Louis Bickett did not curate Currents, the new exhibition at the Loudoun House in Lexington, Kentucky. Rather he cast a big net, caught some of his favorite artists, and they then pinned themselves up for something more like an entomological review. I am willing to bet that was intentional.
Bickett is an internationally exhibited conceptual artist and photographer who prides himself on challenging the status quo. He is perhaps best known for his practice of collecting and his interest in archival processes. Make no mistake, though, Bickett did not seal up these artists in a jar as he did with his Dirt Sample Project or affix them in a three-ringed binder as in his photographic essay Project Lexington.
He made sure not to organize or chronicle or explain the work for us. Bickett let these artists loose to pin themselves up for review like specimens on foamcore. He emptied his net onto the walls of the old castle-gated building and went back to work.
For many years the Lexington Art League, located in the Loudoun House, has been immersed in the exploration of contemporary artistic practices. Recently, under the direction of Stephanie Harris, the organization has adopted a new vision statement wherein art, artists, and art making are central to human inspiration, self-realization, and meaning.
Bickett let that happen. For this exhibition, on view through October 20, he invited Aaron Michael Skolnick, Aurora Parrish, R. Clint Colburn, G. Haviland Argo III, Guy Mendes, and Phillip March Jones. As the artists all reveal themselves in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, you may even find yourself tangled in their webs of meaning-making.
To the right of the entrance, Parrish’s installation glows amid a fertile pink moistness. Her assemblages appear fragile and plump at the same time—one object seemingly unrelated to the next unless you consider that we may be seeing a “cross-section” or glimpse of her persona. During the opening reception, Parrish’s installation changed with the light from late afternoon to early evening to envelop with womblike warmth.
Skolnick steals the show in his representation of such iconic figures as Michael Jackson. The artist is both respectful and dismissive: the former demonstrated in his meticulous drawings of these figures, seemingly mocking the massive effort it took for us to continually hold them up as iconic. He then dismisses their ultimate relevance with his presentation. There is no need for frames, nails, or the tools of a preparator. Princess Diana’s image is silk-screened on a T-shirt and hangs precariously on a hanger attached to a mobile laundry rack, just over a torn piece of paper bearing a graphite image of O.J. Simpson.
Signaling pathways to the known and the unknown reaches of a greater universe in what he calls an “auto-biosphere,” G. Haviland Argo sees with the compound vision of a fly’s eye. His installation is made up of objects a Kentucky boy, as he once was, might know well: Moss. Ferns. Rocks, lichen, and a dead bumblebee. Argo leaves little room for the viewer to engage his exact vision, signaling perhaps our ultimate insignificance relative to certain truths.
Not only does this exhibition launch the Lexington Art League and the public into a new realm for displaying and consuming contemporary art, it also invites a certain commitment from each of us to take a close look at our presumptions. We are necessary for art to have meaning, and in order to do that some of us may need to molt.
As for myself, a onetime journalist covering arts and culture in Lexington, Kentucky, I wiggled and flapped in my attempts to get back to my comfortable Q&A with some of the artists. I left feeling unnerved by the amount of time it took me to change colors and understand why it was necessary. One could make the argument that, with Currents, Bickett even challenges his own past, acting more like an anti-archivist. Regardless, Bickett has emerged to fly again simply by remaining genuine, heartfelt, and unpretentious. He encourages each of us to do the same.
Christine Huskisson is an artist, writer, and teacher living in Versailles, Kentucky.
Disclosure: Christine Huskisson is a board member for the Lexington Art League. In pursuit of featuring work that significantly contributes to cultural discourse, as well as our commitment to transparency, our policy is to disclose instead of exclude.
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