Tag Archives: Art and commerce

Looking at Atlanta’s Art with the “Creative Class”

On the subject of exploring for art in Atlanta, the first question is, What do you mean by Atlanta? Well that question is related to our identity at Atlanta Art Blog. On our “About” page we make reference to “metropolitan Atlanta.” That means we go outside the Atlanta city limits. We venture into Decatur. We sneak into Jonesboro. We’ve heard that there may be some art in Chamblee, hidden behind some antiques.

Poster by unknown artist. Private collection. Location: Sandy Springs, white couple 40-45 years old.

Poster by unknown artist. Private collection. Location: Sandy Springs, white couple 40-45 years old.

In the snow-induced apocalypse of January 28, 2014, it became very clear to the world that our “area,” that is, the “Atlanta area” is divided, as Maria Saporta reported. She’s talking about politics. It’s also true that we’re divided by race, and divided by socio-economic class.

Is the Atlanta area divided by art? Good question. In wealthier households you might expect to find higher-end art. The more interesting question would be, how does socio-economic class affect how a household views and uses the art that it has?

RA MIller, "Blow Oskar," image courtesy of ramiller.us/art.html. A version was observed in PIne Hills home, white couple 50-60 years old.

RA MIller, “Blow Oskar,” image courtesy of ramiller.us/art.html. A version was observed in PIne Hills home, white couple 50-60 years old.

Richard Florida has gained renown in recent years for his socio-economic studies, and his identification of something called the “creative class,” as distinguished from the “working class” and the “service class.” Florida defines the creative class as the people “who work in science and technology, business and management, arts, culture, media, and entertainment, law and healthcare professions.”

In a story last year, Florida used census data to show that in Atlanta, members of the creative class “make up 36.3 percent of the metro’s workers (above the national average of 32.6 percent). They average $73,272 in wages and salaries, better than the national average of $70,890, and over $25,000 more than the average wages ($46,442) for the metro.”

Al Jacobs, "Kosher" (detail). Private Collection. Location: PIne Hills home, white couple 45-55 years old.

Al Jacobs, “Kosher” (detail). Private Collection. Location: PIne Hills home, white couple 45-55 years old.

So where is this creative class? Answer: north. Florida mapped out, by census tract, where each of the classes resides in metro Atlanta. You can see the map here.

Of course it’s highly significant that the classes are somewhat separated from each other. The area directly southeast of downtown (around East Atlanta) is clearly a place of the creative class, but most of that class lives to the north of middle Atlanta, ranging from midtown Atlanta into a wide swath from Kennesaw to Suwanee and up into Alpharetta. Combining population density with this class-based map, the center of the creative class may be around Dunwoody or Sandy Springs. (In case you were wondering, Atlanta Art Blog’s offices are not in a creative part of town.)

It so happens that we checked out some of the art we saw in the homes of the creative class over the past several weeks. For the sake of having fodder for speculation, this post includes images that we observed.

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.

Seen on TV: Former Atlantan’s Work on Set; Sells at Target

I look through the art for sale at Target when I’m there. Some of the pieces have signatures but when I try to research the artists I generally find nothing. One notable exception is the work of Rodney White. Last time I was at Target on Edgewood Avenue he had a piece for sale (there were two of them available) called “Today.” It’s packed in cardboard printed with the artist’s website address.

From his website and several other places around the internet I learned that he hails from Augusta, Georgia, and he lived in Atlanta for several years before moving to Brooklyn.

On his “Rodney White Art” Facebook page he posts clips of his work as it appears on television in set decorations. Some of the programs listed are “Californication” and “The Office.”

Target’s website gives the following plug for the “Today” piece: “Spruce up your room with modern art when you hang the painting ‘Today’ from American painter Rodney White. White’s work is inspired by vintage advertising and Americana. This optimistic piece would look great in just about any room, such as a rustic den, game room or kitchen. The versatile painting is already mounted, so all you have to do is find room on your walls.”

By the way, “Today” was priced at about $54.00 at Target but was marked down for clearance.

Painter from Tucker loves Walmart, is Profiled in The New Yorker

Painter Brendan O’Connell is featured in the current (February 11) issue of The New Yorker in a piece by Susan Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief. O’Connell says he grew up in Tucker, Georgia, although in this New Yorker piece it is referred to as “Atlanta.” He lists a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Emory.

The hook for Orlean’s story, titled “Walart: A Career Epiphany in a Supermarket,” is that O’Connell paints scenes inside Walmarts. He loves the colors of products lined up in the aisles, and the sense that Walmarts are an important social meeting place comparable to the ancient markets of Europe.

You can see samples of O’Connell’s “Walmart Series” at http://www.brendanoconnell.com .

I have questions.

Walmart, surely, is not the only place, even in rural America, where colorful products and chance social encounters are on display. Why does O’Connell return again and again to Walmart? Orlean believes it safe to say that O’Connell has visited more Walmarts than anyone who doesn’t work for the company.

He claims to be neither an apologist nor a defender of Walmart, which has come under attack for everything from its labor practices to its environmental policies. Yet he argues on his website that “Walmart is the most visited interior architecture on the planet, and it is quite possibly the most democratic.”

Let us not pre-judge, but for all his claimed neutrality on Walmart politics, you have to wonder about the possibility that an artist could borrow upon a super-retail brand for the advancement of his work.

Another question: Was his suburban Atlanta background a factor in his adoration of big-box retail? Unfortunately, Orlean did not press the artist on this urgent issue. Did she even visit Tucker? Did she call? Did she e-mail?

O’Connell no longer lives in Tucker, and we don’t know how often he returns to visit. According to O’Connell’s website, he has shown his work at galleries in Atlanta, but it has been awhile (Reinike Gallery, 2001). Next time he comes to Atlanta, let’s take him to American Chainsaw & 2-Cycle. It’s right there in Tucker’s zip code.