State of the Arts

“3”: A bold, graphic piece by photographer Keegan Hooper hangs in the multimedia show, In Public. The exhibition is part of the Asheville Area Arts Council’s Point of View curatorial series. Image courtesy of the artist
“3”: A bold, graphic piece by photographer Keegan Hooper hangs in the multimedia show, In Public. The exhibition is part of the Asheville Area Arts Council’s Point of View curatorial series. Image courtesy of the artist

Apothecary closed and moved out of the YMI Cultural Center last November. But that closure didn’t spell the end for the experimental arts and music collective. Rather, it presented an opportunity for unrestricted transition.

The group’s current incarnation is on view at the Asheville Area Arts Council. In Public is an exhibition of interdisciplinary, avant-garde visual and sound works. The show, up through March 7, is the second installment of the AAAC’s Point of View series, a program that hands over curatorial license to the artists. “The series is designed to have artists curating artists, which I think is an obvious springboard for the Apothecary attitude,” says Frank Meadows, an Apothecary co-founder and the exhibition’s curator. “That attitude promotes the step between private creative practice and public exposure.”

The show features works by a mix of Apothecary co-founders and a half-dozen Asheville artists, all of whom had previously exhibited at the group’s former downtown venue. Works range from floor sculptures and multiscreen video compilations to minimalist, design-oriented pieces and intricate paper combinations. 

One piece by printmaker and collage artist Mary Claire Becker features dismembered butterflies surrounded by layers of ornate, cut paper, dried tulip poplar leaves and cropped lithographs. The works, from Becker's Sanctuariem Naturalis series, mimic religious reliquaries but swap saints for mortality and Darwinian naturalism.

At the gallery’s opposite end, three works by Keegan Hooper appear at first to be enlarged, proto-constructivist digital swatches, freshly cropped from the Adobe Web-design software, Creative Suite. But on closer view, the visible wood grain reveals them to be photographs. And in the middle of the gallery, jutting out of a sour green pile of silicone, are a group of 2-foot wooden spikes. Like a trap or hazard from a now-vintage video game, they add to the show’s eclecticism.

“The individual decisions on the artwork were intuitive,” says Meadows, whose background is in jazz composition. He chose works that shared Apothecary’s embrace of unfettered creative experimentation. And, like Apothecary’s original mission, the show is as much about that artistic exploration as it is a resource for exposure. 

In Public is, in essence, a momentary reprisal of the aesthetic that Apothecary developed. But it also offers a look into the group’s future. “The space at YMI was an educational experience for everyone involved,” Meadows says. “It was an impetus for harnessing creative energy.” More importantly, he notes, it was a starting point — not the end goal. Apothecary is an entity, not a location. The YMI, Meadows says, “was just the brick and mortar.”

In the wake of that physical departure, the group created asystems, a music label and online gallery curated by fellow co-founders Dow One and soshie LAN. Aside from being Apothecary’s digital, Web-based extension, Meadows says that asystems “is serving as a platform for further work.”  

In its year and three months at the YMI, the group produced and hosted more than 220 workshops, exhibitions, lectures, film screenings and concerts. Most were organized by the Apothecary’s founders, but they often partnered with an array of local arts organizations, such as the Media Arts Project and Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center. They also worked with local music producers Headway Recordings and Grandma Presents, and the group even hosted pop-up events for locally based businesses, such as Amazing Capes.

The breadth of these connections, combined with the group’s multimedia, multimodal mentality, has kept Apothecary intact and in motion. But taking time away from managing an arts space and venue has also been to its benefit, affording the collective’s members a moment to step back and evaluate what Apothecary was. Or is. “It’s given us time to concentrate, time to breathe,” says Meadows, “and the ability to refine our vision.”

Apothecary’s newfound mobility, via A-Systems, has led the group to enrich its existing connections and to forge new relationships with area arts and music groups. It’s through these connections that Apothecary, for the first time since closing, has a public façade. 

The exhibition
In Public can be seen at the Asheville Area Arts Council through Friday, March 7. For more information, visit ashevillearts.com. For information on Apothecary and asystems, visit asystems.co.

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