The Art Museum of the University of Memphis (AMUM) will present an exhibition about the Memphis art scene surrounding the artist, writer and South Main preservation and arts champion Robert McGowan (1947-2012).
The opening reception for the exhibition, titled “Catalyst: McGowan/MCCA/Number/South Main” will take place this Sunday, October 20, from 3 to 5 p.m.
In 1987, McGowan co-founded the arts journal Number:Inc. with fellow artists Don Estes and Cory Dugan. In 1988, he opened the Memphis Center for Contemporary Art which showed over 100 artists until it closed in 1991. The exhibition will include McGowan’s historic preservation efforts on South Main street, the work of well-known artists active in and around the MCCA, and a history of Number: Inc. which will publish its 100th issue in December.
In addition to McGowan, featured artists in this exhibition include Tim Crowder, Cory Dugan, Don Estes, Ke Francis, Pinkney Herbert, Terri Jones, Robert McGowan, Greely Myatt, and John Salvest.
In February 1982, the artist Robert McGowan and his wife Annie purchased a derelict building at 418 South Main Street at public auction for $8200. To protect the rest of the area’s 1910-1920s buildings, they founded the South Main Street Historic District Association in 1985 and convinced the Memphis Landmarks Commission to designate the neighborhood a historic preservation district. Their work continues today.
In late 1985, McGowan launched plans for a non-profit art space to show professional contemporary artists of the region, a group he declared woefully underrepresented in Memphis’ museums and galleries because the establishment considered their work “difficult.” The Memphis Center for Contemporary Art opened in June 1988 at 416 South Main. McGowan was keen to get back to his own artwork, but after the short tenure of a different director, was pulled back into the leadership of the Center. The MCCA would go on to exhibit over 100 artists and enjoyed strong grassroots support and critical acclaim. However, it could not attract the financial support of major foundations and corporations and closed in February 1991 due to funding issues.
Catalyst: McGowan/MCCA/Number/South Main will run from October 20 to January 11, 2020.
The Art Museum of the University of Memphis is free and open to the public Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information on this exhibition, contact AMUM at 901.678.2224 or visit online at memphis.edu/amum.