On View: 6 Alabama Art Exhibits to See Before the End of August

From interpretations of what it means to be a Southern artist to a series of photographs that examine queer identity, here are six art exhibitions to see this month at museums, art centers and galleries across the country. ‘State.

The Alabama Triennia|, Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts

An exhibit view of the Alabama Triennial at the Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts. (Shauna Stuart | AL.com)

What does it mean to be a Southern artist? Sixteen contemporary artists from Alabama examine this question at the inaugural Alabama Triennial at the Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts (AEIVA). Curated by AEIVA Director John Fields and Assistant Curator Tina Ruggieri, the exhibit’s mission is to create a broader, more comprehensive view of what an artist from Alabama looks like. Another goal of the curators: to create a long tradition of celebrating Alabama’s visual artists in their own backyards.

“There’s the Southern version that’s shown on TV. Which is a very simplified, one-sided version of what it means to be in Alabama,” Fields said. “And I constantly think over my years at AEIVA, because I brought people here from other places. Almost every time, on every level, they were very shocked by the real reality of Birmingham, Alabama .

Patrons of the Alabama Triennale at AEVIA

Patrons view the work of artist Erin LeAnn Mitchell in the gallery ahead of AEIVA’s Alabama Triennial. (Shauna Stuart | AL.com)

From painting and photography to sculpture and printmaking, Alabama Triennale artists unveil themes of cultural and social identity, memory, folklore and science in a journey of color and textures through the three galleries of AEIVA.

On Friday August 12, AEVIA will organize a special ceremony for the Alabama Triennale. During the program, the arts institution will present a series of quick talks from performing artists, as well as a release of the Alabama Triennial Exposition catalog.

Details: “The Alabama Triennial” is on view at the Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts through August 13, 2022 | Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts| 1221 10th Ave S, Birmingham, AL 35205 |

“Flashing the Leather”, Alabama Center for Contemporary Art
flashing the leather

“Flashing the Leather” at the Alabama Contemporary Art Center highlights works of art that address rituals and concepts from baseball and baseball history. (Shauna Stuart | Al.com)

“Flashing the Leather,” which plays at the Alabama Contemporary Art Center in Mobile, unpacks the culture of baseball, or as fans like to call it, America’s favorite pastime.

“Baseball’s long history includes a checkered past of ups and downs, from famous historical social justice figures to steroid and sign-stealing scandals,” reads a description from the Alabama Contemporary Art Center. “‘Flashing the Leather’ delves deep into the social underpinnings of baseball as told through the voices of contemporary artists, using metaphors, concepts and superstitions from the sport.”

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"flash the leather"

A view of the exhibition “Flashing the Leather” (Shauna Stuart | Al.com)

Curated by Aaron Levi Garvey, “Flashing the Leather” artists include Tony Rodrigues, Howardena Pindell and the creators of Baseball Card Vandals, a social media-based art project that merges jokes with graphic design.

Details: “Flashing the Leather” is on view at the Alabama Contemporary Art Center until August 20, 2022 |Alabama Center for Contemporary Art| 301 Conti Street Mobile, AL |

“Surplus in Pantomime”, Alabama Center for Contemporary Art
Exhibition view of "Surplus in pantomime"

A view of the “Surplus in Pantomime” exhibition (Photos by Micah Mermilliod, courtesy of Alabama Contemporary.)

In 1981, Tony award-winning actor Ben Vereen was one of many stars invited to take the stage at Ronald Regan’s inaugural ball. For his contribution to the night of performances, Vereen paid tribute to legendary vaudeville actor Burt Williams. Williams, who was one of the first black actors to perform on Broadway, often had to perform in blackface.

For his tribute, which was meant to be a social commentary, Vereen walked onto the stage with a black face. Vereen took off the makeup in the second part of her act. However, audiences watching the ABC broadcast at home never saw the second segment because the network shut down the cameras. The truncated broadcast deprived Vereen of his intent with the performance, which was to criticize Republican social policy.

Rayshard Brooks Juneteenth Liberation Tank

“Rayshard Brooks Juneteenth Liberation Tank” by artist Zeke Wright Robinson is one of the works on display at “Surplus in Pantomime.” (Shauna Stuart for Al.com)

Over the years, artists and writers have taken a critical look at performance. For “Surplus in Pantomime”, artist Y. Malik Jalal curates a selection of five contemporary black abstract artists to unpack the idea of ​​intention, the gestures of black artists and what it means to reclaim history through art .

Details: “Surplus in Pantomime” is on view at the Alabama Contemporary Art Center through August 27, 2022.|Alabama Center for Contemporary Art| 301 Conti Street Mobile, AL |

“Faces of the South”, Gadsden Museum of Art
"Southern Faces"

Photographer Joi West’s “Southern Faces” project is a series of photographs and interviews with queer and trans people in Alabama (Shauna Stuart | Al.com)

After an exhibition in 2021 at Paperworker’s Local in Birmingham, photographer Joi West’s “Southern Faces” series is presented at the Gadsden Museum of Art along with a selection of new photographs.

At a conference in Atlanta in 2012, artist Joi West encountered, as she describes them, “the most wonderful collection of queer and trans black and brown people in all of the South.”

It was the first time, West said, that she felt like she had been seen. The photographs the artist took at the conference inspired her to find people who looked like her and document their stories while simultaneously revealing her identity as a black person in Alabama.

"Southern Faces"

A photo of “Lee” from Irondale, Alabama is one of the photos in Joi West’s “Southern Faces” series. (Shauna Stuart | Al.com)

“Southern Faces” is a preview of West’s ongoing project to document and archive 67 stories from the LGBTQIA+ community in Alabama.

“By becoming a collector of these stories, I want to ensure that: we are seen, we are heard, we are remembered,” West wrote in his artist statement.

Details: “Southern Faces” is on view at the Gadsden Museum of Art until September 20, 2022. Gadsden Art Museum|515 Broad St, Gadsden, AL 35901

“Finches”, Gadsden Museum of Art

A collection of vintage and international prints of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ on display as part of ‘Finches’ at the Gadsden Museum of Art. (Shauna Stuart | Al.com)

“How do you love something you know is imperfect?”

That’s the question at the center of “Finches,” a traveling interactive exhibit that explores the tensions of loving complicated characters such as loved ones, rulers, or places. On view at the Gadsden Museum of Art until August 26, Finches uses the character of Harper Lee, Atticus Finch, from ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and ‘Go Set a Watchman’ as an archetype to open up conversations about complex characters in life. personal and public.

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The exhibit also contains a number of artifacts from the Monroe County Heritage Museum, including a selection of vintage and international copies of Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

“Finches” includes a 20-minute film featuring a series of conversations where people, including Alabama Poet Laureate Ashley Jones and AL.com’s Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist John Archibald, reflect on the role of the “Finches ” in their life.

Finches Story Stand

The interactive story booth in “Finches” gives customers the opportunity to share their own stories of complicated characters. (Shauna Stuart | AL.com)

The interactive part of “Finches” also contains a story booth, where guests are invited to share their own stories about what it’s like to fight a complicated figure and how to hold complex characters accountable.

Details: ‘Finches’ is on view at the Gadsden Museum of Art until August 20, 2022.|Gadsden Art Museum|515 Broad St, Gadsden, AL 35901

Rico Gatson | Scott Miller Projects
View of the Rico Gatson exhibition

A selection of artist Rico Gatson’s work is on display at Scott Miller Projects (Shauna Stuart | AL.com)

Brooklyn-based artist Rico Gatson, who recently completed Fred Shuttlesworth’s mural at the Birmingham Museum of Art, also has a selection of works on display at Scott Miller Projects.

The entire work is inspired by the energy and icons of transcendental jazz music John and Alice Coltrane. Three paintings, Untitled (Universal Consciousness after Alice Coltrane) (2021), Untitled (Love Supreme) (2021) and Untitled (olé after John Coltrane) (2021), bear the title of the deceased couple.

After the bombing of the Baptist Church on 16th Street in Birmingham, John Coltrane composed “Alabama” in tribute to the four little girls killed in the attack. Gatson, who has spent time in Birmingham visiting historic sites including 16th Street Baptist Church and the colorful Masonic Temple for extensive research on his ‘Wall to Wall’ project at the Birmingham Museum of Art, didn’t think so. consciously to Coltrane’s “Alabama” when painting the pieces in 2021. But, he says, the relationship between the two works is appropriate.

“For me, that’s the kind of casual spirituality that I refer to when I talk about spirituality in work and its power,” Gatson told Al.com in an interview. “We are all touched by this story and the story and the bombing of the church and the four little girls.”

by Rico Gatson "Untitled"

A view of Rico Gatson’s ‘Untitled (Flag VI) and Untitled (Flag VII)’ exhibition at Scott Miller Projects (Courtesy Scott Miller Projects)

Gatson says two paintings in the exhibit “Untitled (Flag VI)” and “Untitled (Flag VII)” represent a new way of imagining the American flag, one that is more inclusive.

“It’s really about thinking about how the things that happened here (in Birmingham) changed the course of life for black people in America,” Gatson said. “The reinvention of this flag as more inclusive and prismatic. Color spectrum. For me, it’s the perfect way to process the potential for something better, something more beautiful.

Details: An exhibition of Rico Gatson’s work is on view at Scott Miller Projects through August 20, 2022.|Scott Miller Projects|2212 Morris Ave Suite 103 Suite 103, Birmingham, AL 35203

William E. Bennett