Artists Bethany Collins, Charles Rennie Mackintosh spotlighted at Frist

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The last two exhibitions to open at the Frist Art Museum feature works by artists born in different countries more than 100 years apart.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh, born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1868 was a pioneer of the Glasgow Style of art and architecture, an Art Nouveau movement in Britain that was a forerunner of Art Deco.

Bethany Collins, born in 1984, is from Montgomery, Alabama. His multimedia works ranging from books and wallpaper to a pile of gum shavings explore the historical intersection of language and race.

Although the work of the two artists does not seem to have an obvious connection, it is unified by a wide range of shared mediums, the labor-intensive methods of the artists and even the city of Glasgow, where Collins has worked. studied during his university studies.

The two adjacent exhibitions opened on June 11 and will run at Frist’s Ingram Gallery (Mackintosh) and Gordon Contemporary Artists Project Gallery (Collins) through September 12.

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Both exhibits had been in the curatorial and planning phase for years in the hope that they could be shown simultaneously last summer. Due to the pandemic, Frist’s curators decided to hold openings one year later.

Frist Managing Director and CEO Susan Edwards said she was amazed at the compatibility of these two very different exhibits.

“They are both tactile and visual and they are both extremely poetic,” she said. “It takes a long time to review them because they are labor intensive jobs and you get lost in them. It’s worth taking the time to not only find out what artists are doing, but also to see how it reflects on you.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh

“Designing the New: Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Glasgow Style”, presents 165 works in a wide variety of multimedia works ranging from furniture and textiles to architectural drawings, posters and watercolors.

Organized in 2018 by Glasgow Museums, the exhibit celebrates the 150th anniversary of Mackintosh’s birth, and it is the first major Mackintosh exhibit in the United States since 1996, according to the museum.

The Frist Art Museum’s senior curator, Trinita Kennedy, spent time in Glasgow with Alison Brown of the Glasgow Museums and says Mackintosh’s influence can even be felt in the Frist Art Museum building.

“Some of its shapes and patterns anticipate Art Deco,” Kennedy said. “This building we are in, which dates from the 1930s, is an example of the Art Deco style. You can see the squares and triangular patterns in its decoration. Mackintosh belongs to the chapter just before Art Deco. There is nothing in Middle Tennessee that looks like Mackintosh. This is one of the main reasons to do this show, as it is a rare opportunity to see Mackintosh’s work in the United States.

Known as one of the most important architects of early Modernism, Mackintosh’s contribution to the Glasgow style includes a sober but opulent aesthetic. He based the design from a square and a circle. Later in life it expanded to the use of the triangle. But those clean lines and shapes were also accentuated by patterns of roses, other flowers, and birds. Its architectural gem is the Glasgow School of Art building in Scotland.

In the early 1890s, Mackintosh befriended other students at the Glasgow School of Art. It was there that he met his future wife (Margaret Macdonald) and other artists known as “The Four” who often worked together and were the engines of Glasgow Style.

Two of the “Four” were women: Macdonald and his sister Frances. They and other women played a vital role in the Glasgow movement, and this exhibition highlights their contributions.

An iconic piece on display as part of the exhibit is a multimedia work titled “The May Queen” which dates from 1900. Mackintosh and Margaret Mackintosh designed the room for the Ingram Street tearoom. It is made of wood, covered with burlap and features lines made of string, tin foil and paint.

“This coin is usually displayed very high,” Kennedy said. “So it’s special to be able to see it up close and head-on. “

Bethany collins

Artist Bethany Collins will tell you she’s not a writer. But his works of art are his personal attempt to criticize the accuracy of the historical record. Her work highlights the suggestive power of words and offers a commentary on the insidious nature of systemic inequalities.

“It’s a love letter and an indictment,” she said. “This is how I feel for Alabama.”

The first gallery is covered with black-on-black screen-printed wallpaper embellished with images of flowers native to Alabama such as leeks, ivy and cotton shrubs. His exhibition “Bethany Collins: Evensong” explores several versions or translations of previously published texts, notably “The Odyssey” by Homer and “Star Spangled Banner”.

Collins was on hand for the opening of “Evensong”, where she became the first artist to attend a private viewing at Frist in more than a year.

“I hate to write, but I love other people’s language,” she says. “I ordered pages from ‘The Odyssey’ to help me find the poetry, which allows me to be involved in the process.”

The exhibition features large, hand-drawn pages of different translations of the same passage from “The Odyssey” where Homer returns to his native land and feels a sense of ignorance with it. Some lines remain visible while others are partially erased – a process in which she used her own saliva instead of water to smear the words and simultaneously insert herself into the story.

The Mackintosh and Collins exhibitions opened on June 11 and will run until September 12. For more information on the exhibits, visit www.fristartmuseum.org.


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