Thursday, October 22, 2009

Get out of town (and then come back)

A couple of really big visual arts events are going on in Charleston.

The Halsey Institute for Contemporary Art, part of the School of the Arts at the College of Charleston, opens its new, bigger and better gallery Friday, Oct 23. The School of the Arts is getting a new building which will be attached to the old building, itself being renovated. (The rest of the school will move in at the end of the year.)

Those who have been to the old gallery over the years would not be wrong in thinking, “Wow, that’s already a great gallery.” They would not be wrong, especially when considering that what is in the gallery is usually very good too.

The new gallery is about a third larger than the old one, but it's about more than size.

“That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s uber flexible and state of the art, with high ceilings and much more usable space,” said Mark Sloan, Halsey Institute director.

The new gallery opens with an ambitious exhibition - what it has been doing for a long time.

Aldwyth: Work, v./Work, n. – Collage and Assemblage 1991 – 2009” takes a deep look at an artists who has been working, mostly in obscurity, on the South Carolina coast for a long time. The artist, who chooses to use only one name, has created various rather encyclopedic artworks: small boxes that open to reveal more boxes each filled with often mysterious objects; gigantic collages that one could spend days looking at (one is titled “20th Century” and although it only took a decade to make it contains the 20th century); a bird bath made of old plumbing parts; a container holding dangerous materials artists (this one in particular) like to use; and the wonderfully titled “23 Eyeballs, 1 Asshole.”

"I think about my work as a series of experiments or stories," Aldwyth told me in a recent email. "Each of the large collages is just a whole lot of small related collages that run into each other. I think about the minimalists who didn’t show just one part, but the whole was understood by maximizing the unit. I think I must be a kind of maximist, maximizing."

's not that Aldwyth has been without her fans. I wrote a story about her in the early ‘90s, she’s been recognized by the people who have developed Spring Island and offer artist retreats there, been in a couple of shows at the College of Charleston and the Triennial exhibition of South Carolina art.

But this show is something else. It has already been to the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill art gallery where it received an excellent response and reviews and goes to the Telfair Museum in Savannah after Charleston.

The Halsey Institute has published a hard-back 100-page catalog and a DVD movie on the artist. The book has been picked up by Distributed Arts Publishers, a big, important art book company in New York.

"They never take on a monograph of an artist no one has ever heard of," Sloan said.

Sloan visited Aldwyth about a decade ago after seeing her work in a Triennial exhibition at the State Museum. He included her art in a couple of shows and kept waiting for someone to do a big show of her work then finally decided to do it at the Halsey.

"She's grateful and so deserving," Sloan said. "This is a great opportunity to look at her work over time."

"I couldn’t be more delighted," Aldwyth said. "It is quite overwhelming."

An opening reception starts at 6 and there’s a gallery and exhibition walk through with Sloan and Aldwyth at 7. It runs through Jan. 9.

The Halsey Institute has a ton of images, videos and all sorts of stuff about the show at its website

(From top: new gallery interior, "A Walk In The Woods," 1990, and "Casablanca," 2003 - 2006.)

Brian Rutenberg, one of South Carolina' top art exports, has an exhibition of new paintings at the Gibbes Museum of Art. This is Rutenberg’s first solo exhibition at the museum. The exhibition “Tidesong” is composed of 14 paintings, including two that are 13-feet wide, and four works on paper. It opens Friday.

A native of Myrtle Beach, Rutenberg attended the College of Charleston and then moved to New York to go to the School of Visual Arts. He’s been in New York for 20 years.

Represented by Forum Gallery in New York and Los Angeles, one of his first solo shows was at the Greenville County Museum of Art. In 2006 his work was the subject of a retrospective at the S.C. State Museum and last year a monographic book about the artist and his art was published. Even with all that, the Gibbes Museum show "Tidesong" is something new.

"This is my first solo show at the Gibbes," Rutenberg said. "The first painting I ever exhibited in public was at the Gibbes in 1985 when I was 18. This show was 24 years in the making. I am honored to be back."

“Tidesong” at the Gibbes Museum runs through Jan. 10. The museum is at 135 Meeting St. Admission is $9 (free to members and to members of the Columbia Museum of Art.) Call (843) 722-2706 or go to

(From top, "Blue Tide" and "Little Point 12")

Thursday, Oct. 22

Big shows at the Columbia Museum

You can get a look at two new shows at the Columbia Museum of Art tonight if you’re a member.

The thing everyone is probably all excited about is the Ansel Adams show, but I’m not sure what to tell you that you don’t already know. You can be assured it will be beautiful. The show, with the unwieldy title “Ansel Adams: Masterworks From the Collection of the Turtle Bay Exploration Center, Ca.” consists of 47 gelatin silver prints Adams made to show what he felt were his best works. Julian Cox, curator of photography at the High Museum of Art leads a gallery walk and talk through the show Friday, Oct. 23.

What you might not know as much about is the collection of art put together by Dorothy and Herbert Vogel. They were and are just a mild-mannered New York couple who started slowly, quietly and economically buying art in the ‘60s, mostly work by young, largely unknown artists. A few years ago, the now-retired postal worker and librarian decided to distribute the much of their 5,000-piece art collection to the rest of the country.

“50 Works for 50 States” is just what it sounds like – the couple gave 50 artworks to one art institution in every one of these United States.

"Of course it was very exciting to be identified as the museum in South Carolina to receive the gift." said Todd Herman, chief curator. Furthermore, our collection is weak in the areas of conceptual and minimalist art ... so this gift helps us fill out that part of the American art scene."

The Vogels are a great example of what people of limited means, but unlimited vision, can do.

The opening reception runs from 6 to 8. The shows opens to the general public Friday. And you may not know this because it’s a new thing, but the Friday that a new show opens at the museum is a free admission day (as is EVERY Sunday.)

(Pictured are Peggy Cypher's "Galaxy's Empire," top, from 1986 and Zigi Ben-Haim's "Just Before '84" from 1983.)

Both shows are on display through Jan. 17. The museum is at Main and Hampton streets. Call (803) 799-2510 or go to

More sex and violence in the park

Everyone has been complaining nefarious activity at Finlay Park, but here’s some they might welcome.

The S.C. Shakespeare Company opens “Romeo and Juliet” at the park amphitheater tonight. The tragic tale of the lovers from feuding families is directed by Scott Blanks and stars Hunter Bolton and Katie Mixon, pictured, in the title roles.

Gadsden Street between Taylor and Laurel streets. Admission is $10 with discounts for kids. Go to

If the classics don’t do it for you check out the USC Lab Theatre for “The Book of Liz.”

The main thing you need to know is that it was written by the Shakespeares of our age David and Amy Sedaris. He’s the writer of funny as hell stories vaguely based on truth and she the sick mind behind the television program “Strangers with Candy.”

The play follows Sister Elizabeth Donderstock, the brain behind the Cluster Haven Cheeseball Company, on journey of self-discovery. It’s being directed by grad student Jennifer Goff, a founder of Greenville’s Distracted Globe Theatre. That's the starring cheeseball at the center of the photo.

The 8 p.m. show runs through Sunday, Oct. 25 at the theater, located on Wheat Street between Bull and Main streets. $5. (803) 777-4288.

Slather it on
Like thick paint? Better go see the show by artist Maya Eventov at the HoFP Gallery.

The Toronto artist will be at an opening reception tonight from 6 to 9. Eventov creates her rural landscape scenes using palette knives for an almost mosaic effect. The exhibition is up through Nov. 14. HoFP,2828 Devine St. (803) 799-7405

Friday, Oct. 23

Art museum is free today

The Columbia Museum of Art opens at 10 a.m. Go see the Ansel Adams and Larry Clark photos and the donation from art collectors Dorothy and Herbert Vogel. Admission is free today.

The contemporary belly
The Columbia contemporary dance group The Power Company raises the tent on "A Circus of Sorts" including a collaboration with Natalie Brown of Delirium Tribal Belly Dance Company.

Columbia Music Festival Arts Space, 914 Pulaski St. Shows are at 7:30 tonight and Saturday. We’re not sure if this is discrimination against single people or just a way to drum up business or encourage people to make friends, but admission is $18 for one; $30 for two. (803) 786-3825.

Sing out

"La Bohème meets the Three Baritones," a concert version of the third act of the opera “La Boheme” and singing and comedy by three baritones. (right) It’s at 7:30 p.m. in the Dreher High School auditorium, Devine Street and Millwood Avenue. $30. (803) 776-0526.

Pull strings

If you haven't seen Diana Farfan's show "We Human Marionettes," there's a closing reception and a talk, in Spanish, by the artist from 5 to 8. The Friday Cottage Artspace, 1830 Henderson St.

Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 24 and 24

Don't ask me how this happened, but nothing much is actually going on specifically on these days. Most of the theaters are dark (Trustus had to postpone "Extremities" because its lead actor got injured), but there's "Romeo and Juliet" and "Legend of Sleepy Hallow" in the parks and the USC lab show.

Also you might check out some of the art shows around town. I'd highly reccomend the ceramics exhibition at the USC art department, but the gallery is closed on the weekends.

You can pay tribute to Haydn, as you might have done recently at the S.C. Philharmonic. The Columbia Choral Society will give a concert of his music at 4 p.m. Sunday. United Street Methodist Church, 1401 Washington St. $12.

Wednesday, Oct. 28

Clarinet player plays the new and the old made new
Joseph Eller will give the world premiere of "Eternal Garden: Four Songs for Clarinet and Piano" by David Maslanka, who was commissioned by Eller and others to write several pieces for clarinet.

"I originally had another work programmed for this concert, but this score literally arrived in the mail from David Maslanka a few weeks ago," said Eller, an assistant professor at USC.

The concert starts with a work from the early 1700s which is also brand new in a way. Eller has been transcribing J.S. Bach pieces and will play the "Sonata in E minor."

"There are transcriptions of Bach for clarinet, but the overwhelming majority are very watered down to 'fit' the clarinet in regards to range, key and technique," Eller said. "I have spent a lot of time researching pieces that would work without editing at all and just as Bach wrote melodically and technically. Although this makes them much harder for the clarinetist, their authenticity is left intact..."

He’ll also play the Trio in D minor for clarinet, cello and piano by Alexander von

“Nothing special about the Zemlinsky other than it is a beautiful, late Romantic work that I have never performed,” Eller said.

Playing with him for the free 7:30 concert at the USC School of Music are Lynn Kompass on piano and harpsichord and Robert Jesselson, cello. (803) 777-4280.

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