Dadaesque Exhibit at 701 CCA

dada If someone had told me ten years ago that Columbia would be hosting an international exhibit of Dada-inspired art tonight, like 701 CCA is in fact doing, I'd have have smiled and nodded before rolling my eyes enough to make me dizzy, not sure if many of us had even heard of  the Swiss-inspired Dada movement, much less have an appreciation for it.

But such is the caliber of arts interest in 2016 Columbia, SC.  And much of this interest is built on the backs of previous arts intensives provided by Columbia Museum of Art and Columbia College whose exhibitions and attached programs dedicated to the likes of Andy Warhol and Georgia O'Keeffe have stimulated and nurtured what is becoming a passion for arts history and arts appreciation in the city. We are growing in our desire for not only more challenging art, but for the ability to understand what it is that makes some art more challenging.

Kudos to  701 Center for Contemporary Art for presenting Dadaesque, which is the culmination of their 701 CCA's Dada Days in Columbia, a series of programs through which the center has been marking the one hundredth anniversary of the Dada movement, which many art historians recognize as the impetus for most of what we now perceive as contemporary art.

“The exhibition will surprise people in that it shows the scope of Dada’s influence on contemporary art,” says 701 CCA board chair Wim Roefs, who curated the exhibition. “It’ll be surprising to know, for instance, that Columbia mainstays such as Mike Williams and Clark Ellefson create works that are firmly rooted in the Dada movement. While, like many other artists in the show, they don’t see themselves as Dada artists, they would readily acknowledge that it was the innovations of Dada that informs and facilitates at least part of their artistic output.”

The group exhibition period will run from April 13 through June 5 and in addition to featuring Columbia-based artists Clark Ellefson and Mike Williams will also feature Jason Kendall of Columbia and Colin Quashie, whom we'd still like to call our own and Hilton Head's Aldwyth. Our artists will be joined by artists from throughout the US as well as sound poet and 701 visiting resident artist Jaap Blonk and Janke Klompmaker, both from The Netherlands. There will be a Gallery Talk at 2 pm on Sunday, May 15th.

What You Need to Know About Dadaism

Need to brush up on your Dadaism? Here's a very brief primer on how this strange arts movement, which was very much anti-arts movement, fits into the bigger picture.

"Dada was born out of negative reaction to the horrors of the First World War. This international movement was begun by a group of artists and poets associated with the Cabaret Voltaire in Zürich. Dada rejected reason and logic, prizing nonsense, irrationality and intuition. The origin of the name Dada is unclear; some believe that it is a nonsensical word. Others maintain that it originates from the Romanian artists Tristan Tzara's and Marcel Janco's frequent use of the words "da, da," meaning "yes, yes" in the Romanian language. Another theory says that the name "Dada" came during a meeting of the group when a paper knife stuck into a French–German dictionary happened to point to 'dada', a French word for 'hobbyhorse'."

-- Dona Budd, the Language of Art Knowledge

  • Dada or Dadaism was a form of artistic anarchy born out of disgust for the social, political and cultural values of the time. It embraced elements of art, music, poetry, theatre, dance and politics.


  • “The beginnings of Dada,” poet Tristan Tzara recalled, “were not the beginnings of art, but of disgust.”


  • For Dada artists, the aesthetic of their work was considered secondary to the ideas it conveyed. “For us, art is not an end in itself,” wrote Dada poet Hugo Ball, “but it is an opportunity for the true perception and criticism of the times we live in.”


  • Dadaists both embraced and critiqued modernity, imbuing their works with references to the technologies, newspapers, films, and advertisements that increasingly defined contemporary life.


 For more on Dadaism click here and here, too.

Chesley, Williams, Wimberly, and Yaghjian: Behind the Studio Walls for the 13th Exhibition

It's time again for the annual Chesley, Williams, Wimberly, Yaghjian exhibit at Gallery 80808 and, as for as Jasper is concerned, it couldn't have come soon enough. We need a nice bath of good art after the holidays to cleanse away all the ticky and the tacky that inundated our senses over the last three holiday-driven months of 2012. Like a bracing breath of cold clean air, it jolts our systems; resets our standards; makes us see things more clearly. It centers us. It reminds us of what to expect from professional artists who continually hone their skills and not only challenge themselves, but challenge one another.

That's why we've become accustomed to the annual Chesley, Williams, Wimberly, Yaghjian exhibition of art because the four artists -- the four friends -- have been doing this for us for thirteen years now. We aren't just accustomed to it -- we're spoiled.

And while most of us will be making our pilgrimages to Vista Studios at 808 Lady Street today to offer some small genuflection at what promises to be an excellent exhibition, Jasper thought it also might be fun to get a glimpse of the other side of the studio wall. We wanted to know how these artists got together, what they think of one another, and why this exhibition -- and these friendships -- continue.

To that end we sent a number of questions out to the four gents. These are some of their answers.

Jasper:  We know it was more than a dozen years ago, but how did this group show get started?

Williams: The group, minus David the first year, originally came together for a holiday art event to share with our collectors and friends special selections of our work that we would curate from the past year. The fact that we were friends sharing many of the same collectors combined with mutual admiration for one another's work made this exhibition an instant annual tradition.  David joined in the second year, he was always a friend,  even before he moved back to Columbia.

Jasper:  Why do you think it works so well?

Yaghjian: It works because we are relatively mature adults who have done what we do for decades and  want to put up a decent show.

Chesley:  We have all been friends over many years ... and the time train moves on ... this exhibition allows us and our patrons to gather and start a new year ... with art ... The disparate arts groups that are aware of each other are afforded a moment to recognize each other as friends each January.

Williams:  We were all friends in many former lives apparently.

Jasper:  How far back do your friendships go?

Yaghjian:  I met Steve in 1984 through some friends of my wife, Ellen.  Mike, I met in the early 1990's. Edward, I'm not certain when I met him, he's almost an archetype. It is as though he's been hovering  a long time in another dimension.

Chesley:  We all met at various times, Mike in the 80's, the time of great headway in the arts in Columbia and David later … the earliest was when I was in graduate school in the School of Architecture in Urban Planning at Clemson, 1978. I would often go downstairs to the small space they deemed a gallery in Lee Hall. One time I went down to visit and there was a small pastel work entitled "Escaping Fruit." I was mesmerized by the whimsical depiction of a bowl of fruit escaping through an open country window as it brushed a lightly blown lace curtain. It was actually the highlight memory of my graduate work at Clemson. Only years later at an opening for a single portrait in St. Matthews did I learn it was done by Edward Wimberly who was in graduate school at the same time … a whimsical lasting memory to this day.

Jasper: What do you admire most about one another, either individually or as a group?

Yaghjian:  Mike is a really interesting mix of Southern boy and sophisticate.  He is very funny and has a great laugh when you prod him past his initial grumpiness.  Stephen is astonishing in his appetite for knowledge and understanding of a wide variety of subjects from pigments to high finance.  He is more than willing to share that knowledge with any and all.  Both Stephen and Mike are extremely capable in all matters technical and mechanical.  Edward can not only recount a good southern tale, he is one.

Williams:  Not only can Edward Wimberly really draw and paint, he defines the word raconteur. He can spin the yarn.  I can't tell a joke or dance. Stephen is very poetic and dependable.

Jasper: Who is the troublemaker or comedian in the group? Who is the workhorse?

Yaghjian:  Steve and I mess with Mike's paranoia around computers and the Internet, feeding his fears that all his information is being stolen RIGHT NOW as a result of the latest situation that has arisen with his virus protection or some news story about scams or hacking.  Edward is unintentionally a troublemaker in his annual tardy arrival for the hanging of the show -- or, in the past, borrowing duct tape or tacks to hold work in frames or to hold the frames together. (Last year his wife, Amanda McNulty, demanded he act his age and have his work framed before the afternoon of the hanging. We were flabbergasted.) (editor's note: Edward did not provide answers to Jasper's questions and was therefore unable to defend himself.)

For the show, Mike is the youngest and therefore it's only right that he be the workhorse.  He has the temperament as well; there is the aspect of the worrier in the boy.

Edward's lethal fishwife's punch requires a fair amount of effort with both its ingredients and incantations.


Jasper:  Do you get to see each other enough when you aren't hanging a show?

Williams:  We don't necessarily see that much of one another because we're all busy and caught up in our respective daily routines.  I don't hesitate to call on them if needed and hopefully they feel the same; they are my absolutely reliable friends and respond when they're called into action or to mount this exhibition.  Everyone knows the drill and looks forward to returning annually to Vista Studios, where it all began, and to hosting this event.  We take this time every year to share in our work and catch up on a year's worth of news.


Jasper:  Anything else to add?

Chesley:   2013 another year ahead. Let it begin.

Jeffrey Day Reviews Local Art Shows by Busby, Chesley, Williams, Yaghjian, Wimberly & Rego

It has been a busy few days on the visual arts scene in Columbia and since I found myself providing mini-reviews of one show while at another, it made sense to write it down.

James Busby rarely shows in Columbia, but he opened the doors to his new studio in Chapin and invited some folks to take a look at his new paintings, drawings, sculptures or whatever the hell they are before he loaded up the truck and drove them to New York for his show opening at Stux Gallery in Chelsea Feb. 9.

I’d been to the studio twice before during the past month, so I had seen many of the works, but he’d completed several large pieces and the studio was nice and tidy with the art hanging like it would for a show (although without the high ceiling and good lighting.)

Some of his art could be seen recently in Columbia. Half a dozen pieces were in the South Carolina Biennial at the 701 Center for Contemporary Art. That was the first time many people in town had ever seen his art.

After doing all white paintings/sculptures for a couple of years, Busby moved on to black and is still doing these pieces that look more like metal than paint and graphite. Most were modestly sized, but not modest in execution. The big surprise in the Biennial was one bigger work, a 7-by-5-footer. He has completed half a dozen more, nearly all of them even larger and more resolved than that one. These newest works start with a base of gesso, which he manipulates while still wet to give it texture. He then sands and cuts into the surface then goes at it with graphite sticks. I’m still coming around to these works – probably because I so admire the smaller white and black pieces – but this is an exciting direction.

I just wish more people in the place he lives knew about him. (Hey I’ve done my part, having written about him several times for several publications.) Busby is one of the most important artists to come out of South Carolina in a long, long time. And he’s a nice guy too.

To see more of his work go to

Right before the long drive to Chapin, I ducked into the jam-packed opening reception for the 12th annual show the artists Stephen Chesley, Mike Williams, David Yaghjian, all of Columbia, and Edward Wimberly, of St. Matthews. These are very talented artists, but artists have good years and not-so-good years. Too many of these annuals have felt perfunctory. This year is different.

During the past few years I’ve found Yaghjian’s work to be consistently inventive and well done. He’s continuing with his figurative pieces focuses on a middle aged man in theatrical settings. In the new work, the man has been replaced at times by an ape. A very well-drawn ape.

On the other end, Wimberly’s Southern gothic surrealism felt like it reached a dead end a long time ago. For this show though he’s come up with a wonderful group of small pastels faces with odd little characters (mice, gnomes and so on) occupying the picture as well. Some are more engaging than others, some better rendered than others, but these are something fresh.

Small still-life paintings of flowers and fruit. Who’d have through such subject matter would be some of the most wonderful work Chesley has ever done?

Williams is one of the most prolific artists around, well-known for his abstracted fish paintings and during the past few years expressionistic paintings of swamps and a smattering of steel sculptures. The big jolts this year are several nearly completely abstract paintings – the best ones covered with lots of gooey paint. A big blue and cream Motherwell-ish painting is a real grabber although there’s a bit more style than substance to it. Can’t wait to see more. His new small sculptures made of scraps of metal are delightful.

Through Feb. 6.

Over at City Art the day before, a show of new paintings by Brian Rego went up. Since I first saw Rego’s paintings – mostly landscapes – several years ago I was bowled over. This exhibition knocked me out as well. There are a lot of exciting paintings – some of the best bordering on total abstraction with big blocks of color, although it’s more complicated than that.

As his subject matter, Rego often picks ugly places like parking garages. He’s good enough to use ugly colors too. He’s working out enticing issues of space in these pieces. The 30-work show is dominated by small (12-by-12) painting, most bold shapes in subdued colors. On the other end are larger brighter pieces, such as a large painting in the center of the gallery of a sun-dabbled back yard with spring-bright foliage and white chairs.

At first I thought it was a show with many good paintings, but wasn’t really a good show. Another visit convinced me I wasn’t quite right about that, but I still don’t think the installation serves the paintings best. I do think these are the best paintings I’ve seen in a while.

Through March 17.

Jumping back a week “Faster Forward” at the 701 Center for Contemporary Art is easy enough to sum up – go see the show now. This is the biggest video art exhibition ever in Columbia – maybe the state. Not only is it big, it is good. The artists are from all over the world, the work varied in content and form, and all of it is engaging and beautiful and sometimes funny. (I’ll have a larger story about the show in next week’s Free Times.) Through March 4.


Jeffrey Day is the former arts editor for The State and a frequent contributor to

Jasper Magazine and

What Jasper Said.

Friendship, Menfolk & Art -- Chesley, Williams, Wimberly & Yaghjian

As much as Jasper loves the dynamic and innovative, he loves continuity and tradition as well -- especially when the  tradition being preserved is all about friendship, menfolk, and art. That's why we look forward every year to the Winter Exhibition at Vista Studios Gallery 80808 which features the work of Stephen Chesley, Mike Williams, David Yaghjian, and Edward Wimberly -- four buddies, and four outstanding artists. In its 12th year, the Winter Exhibition will run from Friday, January 27th until Tuesday, February 7th -- the opening reception is Friday night from 6 until 9.



For more on what to expect this year, read the quartet’s statement below.

Stephen Chesley, Mike Williams, Edward Wimberly, and David Yaghjian are friends and full-time artists living and working in South Carolina.  For the past 12 years they have convened at Gallery 80808 in January with a selection of work from the course of the past year to hang an exhibition.  This exhibition began as a holiday social where we would get together with our friends and collectors to catch up and look at examples of our production from the previous year.  Each of these artists have worked diligently throughout their careers to create artwork that is distinctively their own.

Hope to see you Friday night – Gallery 80808 – Lady Street – Columbia.