A.K. Burns, Fertility Bull, penny, archival inkjet image transfer on vinyl coated canvas
15 1/2 x 10 x 4 inches, 2012
Beige is on our way to San Francisco to talk about institutional queerness, and we have a couple of days to hang out ahead of the panel. What shouldn’t we miss? Who should we meet? Come on ya’ll, we’re friendly.
"The spaces themselves can be read as synecdoches of their proprietors…Beige vacillates between willful vulgarity and unabashed sentimentality, so draw your own conclusions about me. These spaces are not “neutral” white cubes of art commerce. Neither are they the scrubbed and track-lit warehouses of the institutionalized alternative scene, or the hulking temples of mausoleum museums. They’re nimble and strange, at times unreliable and inconsistent, resolutely independent, fickle, endearing, and personal. There’s a knowing naiveté about these spaces, a youthfulness certainly, but also wit and wisdom. Above all there’s radical openness. Each proprietor surrenders a bit of privacy to the public as an investment to better their corner of the Memphis art scene.
Each gallery continues to evolve and adapt to the Memphis art ecosystem, which is desperate for more space, sustained critical attention, and truly contemporary content…Expanding programs, mounting successes, and growing influence (two more apartment galleries are rumored to open later this year), are indications of the hunger in Memphis for vibrant, challenging contemporary art, and a testament to the ambition and drive of the art makers and consumers who live here.”
The real excitement, however, lies with three low-to-the-ground efforts by dedicated, if not fanatical artists who use their own living spaces to organize regular exhibitions and installations by artists who exist under the popular or commercial radar or who have not even started to “emerge.”
These artist/curators exert themselves against the commercial gallery system of dealer-artist-client in favor of “shows” that may include collaboration among artists, music, nontraditional venues — the backyard — and performance in a full-sensory experience.
…Beige occupies the living room of the apartment that Parsons shares with his partner Steven McMahon. “We also think of it as a living room for our community. It’s a public/private space. We’re actively working out a new model for integrating art and life, thinking of art and queer as verbs. We’re not an alternative space; we’re very much at the center of our community.”
"We opened the gallery out of necessity," says Parsons bluntly. “It sounds extreme, but it’s really about survival. It’s about making a place and building a community that will nourish and sustain our work and our lives, which didn’t really exist in Memphis otherwise." He sees the gallery as his contribution to Memphis’ growth. "We’re committed to living here, and Memphis is not yet the city that we want it to be. So we have to put in the work."
“To us, art is about relationships and ideas. It’s also a great excuse to get a bunch of people together in the same room. So it made a lot of sense that hosting an art space would be integral to the way that we lived here.”