Category Archives: Art in Atlanta

The New Year is Clay. Let’s Make Something Good.

Where will you look for art in 2014? Sometimes we wonder if, in Atlanta, we only hear about a certain set of well marketed, media-anointed galleries, museums, and events. If so, we are allowing ourselves to be limited. We may even be allowing other people’s preferences to inhibit our own natural curiosity and wonder.

David Drake, "Jug," 1836, and "Jar," 1858. Collection of the High Museum of Art.

David Drake, “Jug,” 1836, and “Jar,” 1858. Collection of the High Museum of Art.

We were happy to see the ArtsATL website review an exhibit that is currently on view at the Hodge Podge Coffeehouse and Gallery in East Atlanta. Hodge Podge is an amazing place for its abundant natural light and its spaciousness. Over time, the quality of art there has been uneven. The ArtsATL review noted that Hodge Podge is not perfectly set up as a gallery. But then, it’s not supposed to be.

Atlanta Art Blog strives to find art in unexpected places. In 2013, for example, we fell for awhile under the influence of Free Art Friday. Our review reflected the open-mindedness that the Decatur event inspired.

David Drake, "Jar," 1858, detail. Collection of High Museum of Art

David Drake, “Jar,” 1858, detail. Collection of High Museum of Art

Lately the decorative arts have attracted us, especially ceramics. For example, we read the book Carolina Clay, by Leonard Todd (WW Norton & Co.: 2008). The book explores the life and times of the potter Dave Drake, who was a slave in Edgefield, South Carolina. The High Museum of Art exhibits work by Dave in its permanent collection.

But the term “decorative arts” seems a ridiculous term to use for the pottery that Dave created under the violent and volatile conditions of slavery. It’s not that the pottery Dave created lacks elegance or  Continue reading

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Clark Atlanta University Art Collection: Ivory Tower or Battlefield?

Perhaps this is old news to many, but Atlanta Art Blog insists on repeating the news: There’s a luscious book out about Clark Atlanta University’s collection of art!

It’s called In the Eye of the Muses, is edited by Tina Dunkley, and contains beautiful color plates displaying the art that the University has collected over the past seventy years.

Enough said.

No, not yet.

Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta) began collecting the art in conjunction with holding its . . . . brace yourself for a string of adjectives . . . . annual national juried art competition and exhibition. That event came to an end in 1970, the year that the jury was all black for the first time at this all black competition.

“The Black Knight,” by Geraldine McCullough. The image above is a scan from the book, which was published by Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries.

“The Black Knight,” by Geraldine McCullough. The image above is a scan from the book, which was published by Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries.

Continue reading

Tripping and Bounding: Mary Engel at the W Hotel in Midtown

Spend a little time in a hotel lobby and you can feel like you just took a good, long trip.

That’s true even when the hotel lobby exhibits the same design sense as the typical drab room in a chain hotel.

An Engel animal, at right, prepares to bound into the W Hotel's lobby.

An Engel animal, at right, prepares to bound into the W Hotel’s lobby.

No fear of that at the W Hotel in midtown, which is now hosting an exhibit of Mary Engel’s sculptures.

The midtown W’s lobby and restaurant area struts some wild stuff. The ceiling swoops, the walls glow with multi-colored lights, and the furniture suggests a space odyssey.

An art patron admires an Engel work on display near the hotel's front desk.

An art patron admires an Engel work on display near the hotel’s front desk.

Engel’s work on display is her signature animal sculptures, where the surface of the animal is covered in small objects like coins or miniature toys. She has an elephant done up in bullets.

Bronze works by Engel seen in the foreground here, on a hotel patio, with mural by Molly Rose Freeman in the background.

Bronze works by Engel seen in the foreground here, on a W patio, with mural by Molly Rose Freeman in the background.

Engel’s sculptures are beautiful, and usually convey a gentle quality crossed with a great, confounding level of surrealist detail.

Right now, the lobby at the W in midtown is a really good trip.

Mary Engel’s sculptures are on display at the W in midtown through December 21, 2013. Marcia Wood’s Gallery arranged the exhibit.

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.