On the edge of Charleston’s Historic District, The Southern, a new contemporary art gallery, had high hopes of opening last fall. Instead, their first group show is this Thursday, January 14th, but they’re continuing with the same show meant to open in 2015, with one small amendment: (it was) A Wet, Hot Southern Summer.
Justin and Erin Nathanson, owners and curators, decided that even during Charleston’s (unusually hot) winter, the themes of its summer still resonate. Erin says, “We’ve been working with these artists, and what they created during the summer was amazing, so why not heat it back up?” So, the show’s name is a nod to when the work was created, not when it’s shown.
Continuing, they’re interested in having exhibits every six to eight weeks, while not focusing on a specific roster of artists who, every year, have their expected opening. The Southern will bring in artists from all over the South, and its 18-foot, clean, white walls, will provide a perfect backdrop for sculpture, group shows, or minimalism.
One wall, left raw, will be used as a way to make art viewing more interactive. On it, Knotty Woodcraft installed ten 24×32-hanging racks for paper works. Think of it as the contraption used to look at hanging area rugs in a store, but scaled down to make flipping through art as easy as flipping through bins of records.
“We want this to be an active space. Another reason we wanted to have this big open gallery is that I like to talk about what I’m looking at, and other spaces make you walk through by yourself and be quiet. There’s nothing wrong with that way, but it’s not the way we want our space to feel. We really like the idea of creating a place that people can walk in, talk at a higher volume, sit down, and drink their coffee.”
For this reason, the Nathansons are happy their opening will take place adjacent to the Republican National Debate, to maybe spark some dialogue Thursday evening. “How great is it to have a venue where people can gather and talk about things? It’s going to come up, and we want that. Especially in a room where a visual history of what happened over the summer is hanging.”
These conversations and artists doing more than just being aesthetically pleasing are not as prevalent in Charleston, so to art lovers in the city, The Southern will be energizing. They say, “We want to present work that has strong content—social or personal commentary, a strong point of something, even for themselves as artists.”
Erin continues, “Some of the works were inspired by what happened over the summer. It was the hottest on record and so much happened in our community. Art is really the best way to keep things relevant, to keep people talking, so we think that this is a nice thing for the show to be months after the summer, so things are brought up again.” Think the Emanuel Nine, Black Lives Matter, police brutality, and Planned Parenthood.
It really was a hot Southern summer.
(it was) A Wet, Hot Southern Summer at The Southern opens Thursday, January 14 from 7pm-10pm at 2 Carlson Court in downtown Charleston.
The debut exhibition will feature new work by Kristy Bishop (SC), Michaela Pilar Brown (SC), Sarah Emerson (GA), Matt Haffner (GA), Isabelle Klauder (NC), Karen Ann Myers (SC), Michael Pajon (LA), Jeanne Vockroth (AR), Antoine Williams (NC), and Gately Williams (SC).
Words by Elizabeth Bowers