Written by: Sara Estes
In the past decade, more and more artists have been putting discarded objects to use. From French artist Elise Moran's "Waste Landscape" of 65,000 discarded CDs to Tara Donavon's vast undulating Styrofoam cup sculptures at Ace Gallery in L.A., the desire to transform the mundane into the spectacular has taken hold of artists around the world.
For the next installment of OZ Arts' Thursday Night Things (which has been postponed until Feb. 26 because of the winter storm), Nashville artist Alex Lockwood puts a spin on the reuse trend by adding an engaging interactive element to his sculptures made of cast-off items. For 10 days, Lockwood will take over the 10,000-square-foot gallery space with "Shake," an ambitious exhibition of over 40 works. The multimedia show features wearable masks and costumes, paper sculpture, plexiglass, stop-motion animation and an array of large-scale "shakers" — hanging sculptures with pull cords to make them spin, swing, crash and make noise.
By focusing on its distinctly playful quality, "Shake" aims to break down walls between the artist, the art and the viewer. "It's fine art but it's also very accessible," said OZ Arts Artistic Director Lauren Snelling. "You're not only allowed to touch the work, you're encouraged."
As a sculptor, Lockwood sees the power in numbers. Using mundane items like bread tags, bottle caps, losing lottery tickets and shotgun shells, he creates stunning works without the fragility and preciousness of most art found in contemporary galleries. "I'm drawn to worthless, colorful things, usually plastic," said Lockwood. "Things that are easy to recognize individually, but become obscured and abstracted in large quantities."
Conceptually, the exhibition explores the human body from different perspectives: macro, physical and micro. "Dot Story" depicts two people seen at an aerial distance. The masks and costumes bring awareness to our own physical body, and the shakers tap into our inner systems and patterns that dictate our emotional states and personalities.
The most ambitious work in the show is a shotgun shell tapestry measuring 25 feet wide and 19 feet tall that runs through the middle of the expansive gallery. The tapestry is made up of over 16,000 multicolored shotgun shells the artist sourced from shooting ranges and online outlets.
"When I look at it," he said, "I think about the collective energy that came out of all this, the explosions that happened with each one."
Lockwood moved to Nashville three years ago after spending 15 years in New York. Now a studio resident at arts collective 100 Taylor and a member of the Arcade's Coop Gallery and curatorial collective, he recognizes that the South has had some influence on his work.
"I don't think I'd be building out of shotgun shells if I weren't in Tennessee," he said with a smile.
Lockwood is unquestionably a process-driven artist; in each of the works on view, time is visible. Up close, the little steps of assembly seem almost impossible in scope. One can't help but marvel at the time it took to gather the materials, prepare them (he drilled individual holes into thousands of caps and shotgun shells) and then assemble each piece by hand. Lockwood says he finds comfort in the tedium of producing works requiring many tiny, repeated steps. "It's like driving somewhere for 10 hours," he said, "but the place you're going is really great. Sometimes you can't believe you've only driven an hour, but other times five hours will just fly by."
Inviting and decidedly unpretentious, many sculptures in "Shake" require viewer participation for the artwork to come alive. Some pieces have particular color patterns inside that you don't see until you spin them; others make a noise that you can't hear unless you shake them. Snelling hopes viewers can see the interaction as a metaphor. "There's a outer layer and a hidden inner layer in all of us and unless you engage, you really never find that hidden layer. You have to dig a little deeper to find the real beauty in things."