by Jeffrey Day
Books and art are bedfellows in several art shows this year. The amazing Rebound: Dissections and Excavations in Book Art, can be seen at the Halsey Institute (see my posting about that from several days ago), but do not miss a portion of this exhibition at the College of Charleston Addlestone Library.
Zen Garden by Long-Bin Chen fills the rotunda with large pieces, stepping stones, and a sea of paper confetti in the library rotunda. Like all the other works in Rebound, this one is made entirely of books that have been transformed, and this one was created specifically for the library space. Don’t miss it — and since it is in the library you can see it in the morning and well into the evening.
Mary Edna Fraser is well known for her huge batik paintings of aerial views of the coast, and she’s taken over a large space in the Citadel library, hanging the works from the ceiling. Well, she’s not quite taken over because she is sharing the space with huge murals of battles, important Citadel events, and a wall of portraits of important people who have attended or led the military school. As big and beautiful as her work is, they can’t compete with all the other visual noise in the room. But I did find the murals and portraits — and a case filled with ceramic birds — fascinating.
The Addlestone and Citadel spaces are nice and so is the cramped and charming Charleston Library Society, which reminds me of libraries where I spent my time as a kid pulling books randomly from deep in the dark stacks. Like the Citadel library, this isn’t the ideal place to show art, and since there are really no walls available, artist Christian Thee has to display his art on easels, although his free-standing large screens work well and are among the best pieces.
Thee is best known in Charleston as the creator of the very first Spoleto poster and for creating the incredible Dock Street Theatre curtain in the trompe l’oeil style. The problem with this show extends beyond the space. There are a number of delightful pieces in the exhibition, but about half the work isn’t original; they're “prints” on canvas, including more than one version of the same images. The labeling is unattractive and several works have a pink sticker (denoting “sold” we guess) plastered directly on the frames or art. The tacky signs on the sidewalk out front don’t add a lot of dignity to the show or library, either.