Art exhibitions are the chance to see a wide range of visuals tied together by a single, unifying thread. Sometimes this thread is cord-thick, like when a gallery presents the life’s work of a single artist for a retrospective, or when a large museum presents concrete examples of a single artistic movement. But sometimes the thread is a little thinner or more abstract, affording the gallery an interpretive reason to bring together a wide range of work.
Such is the case with “Smoke Show,” the current exhibition found at North Nashville’s Elephant Gallery. The pieces in the show, running through August 3, 2019, are connected only through their familiarity with fumes.
“‘Smoke Show’ is a group show of all things smoke related — ranging from textile, ceramic and sculpture work to drawing, painting and photography of all sizes,” said the gallery. “Over 30 local artists participated in the open call, totaling about 50 artists including the curated out-of-state participants.”
The gallery’s building currently has a mega-sized cigarette hanging outside, above a graffiti advertisement for the exhibition. Pieces on display include a collection of hand-carved meerschaum pipes owned by late founder of Oz Arts Nashville Cano A. Ozgener, a minimal spray paint rendering on french paper called Gary Woods on Fire by self-described Gestaltist and Nashville resident Lindsy Davis and an oversized Zippo lighter dubbed Use It to Start Something by local artist Ian Bush.
Even through the smoke of their connection, you can see that Elephant Gallery has collected a wide variety of art. Many of the pieces seem to take an irreverent view on the subject matter — illustrating the act of smoking or its requisite apparatuses in comical and absurd ways. But others powerfully leverage the visual uniqueness of smoke itself or offer commentary on the role that smoke and smoking plays in the daily lives of many.
Those Precious Marlboro Menthol Lights, a glazed ceramic piece by Crys Yin, may be emphasizing the weight or power that cigarettes carry by rendering a disposable pack in a more permanent medium. China-like blue and white detailing on the box and filters renders the subject matter with more elegance than the viewer might normally consider. The preciousness of the sculpture overtly illustrates the value a smoker places on their favorite brand.
Yin is a multimedia artist who lives in Brooklyn. Much of her work echoes traditional Asian art or the Asian American experience. Her work has been exhibited across the country since 2015.
Elephant Gallery is located at 1411 Buchanan St.