Contemporary art makes some people apprehensive. They fear they won’t understand it, or like it, or want to meet the artist who created it. But that may be about to change -- at least in Savannah.
An event at the Jepson Center for the Arts called Contemporary Artists in Focus is bringing two of the best-known rising stars of the art world to town. “It’s an opportunity to de mystify contemporary art,” says Harry DeLorme, senior curator of education at the Telfair Museum of Art.
The week-long celebration will be held April 6-12 at the Jepson Center for the Arts. It was inspired by a current exhibition, A Consuming Vision: Selections from the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, that is at the Jepson.
There will be activities and lectures for all ages, plus an opportunity to meet two renowned contemporary artists. “Kojo Griffin, an internationally known artist who is based in Atlanta, is coming to do a wall-sized drawing,” DeLorme says. “It will be 8 feet by 13 feet.
Griffin will complete the drawing between April 6 and 10. “People can come in and watch him at work and follow his progress,” DeLorme says. “It’s an interesting opportunity to see a major contemporary artist at work in a public setting. There aren’t many opportunities to watch contemporary artists at work.”
Griffin’s background is in psychology, and his work examines human behavior. “He’s done this kind of large-scale drawing before,” DeLorme says. “One thing that is especially interesting is that he’s completely changed his style over the last year or so. He’s undergone a real shift in his style, which is very difficult for an artist at the top of his game.”
Griffin will discuss his stylistic shift in a lecture that will presented with another artist from Atlanta, Charles H. Nelson, on April 9 at 7 p.m. in Neises Auditorium.
While in Savannah, Griffin will present a drawing workshop for high school students. The resultant drawings will be displayed in the Morrison Community Gallery.
The public also will have a chance to meet sculptor Chakaia Booker, who will present a lecture about her work on April 12 at 7 p.m. “She’s best known for working with rubber tires,” DeLorme says. “She works with tires of all sizes, including the huge ones.
“Her works range from small-scale sculptures that reference hair or suggest masks, to monumental pieces that are more abstract,” DeLorme says. “It’s really amazing when you see an artist work with a medium that is so difficult.”
Of course, visitors also can view the exhibition that inspired Contemporary Artists in Focus. “The thing that really attracted us was having such a fantastic collection, an overview, of contemporary art,” DeLorme says. “These are outstanding pieces that will give residents of Savannah the opportunity to look at art made in recent times.”
The oldest piece on exhibit is a portrait of Dennis Hopper by Andy Warhol. “Everything else is newer,” DeLorme says. “It’s really beautiful., a wide range of things -- unusual things we haven’t presented before.”
The Kemper Museum is based in Kansas City. “It started with the Kempers, who were major collectors,” DeLorme says. “They amassed an amazing collection, and eventually had the idea to create a museum, which opened in 1994.”
Christopher Cook, acting curator of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, will come to Savannah to facilitate the discussion with Chakaia Booker. “My involvement is to have an open discussion between Chakaia and myself and the audience,” Cook says.
“We will talk about the issues she raises about her work,” he says. “She’ll also field questions from the audience.”
It’s part of a museum’s duty to provide opportunities for the public to meet top-notch artists, Cook says. “I think it’s quite crucial,” he says. “We should all try to have artists available to speak with the public and educate them about their work.”
The Jepson has established an impressive record. “We’re always trying to bring people into contact with living artists,” DeLorme says. “That was something we started with the opening of the Jepson Center.
“Now we have two fantastic contemporary artists who will discuss their work in a conversational format,” he says. “It’s a useful format that people respond to.”
The week-long “Contemporary Artists” celebration will be held April 6-12 at the Jepson Center for the Arts downtown.