Images courtesy of Redux Contemporary Art Center

Coming to a Neighborhood Near You

Susan Gregory conceptualized the driving subject behind Redux’s latest exhibition Frontyard, Backyard, Street two years ago. “Who would have known back in 2018 that our show’s theme would be so relevant and flexible?” she asked.

“The idea came out of a sense of how my own work was going at the time and seeing others with the same sentiment,” Gregory said. “To me, the character of our city was more about the blocks where I was walking — the streets where people were working, hanging out and getting to know each other, more so than places like Rainbow Row for instance.”

From these humble beginnings, the idea for the exhibition, which opens this Friday, grew into something much bigger. Gregory worked with other artists who related to her vision and wanted to put their own interpretations on it. Showcasing five different artists, this exhibition features work in various mediums, from  paintings to multimedia pieces to photography.

“The general theme is regarding the artists’ individual reactions or experiences in their surroundings of Charleston,” said Redux’s executive director Cara Leepson. “Everyone has different life experiences that come into play that impact how they interpret their environment. Each body of work is very personal as it’s directly responsive to the artists’ neighborhoods, streets, houses and neighbors.”

Susan Gregory will be joined by artists Hirona Matsuda, Dontré Major, Alex Waggoner and Christian Birk for the exhibition’s opening night, which will operate a bit differently than your average art opening. To keep viewers safe and promote proper social distancing, the gallery will allow 20 people into the space at a time, and face coverings are required. 

An outdoor space in front of Redux will be set up with funky garden furniture and areas for people to mingle and reflect on the exhibition in lieu of a traditional opening with an indoor reception. “We’re all really excited about the outdoor element,” said Leepson. “It runs with the theme of gathering and our community neighbor, and it’s a great chance for people to safely gather, especially those living in our immediate area.”

Though the idea for the exhibition originated more than two years ago, the theme has aged well. Over the last several months as people found themselves confined to homes and neighborhoods, artists found a growing sense of community and connection to their surroundings. “We’ve discussed as a group how everything that’s happened in the last few months has played into what we’re working on,” said artist Hirona Matsuda. “COVID and quarantine certainly gave me a new appreciation for my community and neighborhood especially because my work is always about place and people and the way we’re interconnected.”

Quarantine definitely shifted the way many of us view our homes and our neighborhoods, but the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement has also shaped some of these artists’ newer pieces to reflect on other aspects of their environment. “I think we’re all kind of working with elements to do with race, diversity and even gentrification with all of those issues having come to the forefront this summer,” said Matsuda. “I’m definitely working with more of those themes than I was before.”

For many of the artists, this exhibition will be their first opportunity to showcase work in a gallery space in months. With such an inclusive theme, Redux and the artists involved hope that  Frontyard, Backyard, Street will stretch beyond the gallery walls and encourage people in the community who may not typically attend art events to come and engage with artists and others. 

“Visiting art spaces is a really great activity that allows for social distancing while also learning and experiencing art,” said Leepson. “Being around art is so important and such a powerful tool for healing, distraction and connection, so I would really encourage people to come out and join us.” 

Frontyard, Backyard, Street opens Sept. 11 with a reception from 5-9 p.m. Redux is open Mondays and Wednesdays, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. and Fridays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Free to attend. 1056 King St. Downtown.

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