Each January, Blue Spiral 1 debuts artists and makers that are new to its collection, and often to Asheville, in its annual group exhibition New Times Three. The name derives from the show’s basic structure — new works by new artists shown in the new year — which allows for an open-ended, uncorrelated mix of styles and mediums. Painters and photographers regularly join rank with ceramicists, weavers and furniture makers, among others. No year or exhibition is the same.
“The works are never deliberately related,” says Jordan Ahlers, Blue Spiral 1’s gallery director. Rather, they are simply by artists recently added to the gallery’s roster. But occasionally a series of works or a group of artists will break from that eclecticism and align themselves along common stylistic and conceptual grounds — this is certainly the case for this year’s incarnation.
New Times Three’s current lineup features, among other artists and mediums, a group of etchings by Madison, Wis.-based artist Emily Arthur, Athens, Ga.’s Sasha Schilbrack-Cole and Joshua McNolty of Asheville, that reaches out and forms a unique showing of their own.
Stylistically, their works all boast the rich, blackened textures and clifflike edges that only etching can exemplify. Conceptually, they explore their personal connections, and disconnections for that matter, between experience and memory. Death, as it happens, looms everywhere, personified by deer, headless horsemen and even washing machines.
Schilbrack-Cole’s works harbor a sense of longing and abandonment. But it seems as though he’s fascinated by it, as if he sought out dilapidated bedrooms and roadsides littered with appliances and deer carcasses. Tick marks and ambient scratches are employed both on purpose and by chance. In “They Left Many of Their Things,” they obscure wiry vines and brush with faint outlines of hovering flies. Others offer a sense of implied atmosphere. You can almost feel the August heat from the yellow-gray skyline in “It All Goes By So Fast,” which features a small, seemingly abandoned white house surrounded by a kudzu jungle.
That lethal relationship between man and nature is amplified and cleverly disguised in Arthur’s works. She combines fluid line etchings with floral screen prints and layers upon layers of teal, peach and blue hues, each of which backdrops a cast of birds and deer silhouettes. One work shows a small songbird on a wire looking over another bird, a friend maybe, only this one is hanging by a wire.
A series of repeating concentric circles appears in several other works. At first they seem zodiacal or astrological, but they could very well be scopes. And to that, it leaves viewers wondering if the red background in “Red Deer” and others is the skyline or a bloodline.
McNolty turns that dialogue inward by reintroducing man — himself — into a venomous environment.
Man and horse are the subject of many of these works, riding in tandem and trudging through smoky, Grimm-inspired landscapes. In “Blood, Milk and Sky,” he happens to be headless, though that’s not to say he’s dead — he’s wielding a spear and still appears to be in control. In “Rocking Horse,” several frames to the right, he’s hurdling through the air as a puma or mountain lion gnaws at the back of the horse.
His figures tend to dance and hold balletlike poses, while his animals are stoic and adorned with metallic, skin-tight armor. Each print, though unearthly and categorically fantastical, has some bearing to McNolty’s past. “The images are inspired by personal experiences and weird esoteric stories from my past,” he says, “so each work is like a fable, a fable of myself.”
New Times Three is on view through Feb. 20. For more about the show and the artists, visit bluespiral1.com.