KMA opens new 'Currents' exhibit

Contemporary currents KMA opens new permanent exhibit of recent artwork

This 2004 print by artist Sarah Hobbs is called "Untitled (Ladies' Man)." It is part of Hobbs' series called "Small Problems in Living."

Photo by 1996-98 AccuSoft Inc., All right

This 2004 print by artist Sarah Hobbs is called "Untitled (Ladies' Man)." It is part of Hobbs' series called "Small Problems in Living."

This print of a young girl called "The Blue Dress" is by Loretta Lux.

This print of a young girl called "The Blue Dress" is by Loretta Lux.

Gordon Cheung's 2009 "Fallen" is part of the Knoxville Museum of Art's new permanent exhibit "Currents: Recent Art From East Tennessee and Beyond."  The exhibit opens in an upstairs gallery Nov. 9.

Gordon Cheung's 2009 "Fallen" is part of the Knoxville Museum of Art's new permanent exhibit "Currents: Recent Art From East Tennessee and Beyond." The exhibit opens in an upstairs gallery Nov. 9.

This oil on canvas by Tomory Dodge called "Mirage" is part of "Currents," a new, permanent exhibit of contemporary art at the Knoxville Museum of Art. Like several pieces selected for the exhibit, "Mirage" is a large work, measuring 7 feet by 6 ½ feet.

This oil on canvas by Tomory Dodge called "Mirage" is part of "Currents," a new, permanent exhibit of contemporary art at the Knoxville Museum of Art. Like several pieces selected for the exhibit, "Mirage" is a large work, measuring 7 feet by 6 ½ feet.

The Knoxville Museum of Art on Friday, Nov. 9, opens a new permanent exhibition called "Currents: Recent Art from East Tennessee and Beyond." Featuring contemporary art from both East Tennessee and international artists, "Currents" is both an extension and expansion of the museum's popular, permanent "Higher Ground" exhibition.

Both exhibits are on the second floor of the 1050 World's Fair Park Drive museum. "Higher Ground: A Century of Visual Arts in East Tennessee" shows work by artists with East Tennessee ties from the middle of the 19th century through the 1960s. While some individual pieces are changed out, "Higher Ground" at any given time includes about 50 to 60 works of art.

"Currents" focuses on art created from the 1960s through today. Most works come from the museum collection; a few will be loaned. Like "Higher Ground," "Currents" will be both a museum fixture and a dynamic, changing exhibit. Many works will remain on display while some pieces will be changed as other art is acquired or taken from the museum vault. KMA Curator Stephen Wicks said the new exhibit is both a chronological extension of "Higher Ground" and a "geographical expansion because it looks beyond East Tennessee."

"One of the things we are hoping to do with this is to showcase the achievements of noteworthy artists that have ties with East Tennessee and show their work with the best and brightest art from other parts of the world," said Wicks. "We want to have a place to showcase the collection, the very best we have acquired."

Two-thirds of the art displayed in the opening exhibit was created since 2000, Wicks said. Art includes paintings, photographs and sculptures as well as works using video, computers, printers and LED lighting. The art, Wicks said, reflects current times and changing technology. "The artists are trying to make new art that speaks about the changes in technology and, in some cases, artists are using that technology to make those images," he said.

Two recent drawings by New York artist and University of Tennessee graduate Wade Guyton are part of "Currents." Guyton creates his images using computers, scanners and printers. His canvasses for those images are pages torn from art books. The result is modern work imposed over earlier images and designs. "You are trying to figure out 'Is he decorating these earlier designs or is he defacing and deleting them?' " asks Wicks. "You can look at it two ways."

Another piece in "Currents" is a photograph by Ori Gersht. The Israeli-born artist often creates photographic sequences that begin with images of flowers traditionally arranged in a beautiful vase. But inside the vase is a small explosive device that triggers smoke, then breaks the vase and shatters the flowers. The museum has one of the smaller photos that would appear in the larger sequence. It shows the start of the cycle, with some smoke and cracks in the photographed vase.

Both Guyton and Gersht are "household names in contemporary art," Wicks said. Guyton's work is currently shown at New York's Whitney Museum of American Art; Gersht's is exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Since many of the selected works are large pieces, "Currents" will contain about 30 individual pieces of art. Smaller pieces include Loretta Lux's 11-by-11-inch 2001 print "The Blue Dress" while bigger pieces include the 10-by-12-foot brightly colored abstract "Empire" by Giles Lyon. A former University of Tennessee artist-in-residence, Lyon worked on "Empire" over a dozen years. "It's an abstract piece that I think will knock over anybody," said Wicks.

Like some other pieces in "Currents," "Empire" has been displayed in past museum exhibits. But Wicks said grouping the paintings together "creates new juxtapositions, a new storyline."

Currents: Recent Art from East Tennessee and Beyond

What: New contemporary art exhibitn Where: Knoxville Museum of Art, 1050 World's Fair Park

When: Opens Nov. 9; museum hours 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 1-5 p.m. Sunday

Admission: Free

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