Billy Renkl, “Soil Survey”, 2014
Kell Black, “And The Spiders From Mars”, 2014
Cumberland Gallery presents artists Tom Pfannerstill, Johan Hagaman, Billy Renkl, and Kell Black in Rock, Paper, Scissors & Wood. Works range from realist painting on sculpted wood to figurative concrete work to intricately cut paper. This exhibition is especially relevant to Southern art, as the artists hail from Tennessee and Kentucky. The works reflect a coupling of artistic vision with attention to detail and traditional materials and processes.
When Tom Pfannerstill encounters a discarded, smashed, dirty, lonely little bit of consumer ephemera on the street, he collects it and recreates its varied details in carved wood and paint. Placing the waste of human existence on the white walls of the gallery may seem a tad unconventional but a closer look at these carefully rendered pieces not only confounds us with their implicit accuracy but also surprises us with our own sentimentality over the refuse of our society. This leads to questions about the psychological comfort we find in consumer culture. Tom Pfannerstill has been awarded prestigious fellowships, including one from The Kentucky Arts Council in 2001. His work has been exhibited throughout the United States and is part of collections of the Flint Institute of Arts in Michigan, Bellarmine College in Kentucky, and the Evansville Museum of Arts and Sciences in Indiana. He currently lives and works in Kentucky.
Billy Renkl’s chosen medium are snippets of didactic texts, diagrams, maps, and the candy colored surfaces of postcards from a bygone era. These collected bits and pieces allow for meaning and metaphor in their peculiar beauty and often accidental æsthetic. Of his collages Renkl states, “In many of these works my focus on information graphics is combined with my interest in the ways that abstraction has been used to mediate the natural world.” Billy Renkl grew up in Birmingham, AL attending Auburn University and the University of South Carolina. He currently teaches at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee. Aside from his many solo exhibitions throughout the US, his work has been featured with SouthWest Airlines, How Magazine, Vanderbilt University, Klutz Inc., Strategy & Business, The River Styx, Poems and Plays, and Rigby Publishing.
Johan Hagaman’s intuitively formed figures gently confront us with the hybrid life of plant, woman, and object. The lovely, subdued hues of milk paint across the deceptively soft appearance of molded concrete speak quietly of dreamy figures floating in the air, suspended by vines and bursting with life. Hagaman says of these sculptures, “Identity is a recurring theme in my work. I’m interested in psychology – especially the psychology of seeing: of perceiving, of viewing things from different perspectives, of paying attention in a world fraught with distractions, of beholding wonder, of imagining; and how all these different ways of seeing determine how we shape and are shaped by our world.” Hagaman was born in Southern Indiana, graduating from Indiana University. Her work is exhibited in many galleries throughout the country, and is included in many public and private collections and museums such as the Tennessee State Museum and Evansville Museum of Arts and Sciences. She is also the recipient of the Tennessee Individual Artist Fellowship for 2005. Johan lives and works in Nashville, Tennessee.
Kell Black’s subjects are made up of seemingly useless but beautiful things – dandelions, twigs, spiders, moths, and maple whirligigs – all iconic of Southern summers. Each of these fragments of nature are delicately rendered with scissors from a sheet of paper; edges curl and fray, popping up from their two dimensional surface in luscious mountains and valleys. Black says of his work, “A pencil can trace the most delicate of curves, but an artist wielding a scalpel or a knife must constantly make geometric compromises. Tight curves become a series of angular approximations. This leads the artists to realize that not only does nature abhor a vacuum; it also detests a straight line. Nature is nothing but one big curve, and curves are sexy. And really, it if isn’t sexy, it’s just not art.”
Kell Black a professor at Austin Peay State University and has been featured in exhibitions at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Maryland Institute of Art and Customs House Museum. He is the recipient of NEA’s Southern Art Federations Individual Grant and has engineered a series of “build your own” books featuring paper cities.