Mindy Solomon, premiering her new gallery in the center of the Wynwood Art District this fall, brings over two decades of international art experience as an educator, collector, and gallerist. Ranked in 2013 as one of the top six galleries in Florida by the prestigious Louise Blouin Media Modern Painters magazine, her sophisticated and bold curating style continues in Miami with a group exhibition by contemporary Southern artists Jeremy Chandler, John Byrd, and Jeremiah Jenkins. A collection of photographic and sculptural works appear in an exhibition entitled ‘Southern Fried.’ The Opening Reception will be held Thursday, November 21st, from 6:00-9:00pm. The exhibition will be on view from November 22nd through December 16th.
“You learn to forgive [the South] for its narrow mind and growing pains because it has a huge heart. You forgive the stifling summers because the spring is lush and pastel sprinkled, because winter is merciful and brief, because corn bread and sweet tea and fried chicken are every bit as vital to a Sunday as getting dressed up for church, and because any southerner worth their salt says please and thank you. It’s soft air and summer vines, pinewoods and fat homegrown tomatoes. It’s pulling the fruit right off a peach tree and letting the juice run down your chin. It’s a closeted and profound appreciation for our neighbors in Alabama who bear the brunt of the Bubba jokes. The South gets in your blood and nose and skin bone-deep. I am less a part of the South than it is part of me. It’s a romantic notion, being overcome by geography. But we are all a little starry-eyed down here. We’re Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara and Rosa Parks all at once.” -Amanda Kyle Williams
‘Southern Fried’ is a multi-faceted term. It implies a style of cooking—crispy, hot, juicy, and full of grease and fat, evoking a sense of sinful unbridled goodness. It also represents a state of malaise and unease; unending heat and stickiness, mosquitos, skewed politics, antiquated behaviors and a lack of interest in anything beyond the next monster truck and tractor pull. How does one who grew up in the northeast learn to love the simple ways of the country such as the joys of fishing off a pier before sunrise? Shorts and flip-flops in the fanciest of restaurants and grouper sandwiches as haute cuisine? In that environment it is easy to judge, but it grows within you—a love of the swamps and mangroves, an appreciation for a sleeping rat snake soaking up the sunlight on a palmetto branch. Spiders the size of your fist ratcheting up bedroom walls, even pesky palmetto bugs outracing your broom on the garage floor, or warm breezes against brilliant sunsets the likes of which you have never seen anywhere else. These are the things that are true. This is the environment where Jeremy Chandler, John Byrd, and Jeremiah Jenkins formed their first sentences and rudimentary scribbles—observed the cultural and emotional demands of their childhoods, and created their own independent artistic dialogues as a reaction response to the land that formed them and gave them their uniquely ‘Southern Fried’ perspective. Gallery Director Mindy Solomon states: “Perhaps their point of view will harken in you the transformation that has happened to me—an appreciation for things charming and honest, and wonderfully imperfect.”
The artists in this exhibition offer statements about their works, in their own words:
Jeremy Chandler: “Growing up in rural north Florida, I experienced the landscape directly and intimately. The forests and rivers were isolated, malleable spaces where my friends and I expressed our imaginations through physical interactions with the places we explored. In this way, the Southern landscape became something else and these experiences formed vivid, tactile memories, which I often attempt to articulate through my photographs now as an adult artist. My work is informed as much by my cultural identity as a Southerner as well as my curiosity about other people’s relationships with the Southern landscape. Moreover, my work questions traditional notions of masculinity, which are also often expressed through men’s relationships with the forest and with one another within this context. Whether it is through the constructing and photographing of objects, staged narratives or straight photography, the photographs in ‘Southern Fried’ represent a variety of ways of engaging the Floridian landscape as well as my own notions of place.”
John Byrd: “I was raised in the rural mountains of North Carolina, in a family with an old and deep Southern heritage. And while I grew up without want or need, I was aware that we didn’t live up to the cultural aspirations of the antique furniture we’d inherited (markings of a family reduced by the Civil War, the furniture’s fine woodwork stood in distinct contrast to the cheaper and disposable aesthetic of the items it now contained). In my upbringing, I remember defining and cataloging the variable cultural qualities of both of objects and experiences within our lives, especially in comparison to those of my poorer friends and wealthier neighbors. I generally assess a particular hierarchy of media and cultural qualities that I associate with those aesthetic judgments, and often apply skilled processes to either contradict or reinforce them. (Ultimately I think I’m drawn to the challenge of taking disparate materials and cultural references, that when submitted to finely crafted and obsessive dedication, can exceed the assumed limits of either its media or class). Important to me is the idea of ‘double coding.’ I want to both honor and critique the components of my Southern cultural experience, whether it be one that seems common or more culturally elite. I typically use a fairly accessible visually language. The individual parts of my assemblies are usually recognizable either in form, craft, or cultural context. Ultimately my work is the continuation of a struggle to reconcile my personal identity. Partly it feels like reclamation. For example, I wasn’t allowed to hunt as a child. [In my artwork,] I think I fixated on taxidermy as a souvenir of Southern experience, a merit badge of southern masculinity. One I didn’t receive in my youth. Part of my visual language is that of autonomous, decorative art objects (figurines, trophies, souvenirs). Within a domestic space, I’m intrigued by the ability of an encapsulated aesthetic to establish, defy, and challenge characteristics of culture and class. ”
Jeremiah Jenkins: “My art is about taking objects and making subtle but significant changes to them to alter their meaning. In our minds things have symbolism. By mixing up this symbolism I attempt to tell a story, suggest an idea, or ask a question. My ideas are part spiritual, part anthropological, part philosophical, and part constructive. I was born in a valley in the Appalachian mountains. At the time we lived in a different valley, but shortly moved to another valley. I grew up in that final valley. My mom hung old tools and antiques on the wall of our kitchen like a museum. I was fascinated by the stories and meanings of the objects. This impacted my art process a great deal. When I was 11, a friend of my mom’s came to our house. My grandfather showed up and opened the back hatch of his baby blue Plymouth Omni. He pulled the carpet aside and began to lay out several handguns. My mother’s friend began test firing them at two large logs stacked on top of each other. On his last shot with the Glock 9mm the top log fell off. While the men started talking cash, I ran up to the target. The last bullet had gone in between the logs and wedged them apart. The bullet was laying there at the end of a groove carved into the exposed wood grain. This is what making art is like for me. The moments when things come together by chance, accident, or force to form a new point of orientation, like crossing lines on a map. I now live on a hill in the West. My world has expanded and I can see beyond the ridges of the valley. The experiences I was exposed to in my life in the South keep coming up in my art. Deer and hunting, NASCAR and nature, religion and guns, flea markets, and everything else keep surfacing in my consciousness. I don’t make art about the South; I only make art as a Southerner.”
John Byrd is an Assistant Professor at the University of South Florida. He received his BFA in Ceramics from Louisiana State University and his MFA in Ceramics from the University of Washington in 2000. His work has been shown in galleries and museums throughout the United States and abroad.
ABOUT MINDY SOLOMON GALLERY
Mindy Solomon Gallery specializes in contemporary emerging and mid-career artists. Represented works include painting, sculpture, photography, and video in both narrative and non-objective styles. Solomon also exhibits some of the most prestigious contemporary Korean artists on the world market. With an interest in client education, such as a collectors’ tour to South Korea, and regular artists’ talks and VIP events, the gallery and its programs endeavor to showcase a unique and bold view of the international art world. Deeply interested in the intersection of art and design, Ms. Solomon and her team collaborate with designers, advisors, consultants and curators to inform and integrate fine works of art as part of a greater aesthetic.
One of only six galleries in Florida to be included in ‘Top 500 Galleries Worldwide’ in the Louise Blouin Media Modern Painters 2013 Annual Guide, Mindy Solomon Gallery participates in many prestigious art fairs, including the upcoming Art Miami fair during Art Basel’s Art Week in Miami Beach, as well as the Zona Maco Contemporary Art Fair in Mexico City, VOLTA NY, and Shanghai Contemporary.
The mission of the Mindy Solomon Gallery is to present the highest caliber works from emerging and mid-career artists in a broad spectrum of media. With a focus on context and the interconnectedness of material, Mindy Solomon and her staff approach the client/artist relationship with an interest in education and visual empowerment.