September 03, 2019 News & Features » Cover Story

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Symbiotic Collaboration 

Some of the upcoming big events and partnerships in the visual arts world.

click to enlarge “Hotel Lobby” a signature oil painting by Edward Hopper from 1943. “Edward Hopper and the American Hotel” runs at VMFA from Oct. 26 to Feb. 23.

“Hotel Lobby” a signature oil painting by Edward Hopper from 1943. “Edward Hopper and the American Hotel” runs at VMFA from Oct. 26 to Feb. 23.

It's that time of year again — when the art world kicks back into full force.

It's like Oscar season for the movies, but with the strongest and most important art exhibitions just around the corner.

However, this year feels less optimistic. Maybe it's all these red flags in the news —inverted-yield curves, tariff wars and the possibility of a no-deal Brexit— amid whispers of an impending economic recession. I know, I know. This is the fall arts preview not economic forecasting. But the arts, from small to large nonprofit organizations and individual artists, are intrinsically tied up and affected by the global economic outlook.

This is compounded by the local red flags centered at ground zero of Virginia Commonwealth University's School of the Arts. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported this summer that the Institute for Contemporary Art laid off 20% of its full-time workforce as the school readies itself to search for a new dean, following Dean Shawn Brixey's removal from administrative duties after two years.

For decades, the art school — an employer, educator, venue for exhibitions and general incubator for the arts — has undergirded Richmond's art scene. The story of contemporary art in Richmond and VCU is one of symbiotic collaboration.

Returning to the economic analogy, the city's art community would benefit from a more diverse portfolio. Thankfully, organizations and people in the art world continue to do just that. Notwithstanding these red flags, here's an overview of highlights this fall:

click to enlarge “The Dream,” a painting by Liehong Peng that will be a part of this year’s Current Art Fair, which is being taken over by Jennifer Glave and B.J. Kocen of Glave Kocen Gallery.
  • “The Dream,” a painting by Liehong Peng that will be a part of this year’s Current Art Fair, which is being taken over by Jennifer Glave and B.J. Kocen of Glave Kocen Gallery.

Current is back. This art fair returns for its third iteration Oct. 24-27 after a one-year hiatus. With 17 exhibitors from Richmond, Charlottesville, Williamsburg and Virginia Beach, the fair's return and new venue, the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center, suggests that Richmond has the patron base to support an art fair, as well as a lasting vision from new co-directors Jennifer Glave and B.J. Kocen, the husband-and-wife duo who own and operate Glave Kocen Gallery. Another new addition this year? Entrance to the fair is no longer free and tickets are required.

"Edward Hopper and the American Hotel" opens Oct. 26 at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. It includes the "Hopper Hotel Experience," a three-dimensional stimulated motel space based on Hopper's "Western Motel" (1957). Hopper's paintings of hotels and motels perfectly relate to our 21st-century obsession with wanderlust, but with underlying tones of loneliness and melancholy.

Race is center stage in several exhibitions. "Color Cargo" is a solo exhibition of New York-based Damien Harris' work that explores issues of blackness and opens Sept. 6 at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond. "Great Force," a group exhibition of 21 artists takes its inspiration from writer James Baldwin and opens Oct. 5 at the Institute for Contemporary Art. Sediment Gallery mounts a group exhibition, "In Search of Our Mother's Gardens We Made Armor and Sanctuary," which focuses on black women's bodies, that opens Nov. 1 and Kim Rice explores America's history of inequality in "Inheritance" at Artspace, which opens Sept. 27. Finally, Kehinde Wiley's yet-to-be-seen monument of an African-American man on horseback for the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts' front lawn will be installed here in December.

October is the month for art. Now in its fourth year, the monthlong Artober series, sponsored by Culture Works, kicks off with a party at the Quirk Hotel. A few recommendations: "Hallucinations" by Justin James Reed and "Power by David Emitt Adams" at Candela Books and Gallery. Carmen Hermo, the associate curator of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum, gives a lecture called On Curating and Feminist Art at the University of Richmond's Modlin Center on Oct. 21. Also, Kimberly Witham's "The Hardest Hue to Hold" at the Highpoint.

click to enlarge The busy Studio Two Three arts workspace is in Scott’s Addition. - ASH DANIEL/FILE
  • Ash Daniel/File
  • The busy Studio Two Three arts workspace is in Scott’s Addition.

Studio Two Three celebrates a decade. With Ashley Hawkins as the executive director, Studio Two Three is the little nonprofit that could — and it just keeps going, adding new programming, facilities or equipment each year. Come celebrate with it in Scott's Addition on Oct. 21.

Public art? The city's Public Art Commission is defining the number and scope of projects this fall, which should prepare it for a strong start in 2020. Susan Glasser, the new coordinator, recommends that after the commission's meeting Sept. 26, "artists interested in upcoming initiatives should keep an eye on the city's Public Art Commission landing page for developing news."

Continued cooperation. Teaser alert for 2020: There's a big project on the horizon, organized by the Visual Arts Center of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University, that has been in the planning stages since last year: the National Council for the Ceramic Arts annual conference comes to town on March 25-28 with exhibitions across the Richmond-metro area.

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