Tag Archives: Galleries

Video: Whitney and Micah Stansell at Whitespace

We don’t know whom to thank for the “Scarlet Air” show at Whitespace. Yes, we know the names of the players. Susan Bridges, owner of Whitespace. Micah and Whitney Stansell, the artists.

That being said, we think this work transcends the players. Therefore, we thank God, and the Buddha, and William Shakespeare, and Goddess Athena, and Pachamama. We thank Ingmar Bergman. We thank the parents of the Stansells. We thank the Muses.

“Scarlet Air” is a film utilizing three full-size screens in the brick enclave of Whitespace’s big room. It’s a film, we wanted it to be a film, and don’t argue that it is not a film and therefore we don’t need a comfortable chair in which to sit and view. In Whitespace we sat on the brick floor. Perhaps we could have sat on the little stool there, or could have stood like gallery rats. But we are old and need to sit.

Two of the three screens in play during projection of "Scarlet Air" at Whitespace.

Two of the three screens in play during projection of “Scarlet Air” at Whitespace.

Also we needed to sit because it was not at all tolerable to watch “Scarlet Air” once or twice through. We needed to watch it several times. It’s a film simultaneously 1. overloaded with images that need three big projections running simultaneously, and two soundtracks, and brand-sweet colors, and sounds that vibrate your back if you lean against the right part of the gallery wall, and 2. shot through with holes, skips in narrative, sonically obscured dialogue, and unexplained imagery.

Still from "Scarlet Air," courtesy of Whitespace.

Still from “Scarlet Air,” courtesy of Whitespace.

Setting aside the artists’ statement for the time being, what is this thing, “Scarlet Air,” about? Most of the attention is given to a young woman having both typical and atypical experiences in romance, work, friendships, and family, and these are portrayed in settings and styles from a few decades ago. The narration is in a woman’s voice, perhaps the voice of that same young woman who is now older. Part of the narration says something like, “This is a memorial; this is a remembrance.”

Each scene in the film is followed by a still shot of a few key objects from the scene. They are laid on a bedspread—the model-500 telephones, powdered doughnuts in cellophane, hammer and gloves, VHS cassettes with Hollywood movie labels. Objects that seem to function as memory triggers, or possibly memory-creators.

Meanwhile the narrator reflects on the repetition in job tasks, the atmosphere of rural outdoor settings, the longing for connection with certain people, the nature of ordinary objects in daily life.

Still from "Scarlet Air," courtesy of Whitespace.

Still from “Scarlet Air,” courtesy of Whitespace.

The musical score (by Blake Williams) sounds very much like a conventional film score, though perhaps a subdued one, pursuing melodic themes, enhancing certain scenes’ emotions or tensions, implying an emotional context that is not obvious in the film’s visual elements, or drama, or narration. Overall, the score harmonizes with the narrator’s attitude and concerns, a voice of reflection, of loss and low-intensity grief, of earnest interpretation of youthful experiences, and of the fragile confidence of a maturing young woman. A young woman whose thoughts are philosophical and seek out the subtleties of life’s threads.

Our culture is awash in movies and supposedly high-quality television series, just as it is awash in novels and lists of the 10 dieting tips that will change you forever. The Stansells and other poets go on making their exhaustively detailed works that sail right over the cultural cloud and address those subtleties of our lives within it.

For that we are eternally grateful.

“Scarlet Air,” by Whitney and Micah Stansell, is on view at Whitespace through May 10, 2014.

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

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.

Vernon Robinson Sr. Paintings at U*Space

Let There Be (detail), Vernon Robinson Sr., 2010, 18x48, Acrylic on Canvas on Board

Let There Be (detail), Vernon Robinson Sr., 2010, 18×48, Acrylic on Canvas on Board

The closest I have gotten to a drug trip lately was visiting Walgreen’s after dark to get some antibiotics and a Russell Stover carmel.

I read somewhere that Vernon Robinson Sr.’s art takes viewers “on a life affirming Afro-surrealistic mind trip!” I might be too distant from those references to agree, but I found Robinson’s art more down to earth than that.

Some of Robinson’s paintings from 2006 to 2012 are collected in “How I See What I Saw,” displayed in one of U*Space’s colorful galleries.

The paintings in acrylic feature a love of swooping patterns, colors that remind the viewer of tropical fish, and portraits of eyes that seem to have visited other worlds. Yes, the fact that those eyes may have traveled could lead a person to think “mind trip.” Still, I don’t believe these are images that Robinson dreamed or hallucinated, or intended as a supplement to intoxication.

Robinson’s boldest works collect brilliant patterns like a quilter collects patches of fabric and shapes them into harmonious collages. In “Let There Be,” “Ain’t Nothing But the Blues,” and “The King is Coming II,” the compositions contain exuberant and daring combinations of swatches. They also ultimately observe symmetry across the plain of the canvas. Unlike a product of intoxication, these works represent controlled exploration. They are like an improvised solo, set against the repeating harmonic pattern of a blues.

Unlike the blues, most of Robinson’s paintings contain little that is dark or quiet or slow in tempo. His tone is generally bold, bright and steady. When the image includes those eyes mentioned before, they provide even more assurance of a guiding vision along the way. There will be no groping in the dark.

A series of small paintings, two-and-a-half by three-and-a-half inches, seems to be a departure from forms described by the music paintings, if I may call them that. These small paintings are from 2012. They look like a collection of brilliantly hued clouds, shifting, coalescing, but rarely hardening into anything like liquids or solids. Though the colors are bright, and though the canvases are diminutive, these works point toward a dimmer place that Robinson may be searching.

They may represent a less controlled exploration than symmetry allows. We look forward to Robinson’s future discoveries.

“How I See What I Saw,” Solo Exhibition of Vernon Robinson Sr. at U*Space Gallery on Edgewood Avenue through Feb 24, 2013.

Update: The U*Space gallery closed, according to an e-mail from owner Terence Jackson on December 2, 2013.

Photography: “Reflected Imagery of the African-American Struggle for Respect”

"Bloody Sunday," Selma, Alabama, March 7, 1965, United Press International for Daily News

“Bloody Sunday,” Selma, Alabama, March 7, 1965, United Press International for Daily News

In the midst of U*Space’s colorful walls, paintings and books, a line of black and white photographs hangs like a shade against sunlight. U*Space’s founder and curator, Terence E. Jackson, selected the photographs from his collection of press images reaching back to the 1940’s. They mainly show African-Americans in the midst of intense conflict with whites.

One might sum up the exhibit by saying these are civil rights movement photographs. However, Jackson selected these images in part because of the inspiration he found in seeing the ordinary people who carried out the struggle. It can feel very limiting to refer to the “civil rights movement” when you’re looking at some of these pictures of people and places you’ve probably never heard of before.

For example, there’s an image on display of a black teenage boy standing up to a white teenage boy who thinks he can dictate who uses the sidewalk. The first boy is pointing a defiant finger in the second boy’s face, while the first boy’s sister stands slightly behind and between the boys. She seems to be looking straight into the camera.

That’s all there is inside the frame–three children. One reaction is, “There’s no ‘movement’ there.” It’s just a fight. Even if the white boy is motivated by racism, and even if the black boy is motivated by anti-racism, what you see is a fight. That means the heat of aggression, the danger of injury and humiliation—all of the things that anyone experiences when doing battle. The directness of the confrontation in this image seems to make the history that’s at issue more present, more palpable, more stomach-turning.

Of course that fight had a context. It’s an image from 1958 in Little Rock, Arkansas. That was the year after the Little Rock 9 enrolled in a high school that was segregated. No wonder the mainstream newspaper photographers had this unique subject matter that sometimes won photojournalism awards: they were pointing their cameras at children going down the sidewalk. Otherwise we might wonder why a street fight was newsworthy.

That picture is one of the few in this collection that identified by name a person captured in the picture. The black boy was identified as Johnny Gray, age 15. The white boy was not identified by name. Do you wonder why not?

Jackson points out another aspect of the courage that is frequently on display in these pictures of police fights and sit-ins and national guard arrests: The African-Americans being photographed lived in the places where they were fighting. These are not pictures of national leaders who were making news by visiting civil rights hot spots. Johnny Gray most likely lived in Little Rock. His sister was probably looking into that camera thinking that her picture might be in the paper and identified by readers as a resister to white supremacy. What individual courage would she have to summon? Who would be available to assist her in fighting off attackers?

U*Space displays the pictures with their original text—the captions and sometimes the original stories. It’s occasionally clear from the newspapers or wire services who wrote about the photographs that they had a point of view, and it wasn’t friendly to the struggle. In reporting on a conflict that occurred in Chicago in the summer of 1964, a news report stated that the strife began “when the white owner of a liquor store accused a Negro woman of trying to steal a fifth of gin. She claimed she had been slapped around. The rumor-mongers embroidered the story and the troublemakers turned it into a full-scale riot.”

It’s distressing to see a couple of rooms full of pictures of white police and national guardsmen fighting with African-Americans. White people’s hatred is made plain here. A club rammed up an African-American man’s crotch. A bulldozer preparing to run over a protester lying prone before it. A policeman swinging a club with great determination to inflict injury, while his own face registers a flinching from the violence. These are ugly facts of our history.

In fact it seems like a history exhibit, with these black and white photographs accompanied by newspaper reporting. So why does U*Space display the exhibit in an art gallery? The simple version of Jackson’s impassioned answer is that, as a curator he is inspired by the struggles and courage and victories of ordinary people. He says he enjoys the fantastic that is found in art, but that reality is a thousand times more brilliant.

“Seems Like I Done Had To Fight My Whole Life” – Reflected Imagery of the African-American Struggle for Respect, at U*Space Gallery on Edgewood Avenue through February 24, 2013.

Update: The U*Space gallery closed, according to an e-mail from owner Terence Jackson on December 2, 2013.