Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Oh Baby

The Detroit Cobras played at The Earl Friday night and it was the first time I had seen them live. The band covers oldies and R&B and seems more at home in a dive bar than anywhere. Lead singer Rachel Nagy had a presence that was as imposing as her voice is powerful. She had a lit cigarette in one hand and a drink in the other, constantly replacing them both as she sang one short and soulful song after another. While being covers, the band reinvents each song as their own, pouring a whole new attitude into the music that makes the crowd shake their hips involuntarily.

Pitchfork had this to say about the band: "Covering old cuts of r&b and soul as they do, you might expect Cobras vocalist Rachel Nagy to try on her damndest Carla Thomas or Aretha Franklin, or at least sing with cockeyed arm on hip. But instead Nagy sings with a cocky, slow-burn confidence that's throaty enough to handle the material but is all kinds of unique, too. Her voice places the Cobras on the cusp between purism and reinterpretation."


Friday, July 27, 2007

Central and Remote

New Grizzly Bear video by Jesse Ewles

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Cardinal or Turkey bird?

Out of the three street smart and rough looking birds that visit my new bird feeder, one is possibly the ugliest bird I have ever seen. A bald cardinal, and while you can't see it in the picture, he actually has one little red feather sticking out of the top of his head. Charming in that "only in Atlanta" kind of way.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Atlanta's Got Talent?

The Contemporary's "Atlanta Biennial" called Talent Show opened on June 8th and I spent last Saturday afternoon there (July 21st) watching various performances that seemed as varied in subject and style as the rest of the show. It was the first "Biennial"organized by the new head curator of The Contemporary, Stuart Horodner.

I had trouble getting into the Talent Show theme of the group show and it seemed more like an odd assortment of arts and crafts than a celebration of Atlantan's talents, the term "Biennial" seeming inappropriate. For me the show highlighted the great question in Contemporary art of how exactly one goes about defining what is "good" art in an artworld that embraces any practice, from graffiti to knitting, if it has the right spin (and curator) behind it. For example, the image above is a video by the very accomplished Atlanta artist Charles Huntley Nelson, who created a video "examining aspects of race, identity, and transformation" using references from the films The Invisible Man and Metropolis. Below is an image from a wall littered with paintings by the "Open Studio Art Group" which is a "weekly therapeutic art program for the residents of The Jewish Tower" (a retirement home I think).

While retirees are just as capable of making pertinent contemporary art as anyone else, the contrast between these images speaks for itself and I couldn't help but think that many artist in the show may have found their work a bit devalued by the work it was shown along side. In many ways, for me, it comes down to the artist's intent and a discrepancy between intellectual ambitions of the works.

Another example: the intricate and conceptually layered painting above by Jiha Moon, who is represented by Saltworks Gallery, was shown in the same gallery as the embroidered picture below by Lana Adams.

This show could easily start that never ending debate over "what is art?" and also tosses in the question "what is talent?" without giving any definite opinion. Perhaps the show could have more successfully answered that question if the public was able to curate the show instead of Horodner. Horodner likened the show to "Project Runway" and "America's Got Talent" but then curated the show, projecting his own agenda into something supposedly democratic. What if all of the entries had been put up on a website, to be voted on by the public? How different would the outcome of that show have been? It certainly could not have been any more random, but would have offered much more insight into how Atlanta does define "talent".
Another highlight of the show by Suellen Parker's digital photographs examining our culture's obsession with beauty and the abuses we endure in pursuit of it.

I enjoyed the performances on Saturday and found them more successfully fulfilling the promises of the show than the visual art. As always, the performance by Ronnog and Steve Seaberg was great, and seeing them for the first time indoors I was able to hear more of the spoken word poetry, the assertion "presidents are maggots" still resounding in my brain.

Shana Robbins performance outdoors was mesmerizing as she moved about the courtyard in a dress and mask made of broken mirror that reflected brilliant little bits of light on the ground all around her like a swarm of fireflies.

Talent Show at The Contemporary is up through August 11th 2007. More info at http://www.thecontemporary.org/

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Real Bling Was On the Street

The Castleberry Hill art openings Friday night were pretty uneventful and it seemed the artists and gallery goers usually energizing the scene were off on summer vacation. While the month of July in NYC is used by galleries to show off themed group shows of younger artist and ambitiously experimental work, the Castleberry Hill galleries instead seemed to have decided to play it safe in July and hope to make some sales to the less daring collectors.

At Marcia Wood Gallery, the well known Encaustic artist Joanne Mattera curated the show, called "Luxe, Calme, et Volupte" meaning "A Meditation on Visual Pleasure." Mattera refers to the show as "unabashedly beautiful" and it relishes colorful abstract work. I guess that really just strikes up a debate on the definition of beauty which, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder. While it was a meditation on color abstraction and an interesting display of a wide variety of painting processes, I didn't find the show very riveting, conceptual, or daring. The curator avoided questioning the purpose or place of abstract painting in contemporary art and instead seemed to bask in the romance of it.

I thought the painting by Tim Macfarlane was easy on the eyes:

The ink on paper by David Ambrose had incredibly intricate detail:
And Trevor's sweater went perfectly with the works by Donna Sharrett, which reminded one person of a "doyley":

Probably the most interesting show of the night was at Romo Gallery. The three person group show was done is association with The National Black Arts Festival and focused on modern interpretations of the traditional art form of portraiture.
Both Nekisha Durrett and Jacob Dwight used digital technology and modern printing methods to create their work. While very different in approach both artists used the iconic African American silhouette/profile to give identity to the otherwise abstracted figures. This imagery reminded me of, and was possibly influenced by, Kara Walker.
I especially liked Durrett's abandonment of the rectangular/framed format in favor of printing on more commercial materials in stylized shapes. The format seemed fitting for her linear graphic work.
Jacob Dwight:

Nekisha Durrett:

One thing I hadn't been exposed to yet was the new club Noir. Opened by Wertz Contemporary owner Jason Wertz, the new club is actually attached to the gallery with an entrance directly from the gallery floor. The motorcycles out front provided a bit of bling I wasn't use to seeing in Castleberry Hill. I wonder how this pairing will influence the artwork shown at Wertz.

The new shows at Marcia Wood Gallery and Romo Gallery run through August 25th.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

News Flash!

It took a couple of days for news to spread around the neighborhood, but the birds have found my newly hung bird feeder. Here is a shot of the first bird I spotted going in for a closer look.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

More Alela...

New video for "The Rifle" off of The Pirate's Gospel

I'll have you know

Alela Diane... http://www.myspace.com/alelamusic

Monday, July 9, 2007

On Vinyl

Saturday night was "The Vinyl Show" at New Street. 40 artists created works of art on vinyl records to be auctioned off. The place was quite crowded by the end of the auction at 11pm with people intent on getting pieces to add to their personal collection of local artist. I found it reaffirming that so many people do collect the work of emerging local artist and are eager to run around the gallery, marking up their bids on various works as each new bidder ups the ante. When the clock struck 11 people ripped the bidding sheets off the wall in great triumph.

I put in a bid on Brandy Collier's fabric piece:

And Meshakai Wolf's piece "Wound":

But since my budget doesn't currently allot for "art collecting" I was eventually outbid. Hopefully it was a prosperous night for the gallery. Atlanta desperately needs galleries like New Street and it was the perfect show for art patrons to give their monetary support.
Three bands played but considering the first band didn't start until close to midnight, I only managed to catch Hubcap City who played in the backyard. They had an experimental sound that fit the outdoor environment of light-flooded trees perfectly. People sat in a circle around them, everyone a bit intoxicated by the odd assortment of characters. You can hear them on myspace at: www.myspace.com/hubcapcity

Hubcap City


On Saturday I went by Eyedrum to check out "Furious! The Angry Show" curated by Natacha Roussel. I was sort of expecting to see a completely trashed space, maybe a few belligerent artists ranting (or at least a video of them doing so), or maybe a TV screen with a bat sticking out of it. Instead, what I found wasn't so much a show exploring the idea of fury as a show of artist letting off steam or simply illustrating some of today's issues, such as the prison system, racism, and especially the war in Iraq.

Cara Pastore's "Cracker in the Box" Series. (UV Coated Digital Print, Laminated)

Apparently I am not the only one who felt this way about the success of the theme. Roussel acknowledged this is in the curatorial statement saying:
"Curating a show with fury as its theme seemed like an exciting endeavor when I first accepted the responsibility. I had visions of Eyedrum transformed into some kind of inferno, a place where visitors would leave feeling shocked, drained, yet exhilarated. I expected artists to present me with their most primal, gestural, out of control work. I have since come to realize that while an artist may be inspired in the midst of a bout with dark forces, the work of art produced, in most cases, will be created after the storm. This often leaves us with work that is extremely self-conscious, almost apologetic, vulnerable."

There was certainly an element of meditation in the show, such as Jonathan Feild's "Maxwell's Demon [New York Times 2003]". In his work, Feild's reproduces images from the NYT on the first day of each month in 2003 using steel pins on rubber. The materials created an interesting visual effect, forcing the viewer to move around the piece, looking at it in different lights trying to get a grasp on the imagery. There was an element of mystery and underlying danger. Maybe it was because the piece was included in a show called "Furious" but I kept expecting, almost hoping, for an act of violence to eventually be discerned from the pins. Instead the image never becomes too sensational or riveting. For me, like most of the "Furious" work, the piece is missing something- that shock of realization that out of the darkness a new understanding is found.

The highlight of the show for me was "Bomber Boy" by Dietrich Wegner. The sculpture of a small kid with dynamite strapped around his torso was grabbing. Wegner wrote about the piece:
"Bomber Boy is an attempt to understand the face behind the violence. He grew from the American media and general public's failure to acknowledge the humanity of the citizens of Iraq and Palestine. He also formed out of the realization that, should roles be reversed, any American could become a confused little boy loaded with dynamite, caught up in a world seemingly out of his control."

The sculpture haunted me for the remainder of the day, and I blame it largely on the socks. Something about those little kid socks, white with the grey toe, there was such an innocence and vulnerability. I found myself wanting to protect this little kid, feeling sick at the idea of children being used in war, feeling sicker at the thought of all those kids who are being used in war, and in a way, I became really furious.

The show runs through August 4th 2007. More info at http://www.eydrum.org/

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Viva La Cabaret!

Friday night was the "Viva La Frida" show opening at whitespace to commemorate the 100th birthday of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. I have a piece in the show but didn't really know what to expect going in, except that there would be cabaret dancers.

First I ran into Angel out on the street, who gave me my first glimpse of the infamous Iphone. After a quick demonstration, I realized how badly I need one and how I most definitely can't afford it.

Then I headed into the show following the beat of Latin music and hearing promises of margaritas. I was a bit taken aback by how absolutely packed it was. The entire courtyard was buzzing with people and the margarita line went all the way to the street.

I managed to get there just in time for all of the entertainment, starting with a performance piece by Peggy Dobbins, that involved her dressed in a nun outfit and shouting out various things to the crowd that they would in turn call back in response.

This was then followed up by the "Dames Aflame" cabaret dancers. They arrived in Frida-esque clothing, with flowers in their hair, and quickly striped down to next to nothing. I kept waiting for the nun to reappear for some interesting new dialogue but to no avail. It was a great show anyway and the music was so contagious I could tell I wasn't the only one trying to resist joining in.

Aside from the choreographed show of skin, the other highlight for me was the film by photographer Jody Fausett in collaboration with Shana Robbins. I was a bit mesmerized by it and watched it at least three times before able to pull myself away. It was in Fausett's style of high contrast and saturated colors with surreal imagery. Out of everything in the show I felt this film took a different approach to celebrating Frida Kahlo legacy and in many ways was the most successful. There was an insinuation of hidden narrative and imagery used to create something out of a dream or the subconscious. The piece was less a direct illustration of Kahlo and more a work celebrating her influence. There was of course the one not-so-subtle inclusion of the uni-brow that Robbins was sporting in the film but that sexy little detail was just the flare a piece about Frida requires.

Photographer Benita Carr had a poignant piece about the body. Taking Kahlo's trademark attribute of abundant facial hair, Carr demonstrated the abuses the body undergoes to meet our culture's ideals of beauty, by documenting the waxing off of a mustache. But by including an image of Kahlo's uni-brow in the piece, she questions this assumed definition of beauty. After all, as Selma Hayek showed us all, no one was sexier, or more of a woman, than Kahlo and all her bountiful hair.

I found my sculpture "Arch" to be mounted on a pink wall, and to my surprised it really made the piece pop. Who knew? Pink walls? This makes me rethink everything...

I was also very taken by the hallway covered in brightly painted cardboard cut-outs of plants by Justine Rubin. It was the floral "feel good" space I want to transfer over to my apartment once the show is over.

Here's Matt interacting with the sculpture "Broken Column" by Roberta Griffin

Nothing says happy birthday like sparklers. From this point forward, John Otte DJed music that had people dancing in the courtyard well into the night.

During the party some other artists and myself speculated over what element of the opening drew this insane crowd. Was it the half naked dancing women? Free liquor? A group show of engaging art? Or maybe it's all because of Frida? Apparently, after 100 yrs, Frida Kahlo is making as big a splash as ever - and she still throws a damn good party.