Review: Alex Lockwood's Shake at OZ Arts
Written by: Laura Hutson
On Thursday, OZ Arts hosted an opening for Shake, an installation of work by Nashville-based artist Alex Lockwood. The exhibit spanned so much of Lockwood's artwork that I wonder if there was anything left in his studio at all — there were masks made from plastic bottle caps, a makeshift merry-go-round made from multicolored coat hangers, vests made from hundreds of those little plastic tags that keep bags of bread closed and several hanging sculptures with pull-cords that dangled until someone yanked it hard enough to make it bounce around like one of those Yip-Yip aliens from Sesame Street.
But the OZ space is problematic for the same reasons that make it an ideal performance venue — it's huge, for one. It feels more like a showroom than a gallery space just because of its size, and would dwarf anything that's not on the scale of, say, a piece by Richard Serra, or even several of them. Lockwood's sculptures seem massive in his studio, but walking into the OZ space they still got lost, like a full glass of water that's been dropped into a lake. But having lots of space and using it to showcase local artists' work is not anything to complain about, and the chance to see his work in this environment was a welcome change of pace from an overcrowded Arcade gallery like Coop, where Lockwood has exhibited before.
Another thing that sets OZ apart from other art spaces: The staff is ridiculously qualified and helpful. I walked in early before the room was crowded — that came later, with a sweet influx of under-10-years-old children who appeared to be having the time of their lives — and there were a handful of OZ staffers in bright green T-shirts handling the work casually, showing the audience that it was safe and welcome to interact with the work. They also knew where Lockwood got so many shotgun shells (ballistic supply companies, mainly, but also recycling facilities) and were generally happy to be part-docent, part-playground ref for the night.
Still, the artwork in Shake can stand on its own. After a studio visit I had with him in 2013, I wrote that the reused elements of Lockwood's work "remind me of that famously short short story about unused baby shoes: Sometimes inanimate objects can carry an enormous impact that's like an emotional Trojan horse — you let it in because of its familiarity, and it wrecks you." That feeling was hard to replicate in OZ's grandiose space, but it's the closest the venue has gotten to showing artwork that is conceptual as well as beautiful, and the emphasis on its interactivity was one of the smartest things about the show.
The highlight was the enormous shotgun shell tapestry that hung all the way from the rafters to the floor, like an elegant backdrop for a futuristic play. I was reminded of fiber artist Sheila Hicks' immense woven works, and my friend told me it reminded her of the 2013 El Anatsui exhibit at Brooklyn Museum, but was quick to mention that this was not as conceptually solid. I also overheard comparisons to everyone from Lynda Benglis to Vik Muniz. Those are all tall acts to follow, but I think Lockwood is on his way to carving out a place among them.
Shake remains on view at OZ Arts through March 5.