes.
"CIPHER is arthouse hip hop," said Robert Hill, creative director for Inclusion in Art. "It ignores mainstream sensibilities and becomes a pure creative rush that just happens to be a little hip as well."
CIPHER opens on Friday, Sept. 2 with a reception from 6-9pm as part of the Brady Arts District's First Friday Art Crawl, when galleries and studios along the avenue host simultaneous openings, all of which are free and open to the public.
Also opening at Living Arts that night are two new installations: "When the Earth Burps: A traveling collection by Ashli Ringgold" and "Circular Unknown" by Roger Disney. All exhibits will hang through Sept. 23. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 1-5pm, and Thursday, 1-9pm. More information is at livingarts.org.
Down the street, at 9 E. Brady St., Tulsa Artists' Coalition Gallery will open "Compendium 25: TAC'sAnnual Members' Show," an exhibit that doubles as a celebration of the gallery's 25th anniversary.
The Tulsa Artists' Coalition is a volunteer-run, nonprofit organization of artists and art supporters that aims to encourage and support emerging andestablished contemporary artists.
This group exhibit is facilitated by board member Allison Taylor and juried by juried by Mark Lewis, painter and art professor at University of Tulsa; Rhonda Davis, artist and art instructor at Tulsa Community College; and Karen Greenawalt, local photographer. Best of Show and three Jurors' Choice, as well as the Peoples' Choice Award, decided by attendees of the 6-9pm opening, will be announced at the evening's conclusion.
The exhibit will hang through Sept. 24. Gallery hours are Thursday through Saturday from 6-9pm and by appointment. More information is at tacgallery.org.
Also opening in the Brady Arts District on Friday is "Pin UP Graffiti," a collection of acrylic paintings by Kim Starkey, at Club 209 The Arts Bar, 209 N. Boulder Ave., as well as shows at Tulsa Glassblowing Studio, 19 E. Brady St.; Brady Artists Studio, 23 E. Brady St.; and Brady Tavern, 201 N. Main St. All openings run from 6-9pm.
Tulsa in pictures
Closer to downtown's central business district, the Tulsa Performing Arts Center Gallery, 110 E. Second St., is showing, through Sept. 25, an exhibit of photos by Carl Logan titled Finding Tulsa.
Logan says he "found Tulsa waiting in the backdrop" as he embarked upon a self-portrait project, and so, desiring to create a body of work comparable to that of a street or documentary photographer, he began to photograph Tulsa instead of himself. To this day, he continues the "Finding Tulsa" project, hoping to document every square mile of the city.
The PAC's gallery is open from 10am to 5:30pm Monday through Friday and during Chapman Music Hall events. More information is at tulsapac.com.
Art and booze
In the Pearl District, Lot No. 6, 1323 E. Sixth St., will host the opening of Get Me Away, I'm Dying, a collection of new drawings by Zachary Heimdale, from 7-10pm Friday night. The bar is open until 2am.
The surface-level playfulness of Heimdale's work acts to subvert the darker underlying themes of loss, sexual frustration, aggression, loneliness, physical injury and irregularities, and homelessness. He uses bold, choppy lines splashed with bright color on a rough, unfinished surface that he hopes will invoke in viewers the inner battle between "remembering self and experiencing self."
Gallery owner Vanessa Somerville said of Heimdale's new work: "His work is life-size or larger, which forces the viewer to step into the work and connect with it personally. I am drawn into these works as much as I am slightly disturbed by them. They do work of creating an environment with their size and surface treatment. It takes an understanding of the media to be able to create an effortless chaos to the surface."
The exhibit will hang through the month of September.
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