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Exhibits | Video, pottery, collages among media making a splash in Myrtle Beach area

A new year also means a new canvas to paint, with new colors to mix and admire.

Fresh for 2011, the art museum in Myrtle Beach and the Rebecca Randall Bryan Art Gallery at Coastal Carolina University in Conway have unveiled new exhibits, and the Winyah Bay Heritage Festival Judged Art Exhibition opens Saturday afternoon in the Prevost Gallery of The Rice Museum in Georgetown.

On Sunday, the Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum opened "Serendipity: Raku by Steven Forbes-deSoule." Using a technique begun in Japan, the North Carolina ceramic artist pulls a hot vessel or sculpture out of a kiln and places it in combustibles in a can, smothering the flames to finalize the piece.

This Sunday, the other gallery in the museum will open "Robert Courtright: Collages, Collage Construction, and Masks, 1953-2008," welcoming a Sumter native back to South Carolina for a retrospective organized by the S.C. State Museum in Columbia.

Artist receptions with Forbes-deSoule and Courtright happen at 1-3 p.m. Sunday in their exhibits' respective galleries, too.

Courtright comes home

The Courtright exhibit was organized by the S.C. State Museum (301 Gervais St., Columbia; 803-898-4921 or

Paul Matheny, chief curator of art at the state museum, said the 70 works by Courtright include pieces shown in February in Columbia and others gathered just for the exhibit in Myrtle Beach.

Matheny said Courtright's works rarely have a showcase in South Carolina, so the Myrtle Beach art museum will play host to the second of two such retrospectives.

"As well-known as he is around the world, he is not well-known in South Carolina," Matheny said. "When people see his work, they'll be amazed."

Matheny said Courtright, 83, studied art in New York and Maryland after high school and later moved to Europe.

"We wanted to make sure we included collages from when he moved to Europe," Matheny said, "which was fairly influential in his architectural collages."

Having catalogs from past state museum showings of Courtright art, and personal appreciation and input from the artist in planning this exhibit, "made it very easy to work with him to find out more about his work," Matheny said, and for finding other collections across the state from which to borrow.

Kay Teer, the Myrtle Beach art museum's curator, first learned of Courtright when she lived in Sumter in the early 1970s and headed an art gallery there in the '80s.

"There was much excitement about the man who had been born and raised in this small Southern town," she said.

After relocating abroad at age 27, initially in Rome in 1953, Courtright's art evolved into collages depicting ancient cities and historic edifices, including a commission by the original Spoleto Festival five years later in Italy to create collages for the curtain of the Cais Melissa Theatre, Teer said. He eventually found a "grid pattern" that would develop into his primary form.

In France, Courtright found a way to add dimensions to children's papier-mache masks first seen in a store window and experimented with various materials that led to his "faces" collections, Matheny and Teer each said.

Teer said Courtright lives in France and has a second studio in New York, and as Matheny said, he visits South Carolina every year. The timing to visit Myrtle Beach for the new exhibit worked out perfectly, too.

"The fact that it opens Sunday and that Mr. Courtright is traveling from France to be here is a long-held dream come true," Teer said.

Digital art at CCU

Rachel Harris-Beck, exhibitions coordinator for CCU's art gallery, said its new exhibit, which opened Thursday, caps a four-year project. It puts digital art on the screen, another art direction that excites her.

"Project 35: New Media - Re-thinking the White Cube" lasts through March 4. Thirty-five art curators around the globe were asked to choose the most influential video or digital work from any artist. The exhibit is made up of video works gathered into a collection and shown on four DVDs in a continuous loop by pairs.

"This project was just finished," Harris-Beck said. "One disc was produced each year."

CCU is one of the first galleries in the world to show the whole collection, she said.

The videos show various types of media, including animation and still shots with music.

"It's packed with something for everybody," Harris-Beck said.

Two of the four DVDs play at all times, with one pair in the morning, the other in the afternoon, and those packages' showings will be flipped so visitors who return at their preferred time of day can enjoy the other set of videos.

Harris-Beck said as technology changes with the times, she thinks it's important for art students, especially in Coastal's art curricula, to have exposure to new means of exhibiting art.

"Contemporary artists are turning to it," she said. "It's accessible and prevalent with what's seen on computers already."

The fact such a collection is easy to transfer among art galleries and museums adds another way for artists to gain mass exposure.

"It's adaptable to all kinds of spaces," Harris-Beck said. "On a monitor in a hallway or in a courtyard."

Although such videos are wonderful from a curator's perspective, Harris-Beck also sees another challenge it poses to the art world, or at least in the public viewing of works through this form.

"Artists are moving away from objects of values," she said. "An artist has to worry about putting value on the content than the actual object.

"Still, it makes it more interesting for the audience."

Wine and art

Silver Coast Winery in Ocean Isle Beach, N.C., will have a reception this afternoon with Harald Josef Graffinger of Southport, N.C. The Austrian native, who lived in Germany, Switzerland, France and London before emigrating to the United States, paints in an abstract style, influenced by all his travels. His works make up the next special exhibit, which opens Saturday.

Lee Gomes, the winery's art director for five years, said he schedules at least four exhibits to take place there annually, in addition to metal work by David McUne on display year-round.

He said the Graffinger show will reflect a cross-section of his work, a description he applies when choosing other exhibits the rest of the year, for variety of media. The process of scouting for future exhibits, for which works also would have sales value, continues all year.

Gomes said he had a meeting Tuesday with an artist, and two interviews Wednesday with others.

A biology major who found a love of art through many electives, he said his hobby has fit right in with his work in a place where heads the wine tasting.

"Art and wine kind of go together," Gomes said. "You have people who appreciate good wine, and people who appreciate good art.

"They seem to be the same genre in society."