Services for York Country Artist Clyde Eugene Merritt

Everyone is welcome to the service for friend and artist Clyde Eugene Merritt, this Friday, May 29 at 9:30 a.m. at the original Chapel of St. Mary Catholic Church, 902 Crawford Road, Rock Hill, SC 29730.

 

clyde

York County Artist Dies

York County artist Clyde Eugene Merritt died peacefully Saturday morning, May 16, 2015.

Born November 30, 1936, his early childhood was spent in Columbia, S.C.   Most of his adolescent and adult life Merritt lived in Fort Mill and Rock Hill, eventually on Confederate Avenue and later at Pilgrim’s Inn as one of its first residents.  In his declining years he moved to Yorktowne Village, now Agape Senior, an assisted living facility in York, S.C.   Though he worked a number of jobs during his life from bag boy to shoe shine man to janitor in a local movie theatre, Merritt is best remembered for sitting at “his” table at Watkins Grill in downtown Rock Hill where for nearly ten years he created thousands of drawings.  He was a kind and loving man, embraced by those who knew him for his remarkable memory and keen wit.

Merritt’s drawings were included in collections and exhibitions throughout the world from London to Tokyo to Paris to Lausanne.  In the U.S. he was included in the collections of Duke University’s Nasher Museum, the Museum of York County, and the South Carolina State Museum.  His drawings represented a rare singular, original vision and spoke to the connection between hand and eye, between mind and pen, between heart and paper.  Merritt’s work was recently featured in the UNC Press publication The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture: Volume 23, Folk Art.  There is also a photo essay about him in Mario Del Curto’s publication The Outlandersfeaturing artists from around the globe.  Regardless, since the 2001 death of one of his major advocates, Swiss curator and writer Geneviève Roulin, little has been seen of Merritt’s work.

Since his drawing was there for everyone to see from the first carefully conceived line to the last, his work was very accessible.  Sharing with others was part of his creative process. As drawings were completed, he gave them away or sold them for spare change. This was his business and he was a self-acknowledged “hard working man.”  Between the years of 1992-2012 his drawings were identified by a progression of signatures or “autographs” including Gene’s Art to Gene’s Art Inc. to Gene’s Art Museums Inc.   The drawings served as his business cards.  Merritt’s drawings employed subjects we all knew from popular culture including movie and TV stars, country music artists, politicians and people that he cared about. And he cared about people.

With his passing it is important to note that many of us really did not know this quiet man who once walked daily from his Confederate Avenue home to regular stops along the way where he visited other hard working, everyday people. Stops included the barber shop, the dry cleaners, the loan company, Hardees, the car dealership, Scuba Adventures, the pawn shop, the arts council, and, of course Watkins Grill.  Later he would find hard working people at Pilgrims Inn, Yorktowne Village and Agape.  It was these folks who realized, who knew, and who loved his special genius, just as he loved them.  And yes, Gene would walk every day and would bring a small smile to anyone still willing to smile. So thank you Clyde Eugene Merritt.  We love you; your hard work is done.

Courtesy of Tom Stanley

 

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Opening at if ART: PETER LENZO & JOE SCOTCHIE–LENZO

Lenzo Peter & Joe,jpeg

The breakthrough for the ceramic sculptures for which Columbia artist Peter Lenzo now is known nationally came in 2000 from his then four-year-old son Joe. Lenzo was making face jugs steeped in Southern tradition when his son asked whether he could stick all kinds of stuff into Lenzo’s ceramic heads. He could and in the process set his father on a course that would result in highly embellished, at times frightening ceramic figures and faces adorned with found and created objects sticking in and out of bodies and faces that are at times unrecognizable as the face jugs from which they originate. The adornments range from ceramic shards to found or purchased porcelains dolls, animals, pipe heads, trains, shoes, roosters or Virgin Mary statues and snakes, leaves, sticks and other things that Lenzo makes himself.
For its June exhibition, if ART Gallery will show 22 ceramic sculptures that Lenzo and his son, the now 19-year-old Joe Scotchie-Lenzo, created together in 2000–2002. The exhibition, Peter Lenzo & Joe Scotchie-Lenzo: Origins 2000–2002, will open June 5 and run through June 27. The opening reception is Friday, June 5, 6 – 9 p.m. A gallery talk by Lenzo and Scotchie–Lenzo will be Saturday, June 20, 2:00 p.m. The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue.

“I made my dad famous,” Scotchie-Lenzo used to say about his dad.

“He started saying that right away,” Lenzo says. In truth, Lenzo already had a considerable reputation with other kinds of work – cabinet-like altarpieces filled with found objects and personal mementos. But in the late-1990s, Lenzo no longer could make such pieces as brain damage from a bicycle accident in his youth had caught up with him, and he increasingly suffered from seizures. Working with a table saw and other power tools to create the altars was an accident waiting to happen. As a result, Lenzo had switched to clay exclusively, making Southern-style face jugs. While Lenzo loved making traditional face jugs, he also worried about abandoning the fine art world from which he came. The new work inspired by his four-year-old bridged the gap. “Working with Joe gave me a direction to go in when I didn’t know where to go. I wouldn’t say Joe made me famous, but he made me sane.”
Peter Lenzo (b. 1955) is a widely recognized ceramic sculptor with a national profile. The New York City native, who grew up in Detroit, was selected for the 1995 and 1998 South Carolina Triennial exhibitions at the South Carolina State Museum in Columbia; the 2011 exhibition Triennial Revisited and the 701 CCA South Carolina Biennial 2011 and 2013, all at 701 Center for Contemporary Art in Columbia; and Thresholds, a 2003 exhibition of Southeastern art dealing with religion and spirituality that traveled extensively throughout the Southeast.
Lenzo’s work is in several museum collections, including at the South Carolina State Museum, the Mint Museum in Charlotte, N.C., and the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. His solo exhibitions include those at the Spartanburg (S.C.) Museum of Art, the European Ceramic Work Center in Den Bosch, The Netherlands, Great American Gallery in Atlanta and Ferrin Contemporary gallery in Massachusetts.

Press Hard - You Are Making Seven Copies by Peter Lenzo & Joe Scotchie-Lenzo
Press Hard – You Are Making Seven Copies by Peter Lenzo & Joe Scotchie-Lenzo

Lenzo and his work have been featured in numerous books, exhibition catalogues and articles about ceramic sculpture and Southern art. They include the Threshold catalogue, 500 Figures In Clay (2005), Robert Hunter’s Ceramics in America (2006) and Poetic Expressions of Mortality: Figurative Ceramics From the Porter–Price Collection (2006). He holds an MFA from Wayne State University in Detroit and used to teach at the University of South Carolina, Columbia.
Joe Scotchie-Lenzo (b. 1996) has been making and selling ceramic sculptures off and on since he was four years old, although he hasn’t produced any in three years. One co-production with his dad is in the collection of the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery. One of his individual works is in the South Carolina State Museum collection. Scotchie-Lenzo is a native and resident of Columbia, where he is a business major with an interest in retail and clothing at the University of South Carolina.

June 5 – 27, 2015

Artist’s Reception: Friday, June 5, 6:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Gallery Talk: Saturday, June 20, 2:00 pm

Gallery Hours:
Weekdays, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Saturdays, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.; & by appointment

For more information, contact Wim Roefs at if ART:
(803) 238-2351 – wroefs@sc.rr.com

if ART Gallery, 1223 Lincoln St., Columbia, SC 29201

 

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Concert Review: Toro y Moi @ Music Farm Columbia

Photo by Jordan Young
Photo by Jordan Young

If the University of South Carolina marketing department was wise, they would have had a slew of cameras capturing footage of Chaz Bundick (Class of 2009), a.k.a Toro y Moi, taking the Music Farm Columbia stage this past Wednesday.

Not only is Bundick himself one of those irresistible success stories that colleges love to repeat–the beginnings of Toro y Moi were planted during his years enrolled at the school, and he’s skyrocketed in the music world since he graduated and released his debut LP Causers of This in 2010–but there were other reasons to trumpet this moment. After all, the Music Farm sits mere blocks away from campus, and it’s ushered in a wave of concerts over this past year that could sway hip college kids to attend, emphasizing the cosmopolitan nature of Columbia and the opportunities afforded here that, say, that school down the road in the Upstate cannot. Plus, although Bundick now resides in Berkeley, California, he has consistently noted his South Carolina roots, taking local bands on tour with him in the region and helping out in various ways, including offering a tune for a benefit compilation for Fork & Spoon’s Aaron Graves battle with cancer and producing (and releasing on his imprint) singer/songwriter Keath Mead’s debut.

And, if they had had those cameras, they might have noticed that, in the range of colors splashed onto the indeterminate black lines that served as a backdrop, there were briefly moments when garnet appeared, giving the effect of the band playing behind a USC logo.

150513 ToroyMoi JYoung 5
Photo by Jordan Young

All carping aside though, the show was excellent. Keath Mead opened up with his soaring, 70s-inspired melodies and guitar jams. Stripped of the warm, reverb-laden production of the record, Mead and his band felt almost from another era, in the best way possible. While the set got a bit soggy with ballads in its midsection, they opened and closed with some rockers that had the rather sizable crowd agreeably bobbing their heads.

Still, they were clearly stoked to see their hometown heroes return. In addition to Bundick, the live version of Toro y Moi features a host of familiar faces from Columbia’s music scene, including guitarist Jordan Blackmon, drummer Andy Woodward, and bassist Patrick Jeffords, with only recently added keyboardist Anthony Ferraro foreign to the Palmetto state. The band is ridiculously tight and quite adept at transforming the funky, synth-laden pop tunes that Bundick usually crafts alone in the studio into immersive, sweaty workouts, but it was hard to deny the impact of the more rock-oriented (and excellent) recent LP What For? had on the show. Tracks like “Empty Nesters” and “Half Dome” saw Bundick pick up an electric guitar for the first time in Toro, giving long-time fans a glimmer of his days The Heist & the Accomplice and Taxi Chaps while at the same time giving his sets a more varied sense of room to rise and fall, live and breathe.

150513 ToroyMoi JYoung 1
Photo by Jordan Young

Bundick, always a shy presence on stage, seemed to find energy in the shifts between guitar and his array of keyboards, and his voice was in fine form throughout. The addition of yet another album to his catalog also seems to offer his live shows, for the first time, a true greatest hits feel. Only the choicest cuts from his earlier efforts made appearances as the group delved deeply into the new material. Highlights included the giddy power-pop blast of the aforementioned “Empty Nesters,” the Michael Jackson-esque jam “New Beat,” and the rippling one-two punch of the encore of “So Many Details” and “Say That,” two of the best tracks off of 2o13’s Anything in Return.

In truth, though, it was hard to note exceptional moments in such a consummately professional show that also managed to revel so much in the slinky grooves that are indelible from Bundick’s output. It was difficult to stop moving for the nearly 90 minute set that Toro y Moi threw down, and I’d bet not a single soul left unhappy.

Here’s hoping the presence of the Music Farm Columbia with get Bundick and company back here more often now. -Kyle Petersen

 

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