Goodyear Arts opening nights are always a happening. A convivial good time. And often – as is the case this time – there’s free beer. At the upcoming Jan 12 opening of “Graham Carew vs. Robert Childers,” there will also be live music, courtesy of artist Robert Childers’ musician father, David.

But you might have a hard time passing by Graham Carew’s work at the opening beer in hand, without stopping in your tracks. The work is large-scale, for one thing. And it’s challenging. (See featured photo.)

Carew is one of the co-directors of Goodyear Arts, the uptown pop-up space now in its second home. He and Robert Childers, whose current work is about, he says, “the loss of local culture,” are both brash painters who reference mythology in their work.

Works by Childers
Works by Childers

While Childers’ work looks to biblical and historical sources (and often includes handwritten text), Carew’s body of work includes … well, his body. For their joint show, he’s done a series of 20 large self-portraits, most featuring him contemplating a bull’s skull. Some are semi-nude. And that’s not the only way he’s exposing himself. He’s been asking himself some hard questions. And considering the Minotaur.

“The Minotaur is an interesting character as obviously, he is a man and a beast,” Carew said. “He is powerful and strong but also a prisoner. He should be physically able to do anything, but he can’t escape his trap. He is so powerful, yet powerless. I have been trying to reflect on this thought in my own life: ‘What is my prison? Can I leave it?’”

I asked Carew what his work had in common with Childers’ work and what made the two right for a show called “Graham Carew vs. Robert Childers.”

For one thing, Carew said, “Our work … confronts you.”

He added, “We both use strong colors, and there’s an obvious use of symbolism, but we use it in very different ways. For this show, I’ve no idea if our art works together, as I haven’t seen his new work.”

Wait, what?

“Robert and I only talked for five minutes one day about showing together,” Carew said. “We haven’t really seen each other’s work at all for this show, but we both liked the OK-I’ll-see-you-in-four-months scenario, and we’ve been in training since.

“We’re also physically big men and possibly not your idea of a typical artist. There’s possibly an abrasive quality to the way we look and to our art.”

Some of Carew’s materials aren’t typical, either. He uses, he said, “a bit of everything” – acrylics, aerosols, ink charcoal pencil marker. And household paint.

The latest Goodyear space also presents a challenge, due to the large size. “While the chance to ‘battle’ against Robert was very tempting,” he said, it’s also the two of them competing against this space.

See it while you can

The Goodyear experiment was always meant to be ephemeral. 

“Daniel Levine of Levine Properties kindly donated use of the building until the end of January,” Carew said. The building’s new owners, whom Carew declined to name since the sale is not a done deal, are interested in letting the artists remain.

There’s a lot of goodwill that comes from allowing artists free use of the space.

“Our showcase events typically get 600 to 800 people,” Carew said. “At our ‘Goodbye, Goodyear’ event in the old Goodyear on Stonewall, we topped 1,000.”

There’s good news for Goodyear Arts fans. The group has just been granted a six-month extension on their residency.

“If and when we have to leave, we will look for a new home,” Carew promised.

The more than 20 artists (the 2-D and 3-D variety, as well as performance artists) using the space for semi-private studios – at no charge – will remain for now, with programming events to come during the next six months.

The pop-up Goodyear project – originally made possible by a Knight Foundation grant and founding sponsor Crescent Communities – Carew said, has beaten his expectations: He’s been surprised by the appetite for art events in Charlotte.

“We have great artists living and working here in Charlotte,” he said. “Being able to say, ‘Here is a space; do what you want with it,’ has led to spectacular events.”

“Graham Carew vs. Robert Childers” opens Thursday, Jan. 12 at Goodyear Arts at 516 N. College St. The event goes from 6-9 p.m. 

Images courtesy of Graham Carew, Robert Childers

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Page Leggett is a Charlotte native whose work appears regularly in The Charlotte Observer and SouthPark magazine. She loves movies, theater, music and calls herself a "homebody given to wanderlust." She needs someone to stop her before she buys another painting she doesn't have space for.

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