The Artists and the Truck group show is exhibiting some great artwork, and yet the show isn’t really about the artwork at all.
Nearly 30 years ago, a group of young men came to work on a truck at SCAD. Bonding through hard work, art, family, and friendship they became almost like brothers. With the group’s fourth exhibition at Location Gallery, once again curated by fellow artist and gallery director Peter Roberts, the now 40- and 50-year-olds are collaborating on an art show that is far more about the depth of their connections than the work on the walls.
“This is the show that we were supposed to have right before the pandemic hit,” said James Graham, privately referred to by some within the group as the ‘Wise Elder.’ “Everyone [was meant] to have two or three pieces that tell a story and be the same size so the flow of all of us [would] be the same.”
With such minimal instructions, you’d think that the work would feel like a hodgepodge of ideas and concepts, an incongruous mess. But given how close these men have become with each other, the show is remarkably unified, and, in many ways, refreshingly uplifting.
Graham, himself, is displaying several photographs whose subject matter reaches back even further than the bond that he and his fellow work mates share. But even though they don’t specifically reference his fellows, the wistful images of things from days gone by feel related to the way in which they all talk about the times they spent together on the eponymous truck.
“You hear a DJ say ‘digging in the crate?’” Graham asked rhetorically.
“I was cleaning my garage and I found my great grandmother’s and my grandmother’s figurines, so I started documenting that, just telling a story. It brought back all kinds of memories of things I couldn’t touch before, but now I own and I get to share that with the rest of the world.”
Similarly, Ahmad Jackson, himself a photographer, is telling a story about the everlasting power of beauty through several still life portraits of dried roses. As much as he says that they’re about all of us, I couldn’t help but feel as though the lesson he is imparting with his work is one that I see being played out amongst he and his chosen brothers, who have found a way to be unified in the face of life’s trials and tribulations.
“Most art reflects the times that we’re in,” said Jackson. “We all know what’s going on in the world. I feel like everybody needs to pump the breaks a little bit. Let’s tell everybody to step back and take a deep breath.”
The other group members featured in the show are displaying works with similar themes of perseverance, connection, beauty and fellowship in the face of this notably difficult period in our history. They also have a tendency to play off of each other in interesting ways.
Joel Crowe’s painted landscapes, for example, are the rural counterpoint to Paul “Bear” Brown’s black and white photos of the urban environment, while Kyunnie Shuman’s 16th Street Baptist Church images pair perfectly with Edgar Sanchez Cumbas’ charcoal pieces featuring the cross. And Troy Wandzel’s organic sculptures feel like an exclamation point on the entire exhibit.
But, again, what the work is hardly seems to matter without understanding how profoundly impactful the underlying relationship between them truly is.
“There’s a lot deeper connection with all of us than just what people see in the show itself,” said Brown. “When you sit down and talk to people about what our connection actually is, then they’re just like, ‘Oh, yeah, this is way more than what you see at this one time.’”
Patrick McKinnon, whose contribution to the show is a stunning series of painted portraits of his longtime friends in profile, agreed.
“We’ve made it through divorces, deaths, funerals, weddings, everything else, and still kind of stayed to that core group of people,” he related. “These people…we share a common goal and history with each other. You just don’t find that anywhere else.”
The Artists and the Truck at Location Gallery at 251 Bull Street is on display in the main gallery through the end of May, after which much of the work will move into their auxiliary space at the same address.
Art off the Air is a companion piece to the radio program “Art on the Air” hosted by Rob Hessler and Gretchen Hilmers. The column can also be found at savannahnow.com/entertainment.
The show airs Wednesdays from 3-4pm on WRUU 107.5 FM Savannah and at WRUU.org.
This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Savannah GA art: Location Gallery hosts The Artists and the Truck