When juror Chuck Swanson looked through the work of more than 80 artists vying to be in the Lexington Art League's third biennial of contemporary art from Kentucky and its seven contiguous states, he was struck by something. It had little to do with style or viewpoint.
"Generally, the people who submitted art are really smart people, and it shows in their work," says Swanson, a University of Kentucky graduate who owns Swanson Contemporary gallery in Louisville. "You saw a lot of résumés that were from people who maybe grew up in a small town in Kentucky and got scholarships to Yale."
Kentucky.7, which opens Friday night, is the third time the Art League has assembled a juried exhibition surveying work by artists from the region. Swanson said the exhibit reminds him of a show the Speed Museum in Louisville used to do.
Art League exhibitions and programs director Becky Alley says the purpose of the exhibit is to provide a survey of what is happening in contemporary art in a region that extends from the East Coast to the Great Lakes to the heart of the Midwest. Two years, she says, is a good interval of time to take that survey.
"You do it with regularity to keep looking at what is going on," Alley says of the biennial, a standard format in the art world. "It's something to look forward to, but you are not doing it with such frequency that it becomes redundant."
Swanson says it usually is a good idea for cities the size of Lexington to bring in a juror "from a few cities over" to provide a broader perspective to an exhibit like Kentucky.7, since "about 30 to 40 percent" of the submissions come from the Lexington and Eastern Kentucky area. Several of those artists have work in the show, including photographers Mary Rezny and Sharon Lee Hart and digital artist David Austin.
Walking through the exhibit, which was still being assembled Tuesday morning. Alley points out a number of pieces including Daniel Kaufmann's large photographic representations of living spaces and Paul Lorenz's meticulous line piece, April 23, 3,100 Lines.
Then there is Marc-Anthony Polizzi's installation of life's discards, including a mattress, held to the wall over the mantle with cables and painted blue. Swanson says the original work was created using one of the pieces Polizzi submitted as a template but with directions to work within the parameters of the space. Alley says Polizzi spent several days at the Loudon House creating the work.
Part of Swanson's work as juror was scouting out the Loudon House space.
"You don't want to pick pieces that won't fit or won't work," he said. He added that the Loudon House "is a great space. It has this open feel, but then there are these compartmentalized spaces that flow into one another."
Surveying the work, Swanson said that although the show's title is regional, "a lot of what you see has a national feel. It's not at all regional. There are themes such as chaos versus order and other ideas that are universal."