Monday, March 17, 2008

Two Thousand Pies

The Sunday after them tornadas was beautiful.

Who knew tornadoes actually went through cities? I was under the false impression living in an urban jungle protected one from such natural disasters. Good thing I was running late for the birthday party at Trader Vics or my car would be getting more than a wheel bearing replaced this week.

I went over to Whitespace, which I was happy to see had survived unscathed, to hear Fereydoon Family give a talk about his show "Stepping Blind." (Previous post here)

Family, his professorial skills coming into play, gave an excellent talk that turned into a very in depth conversation with the crowd. People had a lot to say about this work and it was apparent the concepts and intentions were wide open for a variety of interpretations.

Family began the talk by saying "I can tell you all about these pieces but I cannot tell you what they mean." I think that is the perfect way to begin an artist talk, for the artist to relinquish a control over the perception of their own art, to admit, or even better, to relish, in the esoteric nature of good art.

As a physicist, Family is interested in physical objects, the human condition, psychology, and as a student of art history, Family is curious as to how something physical can "transcend into art." The long history of portraiture, the different roles the artist and subject have played, and the changing purpose of the portrait during different periods of art, inspired Family's own exploration into the notion of portraiture in today's society. Family used what he calls "mass media documents," these are not snapshots but "formal objects" collected from newspapers, corporate newsletters, etc.

Family's action of painting over the faces and bodies with white-out was, Family countered, not an "intrusion" but was an "honest" gesture. He thinks of them as "psychological x-rays", in effect erasing information to get at something deeper. For me, if these gestures serve to unveil a truth it pertains to our relationship, as people, to mass produced images of strangers and the way in which the inauthenticity of the image becomes a barrier between the viewer and any feeling of affinity towards the subject. Family breaks down this barrier with his own personal imprint.

For me, Family's masking of the face makes the image more accessible. Portraits of strangers are most engaging and repelling in the details of the face, which is laden with so much information and identity it is hard to see beyond it. It's one reason photographs of people are one of the most difficult subject matters in art to sale. Art collectors are uncomfortable with the idea of having a realistic image of a stranger on their wall. Bringing this image into their home, living with it daily, is too intimate. The buyer is unable to get beyond the fact that this is indeed a real person and look at the photograph for the qualities it holds as a piece of art. This type of intimacy is abruptly halted by Family, who replaces it with his own artistic response, his own retooling of authenticity. By doing this the viewer is able to walk through the gallery without feeling the uncomfortable gaze of strangers but are given their own foothold into contemplating the image.

It's interesting that this action can be interpreted to imply so many different motivations and emotions. Jerry Cullum compared the brush strokes to "Chinese Calligraphy" and Felicia Feaster, in the Creative Loafing review "Lashing Out" compared them to "expression[s] of sublimated anger," acts of "violence" suggesting "skeletons."

I found them more playful than anything, but this opinion could be biased by knowing Family and his tendency for light hearted exchanges of ideas instead of fits of rage. Artists Julia Hill and Even Levy both pointed out that scale has a lot to do with how brutal the images are interpreted. Because Family painted these on a very small scale instead of painting directly onto the blown-up images, his own process was more delicate than aggressive, more nimble than forceful.

At the risk of sounding like I think "Another Country" is the sun with which all other Atlanta art shows orbit, I think it is a great coincidence that these two exhibitions are showing in Atlanta simultaneously. As someone very interested in photography and the function of the image in the context of our present day tech-savvy culture, both Family and McCallum/Tarry are challenging and manipulating the photograph through very personal methodologies. Both artists are using images completely independent of the artists (i.e. taken by someone else for a function other than fine art) and meditating on these images, turning them into personal anecdotes that represent their own interpretations or relationships to those images (and people or events at large).

Artist Julia Hill with Susan Bridges.

Julia has got this cool tattoo that greatly resembles one of her installation sculptures and she has started her own blog.

Fereydoon Family's show closes on Saturday March 29th 2008.

And still can't get over this. Poor Cabbagetown, first Village Pizza closes, now this...

There is going to be a charity art auction, "Cabbagetown Relief," that will be held on Saturday March 29th, 2008 at Studio C 900 Dekalb Ave in Inman Park to raise money and services for the victims of the Cabbagetown Neighborhood and Cotton Mill resident community who have been displaced from their homes and/or lost property from the tornadoes.


Julia said...

word on the street says village pizza is reopening...

and thanks for the plug, but I haven't posted anything yet! Guess I gotta get on that.

Jonathan said...

I hope the rumors are true - oh how I miss the offerings of fake meat toppings, the beer on tap that was always out, and the especially unfriendly wait staff (were they trained for nonchalance or what?) Come back Village!

Jeremy said...

Your coverage of this show has been pretty excellent. Kudos.