The Monty Montgomery that Charlottesville remembers is largely gone, and the calm figure in his place doesn’t show any links to the madman that once inhabited his body. Maybe the real Monty Montgomery—the ringmaster of ridiculous parties, where women danced clothed in paint as bright as his canvases and gallery visitors mingled with zombies and astronauts—is still in Boston, the city he left Charlottesville for in 2006. Maybe he disappeared into the checkerboard grid of the city and never came out, drowned in the urban technicolor and vanished beneath the neon surface without so much as a bubble or a brush stroke.
You’ve come a long, strange way, baby: Former wild child Monty Montgomery refocuses his energy on new works like “Tempted” in his exhibit at Cassis.
It’s a fitting last image for locals that remember mad Monty, who once invited the city beneath the Jefferson Theater to watch him work in his Cilli Original Design Gallery, to watch him obsess over one checkered, star-spangled epiphany at a time. But it robs this new man—dressed in navy blue from head to toe, jeans to sweatshirt to knit cap, face ruddy rather than sleepless—of the effort he gave to slowing down.
“Not going slow,” clarifies Montgomery. “But not going super-fast.”
Montgomery is in Cassis with Curtain Calls, pulling paintings from the wine cellar to hang around the perimeter of the room for his April exhibit, “Surfaced” (slated to close with a DJ-and-drink-specials party on April 25). The images are familiar, whether you’ve seen Montgomery’s work or not—stars, faces and patterns that look stenciled onto canvases then run through a Crayola 64-pack—but there is a restraint to Montgomery’s new work that follows the artist’s own change in pace.
It used to be that Montgomery would flood his basement gallery with friends and strangers, using their interactions as the bases for his simply arranged paintings, all rendered in a steady hand and 120-volt colors. When Montgomery moved to Boston, however, he hit a wall; he booked three exhibits in the course of a year, but stopped painting entirely.
“I was going faster than I’d ever gone,” he says. “And I was getting tired, in my mind.”
Montgomery came home and began to revisit old sketches with new perspectives on space, painting whole canvases a glimmering color and adding fewer elements: A child’s face looking towards a star, a bee crawling across drips—actual ripples in a Monty Montgomery painting!—of electrified honey. He proudly pulls out a canvas called “Lollipop,” a rainbow pinwheel standing strong amidst a sea of gray.
“Never in my life have I painted a gray background,” says Montgomery. “Two years ago, I never would’ve been able to paint a lollipop and leave it alone.”
It’s hard to picture the dimensions of the pillow fort as Patrick Costello describes them. In the midst of planning his senior show, “Trying, Despite,” at UVA’s Off Grounds Gallery, the fourth-year art major at UVA is scrambling with a crew of friends—Andy Jenkins, Victoria Long, Meg Frisbie and Kristin Smith, all contributors to last September’s “Fuzz” exhibit at The Bridge/Progressive Art Initiative—to build upon the scope of their original project with an exhibit at Philadelphia’s Space 1026 for the month of May, including the creation of a 15′ x 10′ x 14′ structure made entirely of pillows and hand-sewn covers, bearing prints by artists such as local Thomas Dean, who designed the Charlottesville Lady Arm Wrestlers’ t-shirts.
Take in the numbers and the materials—200 yards of quilt padding, 200 yards of coverings, more than 100 yards of felt and a whole room of his house filled with 97 hand-sewn sofa cushions—and you have a staggering exhibit that cushions its own impact. Costello pulls a few prints from his senior show—portraits of hands and faces interacting with compost heaps of cloth that evoke waterfalls, yarn balls and mulch—and lays them alongside a marker drawing of his pillow fort blueprints.
“The theme is sustainability,” says Costello. “Living lightly and gently. The struggle to make responsibly and live gently is what I want my life to be about.”
And sustainability seems an increasingly viable possibility for the “Fuzz” crew; given free reign with the Space 1026 gallery, Costello and company plan to create a tunnel to their second-floor exhibition area made of thousands of felt tendrils, to surround an audience with handmade objects and a new idea of sustainability—one rooted in family rooms and first perceptions of textures and materials.
Philadelphia is a journey, sure, but you can catch an early version of the pillow fort at the Off Grounds Gallery through April 12.
SWAG Bag: Salmagundi
You’ll find no shortage of film events in town this week—from Staunton’s Jewish Film Festival at the Visulite Cinema starting April 11 to the Black Maria Film Festival’s April 9 stop at Vinegar Hill to the Traveling South Asia Film Festival hosted by UVA’s Center for South Asian Studies. One film event in particular, however, grabbed Curt by the scruff of his film-loving face and demanded a bit of previewing this week.
The FilmMakers Society at UVA have a particularly provocative collection of films slated for the 12th annual Salmagundi Film Festival, which runs April 11 and 12 at 7pm in Newcomb Theater. Christina Tkacik’s Gerry Mitchell: 3,164 Miles gives a more compelling look at the wheelchair-bound artist toppled by a cop car, including scenes featuring Mitchell comparing himself to Liz Taylor’s Cleopatra in his chair; elsewhere, animator Emily Hamel (whose video exhibit, “The Jackalope’s Tales,” opens at Rawstuff on April 14) gives a brief look at The Life and Times of a Dust Bunny, and Konstantin Brazhnik directs local actor Jon Cobb in the smoky, David Lynch-y noir flick, Rubber Ducky.
Thanks to the glories of SWAG, Curt doesn’t need to drop the $5 admission fee to the fest (although he might for the complimentary candy buffet). But that doesn’t excuse you, folks—make yourself a nice butt-groove and watch some films.
As for CC, he’s putting his pennies towards Lost Highway (Lynch’s long-delayed film, finally released on DVD) and Simon Pegg’s new flick, Run, Fat Boy, Run. If you need help working on your pasty, cinema house complexion, he suggests you load up on flicks, pronto.
Want to watch David Lynch’s Lost Highway with Curt? Got arts news? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.