In Nashville, Seed Space exists as a kind of lab. Situated within the studio of Adrienne Outlaw, the petite eight-by-ten-foot gallery hosts site-specific commissions of installation, sculpture, and performance-based work. Its unintimidating size pushes artists to think about their exhibitions holistically, taking advantage of the intimacy the space affords. In conversation, Outlaw described how minute these considerations have been: from capitalizing on its potential for immersion to harnessing a beam of light that concentrates in a particular spot. The resulting exhibitions express unique articulations of the relationship between the artist’s formal concerns and the space’s physical dimensions.
Formed in 2009, Seed Space is the only nonprofit in the city dedicated to contemporary art. Founded by Outlaw and curated by Rachel Bubis, the space is a locus for art exhibition, programming, discourse, and writing. A printed catalogue accompanies each exhibition, which they use as an opportunity to invite curators and writers from around the country to reflect and respond to the work on view.
I first visited Seed Space when I was invited to write on the exhibition of sculptor Natalie Dunham. For her project Veneer, Dunham created a low-hanging net-like form. Using each wall as an anchor, the interlocking industrial strapping spanned the entirety of the space. From sculpture to installation, Dunham employed Seed Space’s configuration to redirect the focus of her formal investigations.
With a show concurrently up at a local commercial gallery, broader themes contextualized the artist’s recurrent use of industrial materials, and her interest in line accumulation in three-dimensional space. But there was an element of surprise with her work at Seed Space. Seen from below, the material gave way to an unexpected study on light. Unpredictable patterns deflected on to the walls, creating the optical effects of a kaleidoscope, overriding and distorting the strict physical boundaries of the gallery. The opportunity to work in situ proved to be a breakthrough for Dunham, and will undoubtedly linger when she approaches future projects.
Seed Space continues to look beyond the confines of their space in order to generate meaningful experiences with and through art. Working with the art gallery Zeitgeist and ET Burk, a mid-century design store, Seed Space cohosts a series of talks and participatory events titled Insight? Outta Site that brings critics, curators, and artists from around the country to their spaces. They also partner with Sound Crawl and Noa Noa, two organizations taking advantage of city’s experimental music scene. To support their endeavors, the space maintains innovative fundraising, shaped after the community-supported agriculture model employed by threewalls and Springboard for the Arts. CSArt simultaneously supports the organization’s operations and artists, while allowing experts and novices alike to effortlessly collect contemporary art.
Seed Space functions beyond the potential vacuum of region, cultivating expression that speaks from a place instead of about it. By folding in the voices and perspectives of the contemporary art field near and far, discourse remains committed to more art and less politics. Though humble in size, the environment skirts conformity and makes room for ephemeral projects dedicated to experimentation.
The organization’s success mirrors the bubbling desire for contemporary art spaces in the city. As evidence, their upcoming exhibitions are already booked through 2013. Outlaw’s neighbors in 427 Chestnut, a converted hosiery mill-turned-creative space, also use their studios to exhibit art. Next door, Dane Carder operates Three Squared Gallery, and most recently Janet Yanez established Ground Floor.
In an interview, Yanez (who has recently moved to Atlanta) explained that she was inspired by Seed Space to create the gallery. Seeing it as a means to build camaraderie, she described her mission for Ground Floor as “a way to plug in and get connected.” Here Yanez echoes the sentiments offered by each of these artists-turned-gallerists who have found it’s not enough to make or even to show their own work.
About this column:
The Fringe seeks to make greater connection between Atlanta and the art world at large. Now with writers contributing from around the country, the column continues to follow contemporary art that addresses the unique qualities of the natural, built, and social environments. The Fringe will unfold as several collections of articles bound together by a theme.
This article continues the collection I have named “Life as Form” after Creative Time’s second annual summit. The correlating exhibition entitled Living as Form combined artists, theorists, curators, and activists to consider how creative projects can restructure relationships between people and the places they live. Similarly, BURNAWAY will reflect on artistic form and public engagement in projects based in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Charleston, Berlin, and Atlanta.