Last year, the Weatherspoon Museum expanded its exhibitions into the newly generated space at the Revolution Mill. The WAMRev program was the first of many collaborations between the Revolution Mill and the Weatherspoon Museum, its first exhibit, “Articulate” by James Marshall. Marshall is a Raleigh-based artist, who is also known as Dalek, and has been active since the mid 90s’. Located in the Gallery 1250 space, it is in a section of Revolution Mill dedicated to artistic pursuits such as studios and galleries; “Articulate” is a painting based installation that makes full use of the entire wall space of the gallery, covered from head to toe in geometric designs of an analogous blue green color scheme with accents of black.
This design is the signature of Marshall’s work, which regularly explores geometric interlocking shapes that complement each other via slight hue shifts across the space, or in some cases entirely contrasting colors that conflict with each other to dramatic effect. Marshall has done many murals, group and solo shows across the world. Although he has been active since the ‘90s, he truly came into his own in the 2000s after apprenticing with renowned Japanese painter, Takashi Murakami.
Marshall was originally known for his Space Monkey character, a character which to him expressed his love for Japanese pop culture, the American punk scene, street art from across the world and animation. This character proliferated across his many works at the time, including many series of prints and stickers. It was, however, only after his apprenticeship with Murakami that Marshall came into his widespread exploration of color, form and geometric relationships that define his work today and define his installation at the Revolution Mill.
Revolution Mill, built in 1899, was once the largest flannel factory in the world and was a industrial highlight of Greensboro as a city for many years. This factory remained in production until the decline of the textile industry led to its closure in 1982. In 2012, the group, Self-Help acquired the space and began a complete renovation, turning the old workshops and factories into apartments, restaurants, creative use spaces, studios and community spaces. The idea was to let the mill be revolutionary again, but within a communal context as opposed to an industrial context. Business spaces in Revolution Mill began opening up in the summer of last year and living spaces the following fall.
“Articulate” seeks to acknowledge and establish formal and color based relationship with the building and interior space it occupies. As the Revolution Mill was rebuilt into its current state as a communal living and working space for Greensboro, the builders saw fit to keep many of the historical aspects of the Mill that they considered iconic to the space. The hot red industrial venting systems present throughout its spaces was used as a primary source of inspiration for Marshall. “Articulate” is as much about the building it is present within as it is about the work itself. The cool blues, greens and blacks of “Articulate” contrast and highlight the warm reds, browns and tans of Revolution Mills. The hue shifts across the spaces terminating in vertical rectangles are reminiscent of color inverted hallways and stairways of the warm space.
Walking through the installation and experiencing the pattern and play of color is a delight, and it is easy to become lost in the bands of color that seem to lead you into nonexistent paths along the walls, drawing eyes from one instance of color to the next. Some instances of pattern establish strict rules of total symmetry only for those rules to be subverted moments later in other panels of work. Tunnels of color absorb you only to deposit you at a different location. The patterns play close attention to the unique architecture of the space and could not exist without this interplay. “Articulate” is the definition of art responding to space. Towering bands of color remain visible outside of the installation through windows, allowing it to inform and inspire the creative folk making use of the rest of the building.
While the installation in Gallery 1250 will be changing as time passes, this was truly an excellent and thoughtful way to induct the space into the collective consciousness of the Southeast American art world.