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Frist Center for the Visual Arts FRIST ART MUSEUM
Nashville, TN
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Mel Ziegler: Flag Exchange
March 13–June 28, 2020
Upper-Level Galleries

Mel Ziegler (b. 1956), the Paul E. Shwab Chair of Fine Arts Professor at Vanderbilt University, is renowned as a social and community engagement artist whose work seeks to foster discourse and the sharing of ideas relating to history, politics, and society. Flag Exchange is an installation of fifty American flags—one from each state—suspended row after row from the ceiling and surrounding a stage where museum visitors and special guests are invited to speak or present performances relating to the meaning of the flag in their own lives. The flags themselves symbolize a nation that has survived tumult and stress. They were collected from 2011 to 2016, when Ziegler periodically drove across the United States with a supply of new American flags, offering a broad spectrum of society—from suburban residents to farmers and small business owners—an opportunity to receive new flags in exchange for their old torn and weathered ones. Displayed in a gallery, the symbolism of rows of tattered, irregular flags encourages reflection on America’s identity, history, and future.

Organized by the Frist Art Museum, in cooperation with Perrotin

Jitish Kallat: Return to Sender
March 13–June 28, 2020
Upper-Level Galleries

Jitish Kallat’s solo exhibition at the Frist Art Museum brings together two distinctly different types of correspondence that collectively provoke a reflection on our world. Continuing his interest in the epistolary mode, Kallat will exhibit a new project titled Covering Letter (terranum nuncius) (2019) alongside his widely exhibited Covering Letter (2012).

Covering Letter (terranum nuncius) commemorates and reinvokes select sounds and images that were composed for expedition into interstellar space as a planetary message to extraterrestrial life. Kallat draws from the Golden Record hoisted onto the legendary Voyager 1 and 2 space probes launched by NASA in 1977. Currently located over 13 billion miles away from planet Earth, the contents of this “time capsule” were assembled for NASA by a committee chaired by Carl Sagan. It is expected to continue its cosmic journey well beyond the probable extinction of our species and our planet.

In the gallery permeated with the sound of greetings to the universe in 55 languages is a large round table with over a hundred backlit 3-D photographic transparencies placed on it. To create them Kallat has referenced the images decoded by Ron Barry, a U.S.-based software engineer. Forty years after the images were first uploaded onto the Golden Record as sound files, Barry has converted the audio clips back to images as if they were accessed by an extraterrestrial who would have to follow a similar procedure to view the images. These images range from scientific and cosmological diagrams, representations of our genetic makeup and anatomy, as well as other life forms, architecture, etc., often annotated with measurements. This is an epic presentation of “our” world to an unknown other. At a time when we find ourselves in a deeply divided world, Kallat foregrounds these sounds and images for a collective meditation on ourselves as united residents of a single planet, where the “other” is an unknown “intergalactic alien.” Also part of the installation is a bench that takes the shape of the hands of the Doomsday Clock. This symbolic clock, presented annually by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists represents a hypothetical human-made global catastrophe as midnight, and the proximity of the world to apocalypse as a number of minutes to midnight.

Covering Letter is a piece of historical correspondence projected onto a curtain of traversable dry fog; a brief letter written by Mahatma Gandhi to Adolf Hitler in July 1939, just weeks before the start of World War II. In his letter Gandhi makes a radical appeal for peace, anticipating the brutal bloodshed that the impending war would unleash. In the spirit of his doctrine of universal friendship, Gandhi begins the letter with the salutation “Dear Friend…”, urging Hitler to resist “reducing humanity to a savage state.” Audiences walk through the screen of descending mist, simultaneously inhabiting and dissipating the moving text. Kallat describes the letter as a space for self-reflection—a petition from one of the greatest proponents of peace to one of the most violent individuals who ever lived. It can also be read as an open letter from the past destined to carry its message into our turbulent present, well beyond its delivery date and intended recipient.

Organized by the Frist Art Museum

J.M.W. Turner: Quest for the Sublime
February 20 – May 31, 2020
Ingram Gallery

One of England’s greatest artists, Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) was a leading figure in the Romantic movement of the late 18th- through mid-19th centuries, which arose in response to the Enlightenment emphasis on reason over emotion. For Turner, psychological expression and the liberation of the imagination were of paramount importance. He achieved these goals by employing extreme contrasts of intense light and gloomy clouds, dramatic topographies, and energetic brushstrokes.

The oil paintings and watercolors in this exhibition span Turner’s career, from the 1790s to the 1840s. Storm and flood are portrayed as compelling forces unto themselves, while also serving as settings for historical and modern dramas. Mountains and sea show the world in a state of flux: the slow creep of glaciers in the Alps, the sudden fall of an avalanche, the swell and heave of the ocean. Human transition is captured as well, with images of steamships and other suggestions of industry heralding the ascendant machine age. The exhibition concludes with elemental images of sea and sky, painted late in Turner’s life, which appear nearly abstract. These works recall an observation made by one of Turner’s contemporaries, the artist John Constable: “Turner . . . seems to paint with tinted steam, so evanescent and so airy.”

Organized in cooperation with Tate.

Supported in part by the 2020 Frist Gala Patrons

Terry Adkins: Our Sons and Daughters Ever on the Altar
February 20–May 31, 2020
Gordon Contemporary Artists Project Gallery at the Frist Art Museum and the Carl Van Vechten Art Gallery at Fisk University

The Frist Art Museum and Fisk University Galleries present Terry Adkins: Our Sons and Daughters Ever on the Altar, concurrent presentations of sculptures, prints, installations, and video by the multidisciplinary and multimedia artist and musician, on view in the Frist’s Gordon Contemporary Artists Project Gallery from February 20 through May 31, and the Carl Van Vechten Gallery at Fisk from February 20 through September 12. Presented forty-five years after Adkins’s graduation from Fisk, the exhibition pays special attention to the influence that his time in Nashville had on the late internationally acclaimed artist.

“This is the first exhibition of Terry Adkins’s work in Middle Tennessee, and we are excited to partner with the Frist Art Museum to co-present it,” says Director and Curator of Fisk University Galleries Jamaal Sheats. “A Fisk University alum, Adkins was a member of the jazz orchestra and a disc jockey for WFSK Jazzy 88 radio station. However, the Fisk Art Department was his home. He studied under the then chairman of the art department and director of galleries, historian, and artist David Driskell. Adkins has credited Aaron Douglas, who founded the art department 75 years ago, as igniting his interest in art. Today, I see Adkins’s work and career as a beacon for the arts tradition at Fisk.”

Fisk and the Frist will collaborate with the soon-to-open National Museum of African American Music to produce a multidisciplinary performance, featuring local talent inspired by Terry Adkins and his performance collective, the Lone Wolf Recital Corps.

Terry Adkins (1953–2014) was principally interested in the intersection of visual art, music, and African American history. First trained as a musician on guitar, saxophone, and other woodwinds, he approached his visual art practice from the perspective of a composer, often arranging series of works to create what he called “recitals,” many of which feature modified musical instruments or other salvaged materials. “One of his primary aims was to forge a link between music and art, reversing each discipline in order to make sculpture more ethereal and music more concrete,” says Frist Art Museum Curator Katie Delmez.

Throughout his career, Adkins also questioned the processes by which historical figures’ pasts become or do not become a part of the historical canon. “He mined African and African American histories for marginalized narratives and organized series of works devoted to either underrecognized figures or highlighted underrepresented aspects of well-known figures’ lives,” says Delmez. The works in Our Sons and Daughters Ever on the Altar pay tribute to the legacies of several influential and enigmatic figures, such as Jimi Hendrix, Bessie Smith, Dr. George Washington Carver, and Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois.

On view at the Frist Art Museum
The “recital” Principalities is dedicated to Jimi Hendrix and his service as a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army at nearby Fort Campbell, Kentucky. A centerpiece of the series, Cloud, is a work comprising a white parachute hung above a rack of kimonos. Referencing the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, it underscores the tragic history of war. Flumen Orationis, a video pairing Hendrix’s 1970 anti-war protest song “Machine Gun” with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1967 speech “Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam,” will also be featured.

Another “recital” on view at the Frist titled Belted Bronze will be devoted to legendary blues singer Bessie Smith, who was born in Chattanooga. Though successful during her lifetime, Adkins felt her accomplishments lacked sufficient public acknowledgment after her untimely death at the age of forty-three. The installation features multiple components meant to channel Smith’s opulence, strength, and majesty. Columbia, a large record-shaped sculpture, refers to both the label Smith was signed to in 1923 and the type of record (Columbia 78s) on which her music was recorded and played.

On view at Fisk University Galleries
The presentation at the Carl Van Vechten Gallery will relay the significant impact that Fisk had on Adkins. His father was a graduate of the university, and his uncle was a former president. “As a student, Adkins studied with Stephanie Pogue and had seminars with Robert Blackburn and Fred Bond before graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in art with a concentration in printmaking,” says Sheats. “The presentation at Fisk explores Adkins’s works on paper, the medium in which he revisits and shifts the perspective of the lives and works of iconic figures in American history.” Adkins demonstrates this ability through bodies of works derived from scientist and inventor George Washington Carver and sociologist, historian, and civil rights leader W.E.B. Du Bois, in works the Progressive Nature Studies and The Philadelphia Negro Reconsidered, respectively.

Another highlight at Fisk will be Darkwater Record, which features a porcelain bust of Mao Zedong sitting on five recorders playing excerpts of W.E.B. Du Bois’s “Socialism and the American Negro” speech. Du Bois is an 1888 graduate of Fisk University and met Chairman Mao in China in 1959.

Adkins continued to be inspired by people and artwork he was exposed to at Fisk throughout his career, including explorer Matthew Henson, whose portrait by Winold Reiss still hangs in the John Hope and Aurelia E. Franklin Library on campus. Also on view at Fisk will be prints of x-rayed memory jugs—African American funerary objects often created by Southern sharecroppers as headstones. They were made of clay and included objects from the person’s life. Adkins collected over 120 of these and worked with colleagues in the medical school of the University of Pennsylvania (where Adkins taught for many years) to make these photographs by x-raying them.

Adkins often claimed that the foundation of his career began in Nashville, where his interest for the visual arts was nourished at Fisk. There he studied under artists Martin Puryear, Stephanie Pogue, Carlton Moss, and Earl Hooks, and he was mentored by Aaron Douglas, an influential artist during the Harlem Renaissance. Born into a segregated America, Adkins felt a call to take up the torch that Douglas and others passed on to him, and he strove to create art that reflected the tenor of the times and served as instruments of change.

Organized by Fisk University Galleries and the Frist Art Museum


The Frist Art Museum gratefully acknowledges the support of

Clay Blevins
John and Melinda Buntin
Susan H. Edwards
Jennifer and Billy Frist
Bob and Julie Gordon
Frank and Gwen Gordon
Gail Gordon Jacobs
Louise and Neil Kohler
Neil Krugman and Lee Pratt
Kent Rollins and Belinda Butler

(List current as of December 31, 2019)

This exhibition is supported in part by an Art Works grant from the National Endowment of the Arts.

The Nashville Flood: Ten Years Later
Through May 17, 2020
Conte Community Arts Gallery

On Saturday, May 1, and Sunday, May 2, 2010, a record-breaking rainfall of over thirteen inches caused major flooding throughout Middle Tennessee. The Cumberland River crested almost twelve feet above flood stage, and smaller waterways such as Browns Creek, Mill Creek, Richland Creek, Whites Creek, and the Harpeth River also flooded, wreaking havoc across the city. Thousands of homes and businesses, including the Grand Ole Opry, the Opryland Hotel, and the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, were damaged or destroyed. Twenty-six people in the region died—eleven in Nashville. Despite the intensity of this historic event, it received little national media attention, primarily because of other compelling news stories and because—unlike some natural disasters—the recovery process was remarkably organized and smooth.

This exhibition features photographs and excerpts of oral histories from ten different neighborhoods—including Antioch, Belle Meade, Bellevue, Bordeaux, and others, in addition to downtown—to present a broad picture of both the destruction and the relief efforts. Parts of the story may be unfamiliar to Nashville newcomers, while some residents who were here in 2010 may have been too preoccupied with their own situations to follow what was happening in other areas.

The items in this exhibition come largely from the Nashville Public Library’s extensive flood archive and The Tennessean newspaper. An interactive monitor illustrates the long-term impact of the flood by pairing photographs from 2010 with ones from 2020. In downtown Nashville, the recovery marked the beginning of a rapid construction boom that has transformed the city’s skyline. In some areas, though, less progress is evident, signifying inequities in rebuilding. Many people, however, recall the heroic rescue efforts and the spirit of volunteerism from this event, which forever changed Music City.

Nashville Public Library Special Collections is recording oral histories of the 2010 Nashville Flood on January 10 and January 24 from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sign-ups will take place on these days on the Frist's Upper Level. You can also share your stories @FristArtMuseum #NashFlood.

The Frist Art Museum gratefully acknowledges the generosity of our O’Keeffe Circle members in funding this exhibition:

Judy and Joe Barker
Barbara and Jack Bovender
Richard and Judith Bracken
Patricia Frist Elcan and Charles A. Elcan
Jennifer and Billy Frist
Julie and Tommy Frist
Patricia C. Frist and Thomas F. Frist, Jr., MD
Lynn and Ken Melkus
R. Milton and Denice Johnson
Sid and Linda Pilson
Delphine and Ken Roberts
Anne and Joe Russell
Mr. and Mrs. James C. Seabury III
Olivia L. Tyson

Organized by the Frist Art Museum in partnership with the Nashville Public Library and The Tennessean

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