Contemporary Art in Charleston
Lese Corrigan, founder of Corrigan Gallery, guest blogs on the Zero George Black Book about the contemporary art scene in Charleston. Through the month of December, Corrigan Gallery celebrates a new series by Karin Olah. For the complete gallery schedule, visit Corrigan Gallery at 62 Queen Street or online.
Discussing contemporary artists who are working locally, the emphasis is on those who create nontraditional works. There are many “contemporary” artists in or showing in Charleston, meaning those of this time period but the majority of the work is traditional or following the tradition of representational work that has no need of translation. The history of contemporary art in Charleston can include artists of the Charleston Renaissance such as Alice Ravenel Huger Smith and Anna Heyward Taylor whose approach to their work in the early decades of the 1900s was very modern for the time.
We have the bridge from the Charleston Renaissance to today created by the now deceased artists whose works are luckily still readily available such as Manning Williams, Corrie McCallum and William Halsey. Their creations began in the early days as fairly traditional but with a twist and ended as mostly abstract, nontraditional, nonrepresentative works. David Hamilton Gallery, a contemporary gallery, opened in the late 60s and remained in existence into the 80s then as The Verner Gallery, an extension of his grandmother, Elizabeth O’Neill Verner’s (a Charleston Renaissance artist) studio. Jan Goin Gallery from 1974 to 1995 represented many of the well-known artists working in a nontraditional manner. The gallery was a continuation of one begun in 1963 by Mrs. Goin’s parents. Art Thomas Gallery open through the 90s was a modern gallery carrying Halsey’s work amongst many others.
A number of the non-traditional artists living and working in Charleston now are Richard (Duke) Hagerty, Karin Olah, Lynne Riding, Paul Mardikian, Bill Buggel (one of the few left from the 70s), Judy Hintz Cox, Daphne vom Baur, Joe Walters, Kristi Ryba, Mary Walker, Alan Jackson, Allan Wendt, Hirona Matsuda, Trevor Webster, Jocelyn Chateauvert, Charles Ailstock, Kirsten Moran and Eva Carter. Some relatively new ones showing their works are John Townsend, John Thompson and Ann Keane. Jonathan Green, of national renown uses a non-traditional palette and approach, although traditional subject matter. Grace Musser, a College of Charleston senior, is an artist to watch and there will be more coming out of the college. There are others such as the street artists who are lesser known in the gallery world but will be coming into their own following in the footsteps of Charleston native Shepard Fairey.
There are some very talented others who are not living or working in Charleston at the moment although they do show here such as Case Jernigan, Aggie Zed, Gaston Locklear, Tim Hussey and Kevin Taylor. There are those whose work is nontraditional but balances on the line, such as my own and that of many others. Many mostly traditional or very traditional painters such as West Fraser, Mary Whyte, and John Hull live and work in Charleston and have led in the arts through example, teaching and promotion of the arts in Charleston. In addition to seven or more galleries carrying non-tradition works, Charleston is graced with three nonprofit organizations consisting of gallery spaces as well as other art support facilities. These are the Halsey Institute, Redux Contemporary Art Center, Charleston City Gallery at Waterfront Park. The Halsey at the College of Charleston has an excellent exhibition space and library and maintains a teaching element to the exhibitions. Redux provides studio space to artists as well as visiting artists’ residencies and shows. They are the alternative space in Charleston most known. City Gallery holds shows 6 to eight times a year of varying contemporary nature as well as music and poetry events and is an arm of the City of Charleston Cultural Affairs office. Since the arrival of Henrietta Johnstone in the very early 1700s, this inspiring environment that is the sultry southern charm of Charleston, has enticed artists to its shores. We are now poised to make a mark in the nontraditional arts’ arena of the cosmopolitan world beyond our bricks and mortar.