First Saturdays in Nashville are traditionally Art Crawl evenings, and February’s First Saturday events welcomed the newly opened doors of CG2, an expansion of the longstanding Cumberland Gallery, which has been located in the Green Hills district of Nashville for 35 years. The new CG2 is focused exclusively on Cumberland’s stable of edgier, emerging artists, and their new location reflects that choice: the Track One building in the Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood, where Seed Space is located. The neighborhood has grown into one of the creative hotspots over the past few years with an emphasis on cutting-edge work and young energy during its First Saturday Art Crawls.
Cumberland Gallery has long had a reputation within Nashville for its thoughtful curatorial decisions, and that thoughtfulness is evident in its decision to expand here. “We’ve been having an ongoing dialogue for the past two years on how to support and bring in new artists,” says CG2 director Jason Lascu. Owner and partner Carol Stein adds, “We are immensely proud of these artists, but there was the reality that [the Cumberland Gallery location] couldn’t give the artists the space they deserved. We investigated a lot of opportunities but this…,” and Lascu chimes in “…felt like the right place at the right time.”
The result is an intimate and deliberate space, clean and contemporary within the framing of the historic architectural elements of the Track One building. The limited size and storage forces this same deliberation behind the type of work represented: CG2 currently carries a narrow selection of work by 10 artists, each with a strong exhibition history, active artmaking, and clean and precise craftsmanship behind their pieces. The work leans towards intimate and midsized selections, a choice in line with Stein’s interest in offering opportunities for new collectors. Rather than seeming cramped or small, however, the pieces feel intentional and cohesive, speaking to each other as well as to their contexts within the artists’ larger body of work.
This attention to the longer narrative is vital to the mission of CG2 and Cumberland Gallery. “Any of the artists we pick, at either location, must fit into a congruent orientation that we frame as critical to looking at work: technical skill is critical, there must be a uniqueness of vision, and then, finally, there must be an honesty and integrity to that vision,” says Stein.
Lascu, who earned an MFA in sculpture and has a lot of experience as a gallery preparatory,, agrees: “We’re looking not just at how artists grow, but for artists that will grow with us, and with our clients; we stand beside the work we believe in. Sometimes that work shifts and changes, but we’re here for the artist.” It’s an assertive commitment to the scene and to the work, important to articulate in today’s contemporary art world, where constructs of artistic value may often seem tied to the branding and creative entrepreneurship abilities of the artist or overshadowed by a gallery’s gathering storm cloud of overhead and expenses, rather than the longer lifespan of the body of work itself.
Stein and Lascu choose artists whose works catch their eye, but they also intensively research and pare down to those whose work they can critically engage. It’s important to Stein and Lascu to be able to use CG2 to facilitate both the formal events usually associated with the art market—the openings and presentations—but also a more informal, extended dialogue. “What’s much more interesting is the casual conversation between an artist and his community, and with his collectors. It gives access to the individual process behind the work, and an educated collector will buy work that has real meaning for them.” It’s an opportunity not always available to younger voices, but Lascu hopes that CG2 will provide a place for them to become part of that conversation. “Ultimately,” Stein asserts, “we have two clients we must honor: the artist and the buyer. A high level of honesty, integrity, and relationship-building is deserved by both sides.”
The first two exhibitions (the second opens on March 7) present diverse works by the gallery’s stable, the artists who influenced Stein and Lascu’s decision to open CG2. April will open with a full exhibition of Mark Hosford’s work, including his meticulous silkscreen and video works.
M Kelley is a Nashville-based creative, an advocate for dialogue in contemporary art, an active contributor to a variety of diverse publications and arts initiatives. Kelley curates for the project space 40AU and the collective HAUS Rotations. Hir social practice revolves around a fascination with the complexities of communication and narrative; providing educational and developmental opportunities; and inviting others into collaboration through studiOmnivorous.com.