State of the Arts

Going, going, gone: Last week for Julyan Davis at Blue Spiral, and Atelier Gallery leaves town

Julyan Davis at Blue Spiral 1

Painter Julyan Davis has spent years cataloging the natural and the developed Southern landscape. Since moving from Alabama to Asheville in 2003, much of his work has taken from our very own environmental surroundings — desolate Blue Ridge wilderness, waterfalls and the like. But an ongoing show of new works, on view through Dec. 31 in Blue Spiral 1’s Showcase Gallery, departs to take view of the city and its humble peripheries.

Rather, it re-departs. Davis’ fascination with the aesthetic of Southern culture, particularly the dilapidated features of domestic abandonment and urban disrepair, has revived itself from older works painted while living in the Delta.

More than a dozen oil landscape paintings of Asheville and the surrounding area fill the tiny gallery in the back right of Blue Spiral’s main level. The imagery is familiar, in a comforting way.

In “You Guessed About Right (Pretty Polly),” you find the Ice House, in all its glory. It’s probably the most photographed abandoned building in Asheville, certainly in the River Arts District. But Davis presents a deeply atmospheric architectural study. The grandeur of the Ice House, with all its debris and shoddy remnants, is shrouded in darkness. A chiaroscuro effect blocks the full view of the ceiling, but allows broken light to descend from unseen cracks and electrically highlight bits of refuse scattered around the floor. But it’s the recent homicide and a city-induced property transfer that change the social and psychological impact of the work.

There’s an overwhelming sense of isolation in these paintings. Its a similar aloneness that seems to carry over from his natural landscapes, which, by the way, are featured in throughout the main level gallery. Even though some works contain figures in full costume, as in “Man Dressed As Cow” and “Man Dressed As Pizza,” or in casual attire, there is a sense of reverent seclusion.

“Antique Store Staircase, Canton” takes note of the musty, cluttered and claustrophobia-inducing power of the roadside antiques market. A single chandelier struggles to cast light on the thin corridor, but fails to reach the top of the stairs. In “Antiques Barn” three rows of tables are pushed against one another, reflecting light from mirrors and a glass top, but also familiarizing the overabundance of goods that Asheville’s antique consignments peddle.

“Motel Pool, Cherokee” and “Smiley’s Flea Market” are completely devoid of life. Otherwise, the pool is empty and the flea market appears as a barren jockey lot fixed below a sunset. In “Where the Sun Refuse to Shine (Some Dark Holler),” a graffiti-smeared train eases over the French Broad on a steel-framed bridge.

All of the works are inherently Southern, glorifying what would normally be mundane. But it’s these aspects, the railroads and hotel signs that silently create our sense of place.

Julyan Davis’ work is up through Dec. 31 at Blue Spiral 1, 38 Biltmore Ave.

Atelier leaves Asheville

The Atelier Gallery, which left its main Lexington Avenue locale earlier this year to pursue a new footprint down the street, has now completely left Asheville.

A small space on the corner of Lexington Avenue and College Street was recently vacated by the gallery. The Laughing Mermaid is set to expand into the space, which was a temporary home for Atelier’s collection while construction proceeded at 63 Lexington.

The gallery opened in the B & J Company storefront (now a bridal shop) on Lexington in February 2009. In the fall of 2011, the gallery’s owners opened a second location on King Street in the middle of downtown Charleston “There’s more opportunity for us here [in Charleston],” owner Gabrielle Egan told Xpress. She added that the logistics of driving back and forth every two weeks were detrimental to both ends of the business. Conferences, exhibitions and citywide arts events were being missed, in Asheville and in Charleston.

But a bigger problem, Egan feels, is the over-saturation of the Asheville art market. True gallery representation, which is founded on exclusivity, is rare in Asheville. Here, you can buy the same artists work in three different locations and for three different prices. “There’s no sense of urgency to collect the work because it’s everywhere,” Egan says. 

Egan isn’t writing off a return, but she’ll be representing Asheville art in Charleston for now.


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