Category Archives: Art in Atlanta

Floating in a Sea of Light: Public Art on the Atlanta BeltLine

Photographer Dave Lind probably doesn’t get thrown off course much. A certain quality of light can occur every day at twelve minutes past sunset, and he shoots that every day.

But last Saturday night he became a giant goldfish. He floated for two miles from the Old Fourth Ward to Midtown.

Dave Lind floats above other handmade lanterns the superstar of another photographer, Carissa Craven, at lower right.

Dave Lind floats above other handmade lanterns, including the superstar of another photographer, Carissa Craven, at lower right.

How does one become a giant goldfish? Are there any lingering side-effects?

It’s possible that becoming a giant goldfish is itself a side-effect, perhaps the result of making images every day at dusk.

Dave--busy on the evening before his transformation, working the magic.

Dave–busy on the evening before his transformation, working the magic.

Fortunately, the fluid in which Mr. Lind floated was composed of the parade of people carrying lanterns along the Eastside Trail. It was the annual Atlanta BeltLine Lantern Parade. According to the BeltLine, this event kicks off an annual public art exhibit, which will showcase “over 70 innovative works of performance and visual art from new and returning artists.”

The Lantern Parade made us happy, and more public art will make us even happier.

Lantern Parade as seen from the Freedom Parkway overpass.

Lantern Parade as seen from the Freedom Parkway overpass.

Grown-Up Toys: John Tindel’s Works on Paper at Kai Lin Art

Some little boys like dangerous little toys: pocket knives, matches, homemade explosives. Toy guns sometimes offend, but they inflict no damage. A really dangerous toy can poke out your eye. The little boy knows this but thinks, “A little pain is worth it to be able to watch the progress of a good puncture. Besides, who needs two eyes when one will do?”

"Blame it on My A.D.D.," John Tindel; pencil, spray paint and watercolor; 18 x 18 inches.

“Blame it on My A.D.D.,” John Tindel; pencil, spray paint and watercolor; 18 x 18 inches.

When the danger-boy grows up he may become an artist like John Tindel, who is now showing mixed media works on paper at the Kai Lin Art gallery. The pictures have sharp edges, suggest troublesome thoughts, and interfere with productive activity. Some pieces use a form of caricature to depict young men who were probably also danger-boys, but who seem to have traded in their illegal fireworks for that adult toy called hard drugs.

Tindel’s pictures sometimes deploy words within the frame, and they usually bear interesting titles (for example, “My First Skull.”) None of Tindel’s words make explicit reference to methamphetamine, but plenty of implications appear, such as pictures of crystals forming out of clouds, and one danger-boy picture being titled, “Blame it on My A.D.D.” (Atlanta Art Blog doesn’t know much about methamphetamine, but the Wikipedia article on that drug says that a form of it is sometimes prescribed for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Slang names for the drug include “cloud,” and “crystal meth.”)

"Flower Pot Setting #2," John Tindel; watercolor; 18 x 24 inches.

“Flower Pot Setting #2,” John Tindel; watercolor; 18 x 24 inches.

The pictures don’t give the sense of glorifying drug use, or suggesting that the use of methamphetamine could inspire artistic work, spiritual revelation, or anything positive. The danger-boys, and one danger-girl (titled “She Was a Hallucination”) have wide-set, large eyes that suggest a capacity for deep thought, but are surrounded by prematurely aged and discolored skin. These are the eyes of young people exhausted by life at compulsive hyper-speed. Hope for them is in peril.

One sharp edge to these pictures is that most of them carry the hand-lettered message, “You Make Me Feel Special.” The works also include some lush watercolors of floral arrangements with no references to danger-boys or crystals and clouds—these florals, too, carry the lettering, “You Make Me Feel Special.” It’s almost as if Tindel is in the middle of sketching out a line of greeting cards to be marketed to addicts and their friends and families. That market had better love irony.

The pictures include visual references to African masks, Shamanic power animals, and holy men. It’s another trait of the danger-boy to mix up a bunch of flavors and see if the final product is edible. In fact, Mr. Tindel displays in these pictures how adept he is at creating unusual combinations. They may begin carelessly but they end by showing that the danger-boy is someone curious about mortality, and someone who fits in with his nervous friends and family.

The John Tindel exhibit, “You Make Me Feel Special,” is on view at Kai Lin Art through September 6, 2013.

Ebru Ercan’s Paintings at Sight + Sound Gallery

Ebru Ercan’s abstract paintings at the Sight + Sound Gallery play with readily available shapes and colors. We see swirls and rectangles, and familiar shades of blue, green, and red. In separate works the abstracts evoke landscapes or the human form or the cosmos. Some pieces suggest spatial depth while some only the canvas’s surface.

Ebru Ercan’s “Summer Solace,” 30” x 30”, acrylic and resin.

Ebru Ercan’s “Summer Solace,” 30” x 30”, acrylic and resin.

Although these elements of shape and color may be viewed as predictable, Ercan’s attitude of avid exploration is palpable, as the beat of each painting, or its “energy,” to use an overtaxed word, creates the possibility of encountering the unfamiliar. A longer viewing time allows the familiar elements to become unfamiliar again. Ercan’s willingness to take familiar elements as a point of departure encourages the viewer to do the same.

The images on this page showing Ercan’s work are woefully inadequate as reproductions of the paintings themselves. One element that cannot be seen here is the thick, shiny resin surface of the paintings. In “The Safe Haven,” Ercan presents a simultaneously inviting and foreboding landscape, a dimly lit swamp worth getting lost in. But you have to be in the room with the painting’s gleaming surface in order to feel the wetness of its apparent refuge.

Ercan’s “The Safe Haven,” 36” x 60”, acrylic and resin on canvas.

Ercan’s “The Safe Haven,” 36” x 60”, acrylic and resin on canvas.

We saw this type of glossy surface on paintings earlier this year at Pryor Fine Art on Miami Circle. The pictures weren’t entirely abstract but were modern in the sense of: experimenting with disjointed images; combinations of realist and abstract images; experimentation with what is complete and what is not; exploration of ideas.

The question interests us: What is that thick veneer saying to the viewer?

Our first impulse was to believe that that veneer is meant to convey a higher artistic value, which then translates to a higher monetary value. Applying a glaze to an object can signify an additional layer of labor and attention by the artist or craftsman, though it does not require long training or deep reflection or a particular vision to apply such a veneer to a painting.

Another impulse is to feel the shiny surface as a direct symbol of wetness. We noted above that the veneer on Ercan’s painting, “The Safe Haven,” leant the swampy image a sensation of wetness. But Ercan applied the same veneer to all of the paintings on display, and wetness surely is not a theme appropriate to all of the paintings.

It also occurred to us to wonder whether the thick glaze suggests an insecurity with the abstract nature of the images. We live in a time and a place where the anti-intellectual forces of government and business have regrettable credibility when they point to abstract art and say it is of little value because “my child could have done that.”

We wonder whether thick glazes on paintings are somehow a response to that anti-intellectual hostility. The glaze is meant to be, or unconsciously serves as, a shield asserting a layer of value that few children (or politicians) could accomplish.

Fortunately, here at Atlanta Art Blog, we are protected against the local anti-intellectual forces by a thick veneer of faith in the creators.

Sight + Sound Gallery occupies a small space at Studioplex in the Old Fourth Ward. The Gallery also retails high-end audio equipment.

Sight + Sound Gallery occupies a small space at Studioplex in the Old Fourth Ward. The Gallery also retails high-end audio equipment.

Ebru Ercan’s “Enchantment” is on display at Sight + Sound Gallery through September 6, 2013. Atlanta Art Blog thanks Caitlin Zelinsky of Sight + Sound for her thoughtful remarks on Ercan’s paintings during our visit.

Dutch Golden Age Paintings at the High Museum–On the Curators and Aging

The girl with a pearl earring is coming to get you, if she hasn’t already. Johannes Vermeer’s (1632-75) painting of a child in fanciful dress is the main point of marketing that the High Museum is using to draw visitors for its current leading show of paintings from the Dutch Golden Age. Her image is everywhere, and in supersized format.

High Museum's south entrance, June 2013.

High Museum’s south entrance, June 2013.

Other artists of note are on display in the show, Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-69) for one. Rembrandt had a far longer career and produced a larger body of work than did Vermeer. Rembrandt, through work and perseverance, and by grace, became an old artist. Perhaps in his time, as in ours, being an old artist gained him courtesy from others, along with a good bit of the cold shoulder.

In the High’s show, Vermeer’s painting of the girl is his only work on display. And yet one entire room is provided for displays of background information about Vermeer and his methods. And another entire room is provided for more Vermeer facts and that solitary painting, “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” which measures 17.5 inches by 15.4 inches.

Visitors viewing "Girl with a Pearl Earring" at the High during Member Preview.

Visitors viewing “Girl with a Pearl Earring” at the High during Member Preview.

In the Rembrandt area of the exhibit, an information board asserts that artists’ work declines in quality as the artist ages. It then graciously allows that Rembrandt was an exception to that general rule. We would like to argue gently that there could be some age discrimination lurking in that statement.

If Rembrandt managed, in his last couple of years, to create work that reflected innovation, boldness of character, and sureness of method, such as in “Portrait of an Elderly Man,” it should be noted that advanced age is no obstacle to those values.

"Portrait of an Elderly Man," Rembrandt van Rijn, oil on canvas, 1667

“Portrait of an Elderly Man,” Rembrandt van Rijn, oil on canvas, 1667, via Wikimedia

Rembrandt seems also to have valued artistic honesty at the time he painted “Portrait of an Elderly Man.” His subject’s mood, dress and posture suggest that the plain presentation of the real man in a particular moment could be made exquisite. The honesty of that moment could in fact be as well valued as a portrait carefully posed with an evocative scarf and a provocative glance.

We probably see Rembrandt’s pursuit of honesty in a self-portrait he painted in the last year of his life.

Self-portrait at 63, Rembrandt van Rijn, oil on canvas, 1669

Self-portrait at 63, Rembrandt van Rijn, oil on canvas, 1669, via Wikimedia.

The May 2013 issue of ARTnews ran a piece by Hilarie Sheets asserting as established fact that “a striking number” of artists “have been highly productive and turned out their best work late into old age, including Bellini (who died at 86), Michelangelo (d. 89), Titian (d. between 86 and 103, depending on your source), Ingres (d. 86), Monet (d. 86), Matisse (d. 84), Picasso (d. 91), O’Keeffe (d. 98), and Bourgeois (d. 98).”

Beware, High Museum writers. We’re keeping our eyes on you.

The High Museum’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” show is on view through September 29, 2013.

Strong Opinion: No More Coffee Propaganda

Atlanta Art Blog loves the art of schoolchildren, especially when it’s displayed in public places. The work of students from Springdale Park Elementary is currently on display at San Francisco Coffee, 1192 North Highland Avenue. We much prefer to see the children’s work than the coffee propaganda that’s currently on display at a certain chain coffee joint in Decatur.
Childaganda

Art in Clayton County: Nice Bricks

You would travel a long way for the sake of art, wouldn’t you? To Paris? To Tokyo?

To Jonesboro, Georgia?

The Arts Clayton Gallery in historic Jonesboro held an opening reception on Friday, June 7, for a showing of several artists’ work. The gallery is on Main Street just down from the beautiful old train depot. The gallery’s interior is an architectural beauty, especially the sexy brick walls.

Gallery staffer Courtney Hurst, at far right, hosted a busy night of art lovers.

Gallery staffer Courtney Hurst, at far right, hosted a busy night of art lovers.

Our favorite piece among the paintings, photographs and ceramics on display, was a photograph by Marla Puziss, who had alerted us to this Jonesboro event. Titled “Fisherman’s Wife,” and apparently shot in Spain, the piece shows a young woman sitting at a boat launch with a baby on her knee. An honest, intimate moment.

Arts Clayton Gallery’s website is not currently updated, but it’s nice to know the Gallery recently hosted the quilts of Gee’s Bend. If you call the Gallery, I’m sure they’ll let you know how long the current show will be up.

Landscapes, idylls and ideas: three artists at Poem 88

At Poem 88 you get something extra, a lagniappe. It’s not a cheapie thrown in like a thirteenth beignet, though. It’s something fully nourishing, a dish in itself. During the current show, it’s the title theme, “Et in Arcadia ego.” Even in that idyllic village, people die. Poem 88 refers you to the paintings that address this idea, and then draws a connection to the works currently on display. It’s delicious.

The three artists in the show make works that refer to a kind of idyllic village.

Allyson Ross shows sculptural works on paper, and they depict scenes from the Yosemite Valley.

Half Dome, detail, by Allyson Ross, via allyson-ross.com

Half Dome, detail, by Allyson Ross, via allyson-ross.com

Ted Fair shows photographs that seem to be from a spirit of purposeful wandering to find the strange juxtapositions in the American landscape.

Untitled, by Ted Fair

Untitled, by Ted Fair

Sean Abrahams shows drawings that manifest an artist’s imagining of a specific cartoon-like wilderness.

Landscape, by Sean Abrahams

Landscape, by Sean Abrahams

Continue reading

Free Art Decatur: indulging our worst/best impulses

Atlanta Art Blog abandoned all objectivity last Saturday and indulged our deep and unholy greed by participating at the Free Art Decatur event. Free art would be hidden around Decatur. We would find it. And keep it.

The event was supposed to begin at 2:00 p.m., but we were scanning Twitter (#freeartdecatur) for clues immediately after our cheapskate lunch in the industrial workshop known as the cafeteria at DeKalb Farmers Market.

Death head by @DeadATL

Death head by @DeadATL

As we turned onto Church Street, we scored: Right in front of Java Monkey, a death’s head by @DeadATL. Awesome. This was just the beginning. By the end of the day we would most assuredly possess enough art to fill the bleak and barren break room.

Then suddenly there were no clues, and we were on foot next to Decatur’s strolling families, its students, its yuppies. We searched everywhere for art. Is that free art there?

Unknown artist, door behind Eddie's Attic

Unknown artist, door behind Eddie’s Attic

Is that free art over there?

priority whale, by Ghost, behind The Artisan building

priority whale, by Ghost, behind The Artisan building

We took a break in front of the Seen Gallery. It calmed us, just sitting on the bench outside its locked door.

Cycloptopi, by @larryholland1

Cycloptopi, by @larryholland1

Completely clueless, we strolled. We began to notice twenty-somethings snapping photos of strange corners. Was that an artist? We snooped into the back alley next to the dance studio on Decatur Square. And there in the alley, adjacent to a large mural by S. Parker, we found our second piece, a Cycloptopi by @Larryholland1. The Cycloptopi is the great symbol of Art Greed, with its all-seeing eye and its arms for grabbing.

Collector extraordinaire, Britney, holding a recent acquisition

Collector extraordinaire, Britney, holding a recent acquisition, believed to be by @evereman

Alas, all sorts of mental distractions soon interrupted our hunt. But not before we met the great art hunter known as Britney. The hour of Two O’clock had barely had enough time to stand up and yawn, and Britney had already found about six different pieces, was talking a mile a minute, and couldn’t contain her excitement for more. Her friends, Paris and Nate the bearded one, cruised closer to our speed than Britney did.

Funerary graffiti in Castleberry Hill

How does a concrete block wall double as a time machine?

Stencil on wall on Larkin Street

Stencil on wall on Larkin Street

This graffito at ankle-height in Castleberry Hill, on Larkin Street, may be easy to overlook. Since it’s across the street from the Carl Williams Funeral Home, your mind may turn to the fragility of modern life. But once you fall under that royal profile’s spell . . . Continue reading

Duncan Johnson’s Wood Paintings at Marcia Wood Gallery

Duncan Johnson’s works on display at the Marcia Wood Gallery put me in that certain mood when walking out into the woods, for no other reason than to be among plants and animals, and noticing that I hope to find some treasure there, some little lost cache of jewels, or a gold coin, or a letter from Walt Whitman. All of the things in the woods are jewels in themselves–if you know something about them. When it comes to gold coins, though, you don’t have to know anything. It’s gold and you’ve hit paydirt.

In that act of finding, there’s also the beauty of a story. “I was just walking along in the woods enjoying the trees and plants, and I saw this glint of light on the ground.”

Johnson’s works are composed of wood that he has reclaimed, not from the woods, but from landfills and construction sites. He forms the found wood into rectangular strips and assembles them into flat collages. He adds straight pencil lines and nails. If you look at photographs of the works, they look like patchworks of varying rectangles that either have painted surfaces or the natural wood surface.

Bend, by Duncan Johnson, 2012, 24 x 21

Bend, by Duncan Johnson, 2012, 24 x 21

At first they seem impenetrable, like a color field. The opportunity for play comes when you look at the work in person and see the variations in grain patterns, the paint in its varying styles and states of decay, the natural wood punctuated by knot holes and nail holes and perhaps gunshot holes. Portions of the works, with their colorful stripes, sometimes resemble flags.

The wood that provides the material for these pieces is of course three-dimensional, but Johnson has made these pieces flat like paintings. On the other hand, the pieces are three-dimensional in one important way: beneath the knot holes and nail holes the viewer sees the darkness of space rather than the material to which the wood strips are attached. As I wandered visually among the knot holes and bullet holes, the faded colors, the flecking, I imagined I could peer into those holes and see something behind or under the surfaces. What would I see? Surely it would be some of my fellow human beings, having some sort of drama, or making something.

Colorcode, by Duncan Johnson, 2012, 48 x 60

Colorcode, by Duncan Johnson, 2012, 48 x 60

This brought to mind Leo Steinberg’s theory that some of the work of Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns reflected a desire to use the picture plane differently. Instead of using the picture plane to serve as a kind of window onto another world, it would serve as a work bench that can hold any conceivable object and explore any operational process. Steinberg called this the “flatbed picture plane.” The work bench analogy is critical. In referring to Rauschenberg’s “Bed” of 1955, in which the artist had applied paint to his own bed and then hung it on a wall, Steinberg says, “The horizontality of the bed relates to ‘making’ as the vertical of the Renaissance picture plane related to seeing.”

Johnson’s work plays out this theory. In the colored rectangles and rusted holes where bolts and nails once fastened together the pieces of a house or an office floor, it is possible to peer into the making of human wooden structures. This includes the ideas that guide those acts of making: Johnson’s superimposed geometrical lines and shiny nail heads suggest a reference to design drawings, the process of preparing to build, to occupy and to “civilize.”

Firetower, by Duncan Johnson, 2013, 18 x 16

Firetower, by Duncan Johnson, 2013, 18 x 16

What is also present that is not manmade is the wear and tear of time that is visible on these flat surfaces. What time does, what time works upon objects, is intensely present in the beautiful breaking down of old maroons and yellows, the tiny bloating of ambient moisture in natural wood, and the holes that form where the wood is weak.

I am glad I wandered into the woods and discovered Duncan Johnson’s work. It has the capacity to suggest both an exploration of the manmade and also an exploration of what is not.

Duncan Johnson’s work is at Marcia Wood Gallery through May 25, 2013.