Nashville Artist Lain York Uses Abstract Vignettes to Link Historical Events to the Present in Frist Center Exhibition
Lain York: Selections from the National Gallery Opens January 31, 2014
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (December 3, 2013)—Selections from the National Gallery, an exhibition of history-inspired works by Nashville artist Lain York, will be on view in the Gordon Contemporary Artists Project Gallery from January 31, 2014 through May 11, 2014. Employing a colorful visual shorthand, Mr. York invites viewers to think about the creative connections that shape our understanding of the continuing impact of American history.
The exhibition features a recent series of works relating to Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, and a 2012 series of vignettes inspired by David McCullough’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 2002 biography of Founding Father and second president of the United States John Adams. The works do not illustrate the book so much as provide a cryptic visual shorthand that defines the artist’s sense of the captions’ meanings and emotional resonance. Frist Center Chief Curator Mark Scala says, “Each body of works relates to the often combative circumstances that have marked partisan governance in the past, making more than a passing allusion to our current political dissonances.”
An avid reader of history, Mr. York is particularly interested in the notion of past as prologue. While reading the Adams biography during the 2012 presidential campaign, he was struck by the connection between the past and present. Mr. York comments:
“The underlying narrative of history, or the untold story that actually sets future events in motion, has been a consistent theme in my work. I have no wish to personally comment one way or the other, so I use the platform of an official archive—which in most cases is anything but objective—to reinforce the thought of something larger than ourselves influencing the chains of events.”
The exhibition title Selections from the National Gallery is itself a reference to an ostensibly official museum record. To create his works, Mr. York relies on source material such as eighteenth-and nineteenth-century documents, newspaper articles and engravings. His silhouetted figures wear period garb and pose in stiff pantomime. Titles such as Trashed in the Press, Battle on the Floor of Congress, and An XYZ Affair refer to political conflicts in which the artist perceives contemporary relevance. Yet his choice of stick-on vinyl—a cheap, elastic graphic material—as the primary medium, slyly counters the pomposity often contained in traditional history painting. “The works have a nonchalant sensibility,” says Mr. Scala. “The vinyl is often wrinkled or hangs loose, lending a quality of ephemerality, a lightening of the sense of dignity and scale that often marks history paintings as important.”
Known for creating works that hover between abstraction and representation, Mr. York is as concerned with figure-ground relationships, conversations in color and economy of form as he is with political ideas. He says:
“I really like the idea of giving the viewer a narrative source for abstraction. The hope is to draw the viewer in with imagery that might be recognizable with the added pay-off of specific references to American or European history sparking a conversation. I hope it helps to break down the conception that abstraction requires a working knowledge of the medium.”
The works of Selections from the National Gallery do not intend to teach lessons of the past, but rather remind us of the deep-rooted contentious nature of our democracy. “Beneath known histories are ghostly layers of triggering events and influential people that will never fully materialize even through a historian’s pen, and may only be brought into hazy view by an artist’s imagination,” says Mr. Scala.
About Lain York
Recognized as a vital member of and tireless advocate for the Nashville visual arts community, Lain York has been active as an artist since the 1990s. He was a member of the Fugitive cooperative, which brought groundbreaking shows to Nashville, and introduced cutting edge work already being done here to the art-loving public. As current director of the Zeitgeist Gallery, he continues to influence the Nashville art scene.
Mr. York has exhibited in Tennessee at Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art; Leu Gallery, Belmont University; the University of the South, Sewanee; and Zeitgeist Gallery; and elsewhere at Bolm Projects, Austin, Texas; Flood Projects, Asheville, NC; Tulca Arts Festival, Galway, Ireland; the University of Alabama, Huntsville; and the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. His artwork is in the collections of FirstBank Tennessee/Ayers Collection of Community; EMI Music, Los Angeles; St. Andrew's-Sewanee School, Sewanee; The Savannah College of Art and Design; Tennessee Arts Commission; Tennessee State Museum; The Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission; and Trans-Financial Bank, Nashville.
Mr. York earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 1990. He is represented by Zeitgeist Gallery.
This exhibition was organized by the Frist Center for the Visual Arts.
The Frist Center for the Visual Arts is supported in part by the Metro Nashville Arts Commission, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Related Public Programs
Friday, February 21*
ARTini: Lain York: Selections from the National Gallery Presented by Lain York
Meet at exhibition entrance
Gallery admission required, members free
Are you curious about art? Do you want to learn more about the content and concepts behind an artist’s work? If you answered yes to either of those questions, then the ARTini program is for you! ARTinis are designed for everyone—from the novice to the connoisseur—and include informal and insightful conversations that offer a deeper understanding of one or two works of art in an exhibition.
Join Mark Scala, the Frist Center’s chief curator, in a conversation about select works by Nashville-based artist Lain York that were inspired by eighteenth-and-nineteenth-century American history as presented through texts, political cartoons, newspaper articles, and engravings. Lain York: Selections from the National Gallery is on view in the Gordon Contemporary Artists Project Gallery through May 11, 2014.
*This event will be offered again on Tuesday, February 25 at 12:00 p.m.
Sunday, March 16
Artful Tales: “John upon the Sea”
Frist Center Auditorium/Studios
Free; seating is first come, first seated
Artful Tales is a FREE family program geared toward everyone ages three and up! Listen and play along as an art-related story comes to life. Then, head upstairs to the art studio and make an artwork that relates to the story.
Join us for an afternoon of thrilling high seas adventure as U.S. Founding Father John Adams and his son Quincy set out on a simple journey to France, but sail into one of the storms of the century with the British hot on their trail. Next, construct a colorful painted collage inspired by the exhibition Lain York: Selections from the National Gallery.
Thursday, March 27
Artist’s Tour: Lain York: Selections from the National Gallery Presented by Lain York
Meet at exhibition entrance
Gallery admission required, members free
Nashville artist Lain York’s series Selections from the National Gallery was inspired by David McCullough’s biography of President John Adams. By rendering significant scenes in loosely hung, cut-vinyl silhouettes, York’s work brings humor and wit to an art historical genre steeped in pomp and circumstance—history painting. Join the artist for a discussion of his sources of inspiration and working methods in this gallery talk.
About the Frist Center
Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts is a 501(c)3 nonprofit art exhibition center dedicated to presenting and originating high quality exhibitions with related educational programs and community outreach activities. The Frist Center offers the finest visual art from local, regional, national, and international sources in a program of changing exhibitions that inspire people through art to look at their world in new ways. Located at 919 Broadway in downtown Nashville, Tenn., the Frist Center’s Martin ArtQuest Gallery (open until 5:30 p.m. each day) features interactive stations relating to Frist Center exhibitions. Gallery admission to the Frist Center is free for visitors 18 and younger and to Frist Center members. Frist Center admission is $10.00 for adults and $7.00 for seniors, military and college students with ID. College students are admitted free Thursday and Friday evenings (with the exception of Frist Fridays), 5–9 p.m. Discounts are offered for groups of 10 or more with advance reservation by calling (615) 744-3247. The Frist Center galleries, Café and Gift Shop are open seven days a week: Mondays through Wednesdays, and Saturdays, 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m.; Thursdays and Fridays, 10 a.m.–9 p.m. and Sundays, 1–5:30 p.m., with the Frist Center Café opening at noon. Additional information is available by calling (615) 244-3340 or by visiting our website at www.fristcenter.org.