The 2010 visual vault
Despite an economic climate that challenged both art practitioners and purveyors, the Charlottesville art scene made several memorable leaps in 2010.
Thrill rides and ghetto blasters: The University of Virginia's Ruffin Gallery upped its art ante with two particularly imaginative shows last winter. Aaron Henderson's video installation, "Midway," playfully examined how people act out on carnival rides and provided a welcome dose of summer during a frigid February. The next month Berenika Boberska transformed the gallery into an urban fairy tale with her "Fallow City Project," which presented fantastical visions for reviving Detroit's decaying neighborhoods.
Optimistic openings: In March, two new galleries, Chroma Projects Art Laboratory and Warm Springs Gallery, hung their shingles downtown. Deborah McLeod, an experienced art writer and curator, successfully realized her vision of Chroma Projects as a hive of individual art spaces, with a main gallery featuring monthly shows. Chroma's inaugural year presented memorable exhibits by Aggie Zed and David Dodge Lewis, among others. Meanwhile, Barbara Buhr's Warm Springs Gallery, a Charlottesville offshoot of her Bath County venue, offered a spectacular exhibit by local fave, Tim O'Kane, in October.
Body consciousness: The University of Virginia Art Museum scored a coup in spring when MacArthur-winning artist Janine Antoni presented "At Home in the Body," a mini-retrospective of her wide-ranging work exploring feminine physicality and sexuality. In addition to showing gold-cast nipples and a gargoyle urine spout, Antoni delivered one of the most intelligent and accessible slide-lectures in recent memory.
Man, oh, Man Ray: In late August, the University of Virginia Art Museum made another impressive showing by hosting the traveling exhibit, "Man Ray, African Art, and the Modernist Lens," which examined how Man Ray's photographs of African sculpture shifted it from being regarded as anthropological evidence to being considered fine art. Numerous lectures and a film series augmented the rich and informative main exhibition, which included not only images by Man Ray and his contemporaries but also the objects they photographed.
Light weights: For the fourth year, Piedmont Virginia Community College celebrated the impending winter solstice with "Let There Be Light," a one-night exhibition of illuminated installations by regional art stars like Stacey Evans, John Grant, Lydia Moyer, and Noah Scalin. This year's highlight was Jesse Dukes, Greg Antrim Kelly, and Will May's "Bondfire," which included a live radio broadcast of fire-related stories and songs. Hot!
Happily, no galleries tanked in 2010, but Art Upstairs announced it would merge with BozART Gallery in 2011. Two other new venues, Isolated Article and the WVTF and RadioIQ Studio Gallery, entered the First Friday fray, as did Nest Realty, Speak!, and Eloise. PCCA changed its name to Piedmont Council for the Arts, and the Festival of the Photograph took a one-year hiatus