Savannah’s Art Museums – Part 2. Jepson Center: The art of today, mostly.


Part 1 (Savannah’s Jepson Center – an architectural delight) of this 3-part series about the Telfair Museums began with, “I just had a museum experience that blissed me out, from beginning to end!” The architecture enhanced the experience, to be sure, but the art absolutely held it’s own.

In addition to the awesome architecture of the Jepson Center, more than 7,500 sq ft of beautifully-designed gallery space display temporary exhibitions and installations of contemporary art works from the permanent collection.

At the time of our visit, five special exhibitions engaged us at every turn.

Beyond: Chul-Hyun Ahn (on view through August 7, 2022)

WOW! We know we’re not in Kansas anymore as we’re drawn into Chul-Hyun Ahn’s infinite-space light boxes. Created with LED and fluorescent lights, one-way mirrors, and sculptural materials, Ahn’s mesmerizing works pull you in, whether into an immersive illusion of a railroad track curving into the darkness, or geometric abstractions in vibrant color.

These images present as static, but in fact these works are highly kinetic: as the viewer moves, the visual changes. Unnerving, calming, hypnotic — by turns — these compositions generate other-worldly experience that connects to the spiritual, the abstract, the unknown and unknowable.

Beyond: Light, Color and Illusion (through August 7, 2022)

In the history of art, it has always been new technologies that drive broad artistic innovation. Chul-Hyun Ahn‘s work evidences the progressive impetus of today’s technologies. As companion to Ahn’s exhibit, a second gallery presents additional international and regional artists’ explorations of illusory spaces and effects in media art, from motorized light sculpture to video and interactive works.

BLOW UP / Inflatable Contemporary Art (on view through Sept 18, 2022)

This was a fun interlude, exploring the imaginative ways that artists use air as a tool for creating larger-than-life sculptures. Nine installation pieces challenge our traditional associations of inflatables with balloons, pool toys, and blimps.

These thin-skinned and fragile nylon and vinyl “gentle giants,” created by an international roster of established artists and art collectives, are kept inflated by electric fans. In over-sized scale, they range from playfully familiar subjects to colorful abstractions and thought-provoking conceptual projects, using bold colors, pop culture references and significant contemporary themes.

I especially liked Lizabeth Rossof’s send-up of the terracotta warriors, 5 Xi’An American Warriors. All-American heroes: Mickey Mouse, Shrek, Batman, Bart Simpson and Spiderman!

CONVERGENCE (on view through March 19, 2023)

This is a survey exhibition that brings together more than 40 works highlighting the rich breadth of work produced by 28 artists in Savannah and collected by Telfair in the last decades. 

Converging in one space for the first time, the selected works include photography, watercolor, mixed media, encaustic, acrylic, charcoal, graphite, ink, oil paint, sculpture, and digital art.

DECONSTRUCTED (on view through Nov 27, 2022)

In dialogue with Convergence in the adjoining gallery, Deconstructed features more than a dozen works created in the Southeast in the 20th and 21st centuries. Beyond a regional unifynig thread, these objects from Telfair Museums’ permanent collection speak to the theme of deconstruction, either formally or conceptually.​

The Art of William O. Golding: Hard Knocks, Hardships and Lots of Experience on view through August 28th.

The Jepson Center is the Telfair Museums’ temporary exhibition venue as well as its contemporary art space, thus the Jepson is host to the William O. Golding (1874-1943) exhibition. This is the first large museum survey of the work of this African American seaman and artist who recorded a half-century of maritime experience in more than one hundred vibrant drawings. 

In the 1930s, retired after almost 50 years at sea, Golding was a patient at the United States Marine Hospital in Savannah, where he began rendering his experiences in expressive pencil and crayon drawings. His images combine memory, imagination, and sailors’ lore. 72 works are exhibited in two adjacent galleries, including 23 drawings from Telfair Museums’ permanent collection, and others from the Morris Museum of Art, The Georgia Museum of Art, and private collections. 

Golding’s father was a former slave who was elected to the Georgia legislature in 1868. As a boy, in the 1880s, he was coerced onto a ship on the Savannah waterfront and spent the next two decades at sea: “When I wanted to go back ashore I found that I could not for the very reason that I was out at sea… I never saw home again until May 25th, 1904.”

William O. Golding (American 1874-1943); Tug William F. McAuley, Atlantic Towing Co., Sav, GA, 1934

He served in the Navy during the Spanish-American and Philippine Wars, and sailed around the globe, observing and remembering.

Golding drew whaling vessels, steamships, merchant vessels, historic sailing ships such as the U.S.S. Constitution. He was particularly fond of fully-rigged three-masted ships, but he portrayed many other types of vessels, including tugs, schooners and yachts.

Golding’s harbor views, mainly of Chinese, Pacific and East Asian ports, include boarding houses, bars, customs houses, churches and chandleries, as well as distinctive local landmarks. Each drawing contains worlds of fact and fiction, documentation and imagination. Signal flags, waterfronts, miniature figures and intricate ships’ riggings narrate tales of different times and locations, from San Francisco to Saigon, from Georgia to Gibraltar.

The Jepson Center gave us a full and fulfilling morning. But wait … the Telfair Academy is just a few steps through the park and we’re leaving Savannah early tomorrow! After refreshing with a cold drink on a bench in the shade of an spreading oak tree … Part 3 of this Telfair Museums series will cover our visit in the afternoon to the South’s oldest art museum.

Telfair Academy seen across Telfair Park from our bench.

Hmmm … maybe it’s time to plan a little trip …

Jepson Center, Telfair Museums
207 W. York St., Savannah, GA 31401

Featured headline image: HOME, a mural by National Art Honor Society Students of the Savannah Arts Academy, 2022. Jepson Center of the Telfair Museums, Savannah, GA

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In dialogue with CONVERGENCE in the adjoining gallery

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