Jasper Johns, Shepard Fairey have works in new show at Halsey

“Rough Sea at the Naruto in Awa Province, No. 55” by Ichiryusai Hiroshige is a historic Japanese woodblock and will be on exhibit at the Gibbes.

South Carolina has some famous names in the arts and entertainment world: Stephen Colbert, Darius Rucker, Maya Angelou, Jonathan Green, Jasper Johns and Shepard Fairey to name a few that most people would recognize.

So it’s with great excitement that I read about an upcoming exhibit at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art at the College of Charleston that features Johns and Fairey.

Both of these native sons of our state have rocked the art world. Johns is considered one of the most important American artists, with major exhibitions at New York’s Museum of Modern Art; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Kunstmuseum Basel, and, most recently the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, to list a few.

Fairey made the national spotlight with his iconic image of Barack Obama that came to symbolize his first run for the presidency. Of course, Fairey ran into some legal trouble with that one because he “borrowed” an Associated Press image, and recolored it, a la Andy Warhol. But nothing detracts from the power of the image.

Both men recycle graphic elements and present them in ways that give a larger meaning to more ordinary images.

This exhibition will pair new work by Fairey and a survey of prints produced by Johns from 1982 to 2012 at Universal Limited Art Editions.

The show called “The Insistent Image: Recurrent Motifs in the Art of Shepard Fairey and Jasper Johns” will be on view at the Halsey from May 22 to July 12, so mark your calendar.

And one of the wonderful things is this show is free to the public. The late William Halsey, a friend of Johns and for whom the gallery is named, would be glad to know the work has come home.

Gibbes Museum

Another respected organization is presenting two special exhibitions that are also South Carolina oriented. “Romantic Spirits: Nineteenth Century Paintings of the South” from the Johnson Collection and “The Great Wave: Japonisme in Charleston,” opened at the Gibbes Museum of Art this week. Both of these are also South Carolina collections, and reflect some of the sensibilities of our area.

Spanning the years 1810-96, Romantic Spirits includes 35 paintings from the Johnson Collection. Lovers of the Hudson River School of romantic subjects and dramatic landscapes will enjoy this work. It’s a chance to examine Southern artists working in the same manner as their Northern counterparts, but with the colors and drama of our very recognizable flora and fauna. The paintings are part of the Johnson Collection, which is based in Spartanburg.

“The Great Wave: Japonisme in Charleston” examines the influence of Japanese prints on the artists of the Charleston Renaissance period (generally considered the period between the two world wars) who found inspiration in the woodblock prints created by masters of Japan’s ukiyo-e school.

I’ve always loved these prints because of the skill it takes to create them. Blocks are carved in reverse, and then inked with various colors. Whole sections of the block can then be carved more deeply to create more detail so there are relatively few prints produced from each block, and each one can be unique.

The exhibit is also hung with work from the artists of the Charleston Renaissance era so that the viewer can see the various influences side by side.

A chance for some hands on artistic work comes in the form of a workshop called “Make Your Own Wave: Curator-led Tour and Woodblock Printing Demonstration” from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 25.

Gibbes curator Sara Arnold will give a guided tour of “The Great Wave” exhibit, and then you go to Redux Contemporary Art Center for lunch and a woodblock printing demonstration led by artist Kate MacNeil. You will even get to make your own print.

Registration is required. Cost is $40 museum and Redux members, $45 non-members and you need to find your own way from the museum to Redux.

Flowertown Players

If you have never seen the play “Rent,” then get up to the James Dean Theatre in downtown Summerville.

The Flowertown Players are producing this rock opera, set in the East Village of New York City. It’s a play about falling in love, finding your voice and living for today. The story centers around a group of friends, all trying to survive and create art in the heart of the Big Apple.

In the year that follows, the group deals with love, loss, AIDS and modern day life in one truly powerful story. It’s based on Puccini’s “La Boheme” with all the attendant joy and pathos that the famous opera captures.

The opera is running through Feb. 2. The theater is at 133 S. Main St. and you can go online to order tickets at www.flowertownplayers.org.

Reach Stephanie Harvin at 937-5557 or sharvin@ postandcourier.com.

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