Even More Possibilities: The Gregg Museum of Art & Design

VERNON PRATT SELF-PORTRAIT

This article was originally published in the spring 2020 issue of #creativestate, the official magazine of Arts NC State.

In October 2018, the Gregg Museum of Art & Design opened a four-month exhibition of a monumental work that director Roger Manley calls “Vernon Pratt’s magnum opus.”

All the Possibilities of Filling in Sixteenths (65,536), completed between 1980 and 1982, was put on display for the first time almost 18 years after Pratt died following a mysterious bicycle accident. It’s an immense work comprised of 256 panels that, for years, lived in boxes in a warehouse. When mounted, it was 18 feet high and 110 feet wide, filling the Black-Sanderson Gallery at the Gregg. To provide audio ambience for the exhibition, NC State’s executive director for the arts, Rich Holly, composed and recorded a 105-minute long work based on Pratt’s two primary artistic themes, jazz and mathematics.

Holly pitched the idea of a film to document the exhibition, and Manley recommended contacting Marsha Gordon (professor of film history at NC State) and her husband, architect Louis Cherry. The two had recently completed Rendered Small, a documentary about the collection of American folk art buildings curated by Steven Burke and Randy Campbell. As luck would have it, they were looking for a subject for a second film.

Gordon and Cherry have just completed All the Possibilities… Reflections on a Painting by Vernon Pratt, a 16-minute, 16-second documentary (get it?) that explores Pratt’s most ambitious painting. The film gives viewers a unique experience of his mesmerizing and massive work of art from the level of the smallest square to the painting as a whole, and includes interviews with Gregg Museum director Roger Manley; Larry Wheeler, director emeritus of the North Carolina Museum of Art; William Dodge, director of the Vernon Pratt Project; NC State mathematician Radmila Sazdanović; retired North Carolina Museum of Art curator Huston Paschal; and writer Georgeann Eubanks. The film features a percussive score drawn from the longer work composed and performed by Rich Holly for the exhibition.

The directors are currently submitting the new film to festivals, and look forward to a local screening in the near future.