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Andy White’s Music Box

Whether accidental or intentional, the scheduling of Andy White’s current exhibition at the Tapp’s Arts Center provides a fitting sendoff for one of downtown Columbia’s most vibrant creative spaces. Soon to depart their Main Street location — bringing to a presumably temporary halt the center’s mission of providing essential workspace for emerging artists and hosting colorful exhibitions and multimedia performances — the folks at Tapp’s are hoping for a second life in new surroundings.

With some regret and a measure of tempered optimism, the staff and resident artists prepare to say goodbye to the art deco former department store (circa 1938) that they called home for eight years. Appropriately enough, visitors can find echoes of that same double-edged tension in the forty “magical beasts” featured in self-taught sculptor White’s latest show, Dirt Dance Floor.

Fabricated from scrap metal and found objects, these biomorphic creatures bristle with nervous energy. The birds flutter and prune. The rabbits sprout wings. The triceratops appears ready to walk out the front door. White’s menagerie framing the lobby and bracketing the first floor’s main corridor is indeed engaged in a cosmic dance, exemplifying an equilibrium that is both static and dynamic.

Consider the piece that the artist labels Two Ton Jack. How often have we seen birds temporarily perched on the most incongruous, improbable objects? In this case, a silvered metal bird balances on the vertical cylinder of a red-painted bottle jack as if simultaneously resisting the latent hydraulic pressure of the instrument and benefiting from its functional lift.

A tenuous equilibrium is also evident in the piece entitled Music Box. Herein an open-throated songbird teeters carefully on its metal perch, its uplifted head counterbalanced by its elevated tail feathers composed of a guitar neck.

Andy White enjoys the interplay of scrap metal creature and found object. In Receiver, a large insect, a cross between a butterfly and a mosquito and equal in size to the radio upon which it has landed, appears intent upon fracturing the plastic carapace of the receiving set. In Sugar Barrel, a scrap-metal hummingbird derives nourishment from the barrel of a partially dismantled revolver, whose muzzle is tipped with a configuration of red metal resembling both a blossom and a fiery explosion. In a variation on the hummingbird feeding process — this time with less possibility for conflagration — is the piece called Oasis wherein the winged creature finds sustenance in the horn of an old gramophone.

An anthropologist and archaeologist by training, White, it can be argued, has built upon his professional foundation in the making of his welded art. In essence, he takes often discarded items — not unlike the objects found in a typical excavation or dig — and puts them in a new narrative context. In this case, the combined narrative to be found in White’s Dirt Dance Floor mirrors that of the facility that houses his current show: a temporary stasis. 

Here’s hoping that both White’s metal creatures and Tapp’s community of artists have a happy landing.  


What: Dirt Dance Floor

Where: Tapp’s Arts Center, 1644 Main St.

When: Through Nov. 29

More: 803-988-0013, tappsartscenter.com

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