ON A SEPTEMBER NIGHT in Myers Park, a crowd overflows onto SOCO Gallery’s front porch. The opening for Elliott Puckette’s Recent Works teems with local artists, longtime and budding collectors, and celebrities such as Seth Avett of the Avett Brothers and his wife, Dexter actress Jennifer Carpenter. At the center of the crowd is owner Chandra Johnson, greeting all visitors in the same way as they enter the 1920s bungalow: with a hug and an introduction to Puckette. It’s a reminder why this gallery is named for “Southern Comfort.”
Puckette’s large, abstract works feature a continuous line with no obvious beginning or end. It’s the fifth show in a year of growth and daring curation for the gallery, which has evolved from a photography-centric program to a broader survey of the art world.
In the weeks that follow the opening, staffers study Puckette’s drawings, trying to find the starting and ending points of her dramatic, winding strokes. The gallery’s own beginning is much easier to identify; SOCO’s been in this space since 2015. Led by Johnson, its trajectory from sparse pop-up to Southern cultural force is unprecedented for the city. The growth is perhaps a reflection of the city’s growing cultural sector, Johnson says. Her modesty aside, SOCO’s success is more complicated than that, considering the difficulty of running an art gallery.