Sunday, December 3, 2023

“Keeping it Between the Ditches”

Silo, Sunset and Walker Hound, William Dunlap, Oil and Dry Pigment on Rag Paper
Silo, Sunset and Walker Hound, William Dunlap, Oil and Dry Pigment on Rag Paper

New works by William Dunlap and Andrew Blanchard at Southside Gallery

Oxford, Mississippi – Two unique visual narratives of the American South will be on exhibit at Southside Gallery during the month of October. “Keeping it Between the Ditches” will feature new works by painter, William Dunlap and printmaker, Andrew Blanchard. The title for the show was a collaborative effort between Dunlap and Blanchard, who both share similar concepts and themes, but have starkly different styles.

The new works Blanchard will have on display are all silkscreen prints on panel. Many of them are large in scale. The works are primarily allegorical, incorporating symbols such as automobiles and architectural montages to push Blanchard’s narrative, but there are also candid references to Southern cultural iconography such as roadside religious signs and honky tonk happy hour advertisements that are readily interpreted by the viewer.Blanchard’s “Dixie Totem” series is a good example of the artist’s skill at symbolic and direct narration of his subject matter.

“Dixie Totems” are Blanchard’s variation of traditional Native American Totem Poles. The foundation for each “Dixie Totem” is an automobile that has been modified or customized. Blanchard will often depict a vehicle with customized features that society, particularly in the South, tends to stereotype as belonging to a specific race or culture. Raised four-wheel drive pickup trucks and “tricked out” Cadillacs are common bases that support a series of ascending signs that comprise the “Dixie Totems.” More often than not, the signs that mount from the vehicles are not compatible with the stereotypes associated with them. Blanchard describes his concept to “intentionally build race-bending visuals as a means of creating an even and unbiased playing field. It’s an act of anti-stereotyping all the while poking fun at our learned behaviors, familial traditions, and conscious choices.”

Blanchard’s exhibit is not limited to “Dixie Totems.” Two large-scale triptychs by the artist, County Line, Urban Limit and County Line, Urban Limit II showcase his technical and narrative skills, and provide additional commentary and insight into Blanchard’s alert and whimsical vision of the South. Other notable works are a still life by Blanchard titled, Cutty Life and an architectural montage, Surely a Revelation is at Hand, a work that is evocative of, and may pay homage to, the photography and early paintings of William Christenberry.

Since 2004 Blanchard has exhibited his work at Southside Gallery. He has been featured in several solo and two person exhibitions, but has also contributed works to many group exhibitions. Blanchard received a BFA in Art from The University of Southern Mississippi and an MFA from The University of Mississippi. In February of 2012, Blanchard curated “Winter’s Ink”, an exhibition of printmakers at Southside Gallery. He is currently a professor of art at Converse College, Spartanburg, South Carolina. His work has been featured in New American Paintings. Recently, Blanchard’s work was selected to be included in Manifest Gallery and Research Center’s International Painting Annual #4. His work has been exhibited in galleries and museums throughout the United States and internationally.

William Dunlap will have new paintings and drawings on exhibit, but will also display a selection of vintage drawings from a series he worked on in the early 1970’s based on WPA era photographs by Mississippi writer, Eudora Welty. Dunlap’s works are also allegorical in nature. Animals and architecture are recurring symbols in the artist’s work. Dunlap’s vision of the South is often conveyed with subtle landscapes that include, but are not limited to, rural farms, “Agri-buildings” and ubiquitous hounds or “working dogs.”

A recent series by Dunlap, “Vernacular Architecture” emphasizes the distinct features of rural structures in the south. The series is aptly titled, as there does indeed appear to be an independent and expressive language regarding the buildings Dunlap depicts. In some cases it is unclear whether the structures are real or imagined by the artist. What drives the work is the narrative of the “Vernacular Architecture.” The buildings are excellent storytellers and characters. There is something historical about these buildings and places that, real or imagined, have etched themselves into the artist’s mind. Dunlap does a masterful job of illustrating the architectural language of the south and presenting it to the viewer to be interpreted.

Flat Out – Farm Field and Agri-Building is an example of Dunlap’s fluency in the language of southern architecture and landscape. The painting is oil and dry pigment on rag paper and is large in scale. It is a quintessential Dunlap painting, panoramic in format with two large red “agri-buildings” in the foreground, flat agricultural fields (reminiscent of the Mississippi Delta) and a small country church occupy the background, and a boundless sky that takes up almost two-thirds of the composition. The painting is mysterious. The roadside buildings appear abandoned, but not in decay, as if they have been arrested in time. All of the structures appear beleaguered by the sky and land that surround them. The landscape is static, but the anticipation of broken silence gives it energy. The buildings and the fields in this painting have been waiting a long time to tell their story.

Some other notable paintings and drawings by Dunlap that are featured in the exhibit are Silo, Sunset and Walker Hound (which is thematically similar to Flat Out – Farm Field and Agri-Building), Crop Duster from Hell and Agri-Building – Working Dog. These works are also large in scale and rich with symbolism. Many smaller panoramic landscapes will also be on display. This exhibition offers a good opportunity for viewers who would like to see a nice composite of Dunlap’s work, as it features paintings and drawings from many of his different series.

William Dunlap has been exhibiting his work at Southside Gallery since the gallery opened in 1993. In March of 2013 he curated a miniature exhibition at Southside Gallery, “The Biggest Little Art You’ve Ever Seen.” Dunlap received a bachelor’s degree from Mississippi College and a Master of Fine Arts from The University of Mississippi. After graduating from The University of Mississippi, Dunlap taught at Appalachian State University and The University of Memphis. He has since become a full time artist, writer and lecturer. His work has been exhibited internationally in galleries and museums, including Corcoran Gallery of Art, National Academy of Science, Aspen Museum of Art, Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art, Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Museum of Western Virginia, Albany Museum of Art, Ogden Museum of Southern Art, Cheekwood Fine Arts Center, Mint Museum of Art, Mississippi Museum of Art, Contemporary Art Center in New Orleans, the Lauren Rogers Museum; and is in numerous public, private and corporate collections including, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Mississippi Museum of Art, Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, the Lauren Rogers Museum, Mobil Corporation, Riggs Bank, IBM Corporation, Federal Express, The Equitable Collection, the Arkansas Art Center, the United States State Department, the U. S. Federal Reserve, and United States Embassies throughout the world. In addition to his vast exhibition record, Dunlap has also been the recipient of a number of grants and awards over the course of his distinguished career. In 2006 The University Press of Mississippi published, Dunlap, a comprehensive survey of his work.

This exhibition will be on display at Southside Gallery from October 1st – October 26th. An artists’ reception is scheduled for Friday, October 11th, 6:30 – 8:30 P.M. Please contact Southside Gallery for more information, 662-234-9090.