Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Neon Lining

As a general rule, I think it's more beneficial to focus on the positive when reporting on a showing of art, shooting for a few new brain wrinkles or some form of inspiration from the gems of good art - no matter how buried, there is always something to be considered. (This does not hold true for the role of the art critic in general but I do not consider this blog a platform for real art criticism.)

But when I trekked over to City Gallery East to see the 4th annual "Pin-Up Show" there was not much other than disappointment to work with.


Considering there are 23 artists invited and each was given a substantial amount of space for their own self-curated "mini-show" located within the belly of City Hall East, the exhibition was vexingly oblivious. The bland work could have just as easily dimmed the walls of the airport, local library, or maternity ward. For so many artists to have access to a building ripe with possibilities for political and social commentary (City Hall East, formerly the Sears Building, was purchased by the city in the 90's for use as an office space with adjoining Police Dept. and is now slated to be completely renovated into a titanic commercial space in cahoots with the impending Belt Line.) it's disappointing that the works did not respond in any way to the dynamic space - a space which serves as a nice microcosm of Atlanta's fast paced growth and renewal.



Now that I've tossed a bit of negative energy into the universe, let me backpedal by saying there were some interesting pieces included - even if they did not seem particularly poignant to the setting.



This guy used the space in an interesting way to spin a personal narrative.



I think these are pastel on paper - pretty incredible craftsmanship



and the placement of Gran really set this piece off.



This artist (Ame Crot-Curott?) covered her 9'x17' space with ink, charcoal, and pastel drawings that ranged from classical copies to sketches and exaggerated Anime forms. The different styles of the drawings pulled from many periods of Asian and Western Art with the concepts of beauty and sexuality compared and contrasted through the varied depictions of the female body.





Maria Lino had an interesting series of printed scans of sketch book pages.



But it was Stan Woodard's installation that really made the trip through the security check worth it. Having no idea what its about, I can only say that it stuck out from the other artwork like a ballsy bout of honest experimentation that placed itself squarely at odds with its environment, threatening late-afternoon confusions and mid-morning curiosities. This is the piece that will actually stop City Hall East workers as they walk the cavernous hallway between one department to another, to scratch their heads and guffaw at the absurdity of art with a twinkle in their eyes for this little schism in the daily grind.



Stonehenge? Alien encounter? Wow, I really begin to wax poetically after midnight... I should stop here.



While I wouldn't say this exhibition is a "drop what you're doing and run for the art" type of show, if you happen to be at Whole Foods buying a raspberry bush for the yard you don't have (they're on sale and seem to be surviving in a flower pot thus far) then you ought to walk over and see Woodard's installation - encounters of this kind aren't available very often in this fair city.

Show up until April 18th 2008.

18 comments:

Jeremy said...

Vexingly oblivious: what a wonderful phrase. Speaking of the airport, I heard that their looking for someone to curate their art... It's a good distance away, but it's a gig, right?

Cinque said...

Thanks for covering this, Jonathan. I find it odd in the extreme how infrequently Atlanta artists respond to space--and I mean space in the immediate sense of the actual room a thing is in AND the larger sense of space: the era, the social setting, and the geography that they inhabit.

Of course, I'm also sick of all these goddamn pin-up shows; all these "opportunities" for people to show up and do whatever they want with no sense of curatorial vision. I know they're very popular around here and I'm going to step on some toes, but as Jeremy would say, WTF!!? I don't know if there's a crisis of art making here, but there is a crisis of insensate, tin-eared curating.

Artists are being left to their own devices; quite literally. They are not being helped or encouraged to think about space in an interesting way. Instead curators are treating every space as a bulletin board for artists to post advertisements for themselves.

I just got back from the Whitney Biennial. It had some huge problems, as always, but it's also given me the taste of blood.

Jonathan said...

Curating art at the airport - what better location to show artwork dealing with the space in which it resides? Such a socially and emotionally charged place. And yet, too sensative to get away with much more than gargantuan sculptures of ants.

It'd be an amazing spectacle while it lasted though...

Jonathan said...

"...curators are treating every space as a bulletin board for artists to post advertisements for themselves."

You nailed it...quote of the day. And I do not feel curators are held responsible enough in Atlanta. This common laissez-faire attitude in no way benefits the art.

So you really were lunching in Manhattan? I thought you were kidding... (ha)

Cinque said...

Yes, we really need to start calling out curators more often. I mean, seriously: that first shot you have in this very post says it all--that montage is all about the artist's name, the signature, which is central. The art is--quite literally--marginal. That's where the curator needs to step in and say, "What the fuck is your problem? Don't fucking sign the MIDDLE of the goddamn wall, you asshole!"

No, I really was in Manhattan. I'm working up some thoughts for a pseudo review. Here's a preview: painting limps along, but drawing is comatose, abject architecture is the order of the day, and video has come of age... more later.

Jonathan said...

Perhaps the artists' ego is the only prominent recurring theme in the show.

Drawing dead? I thought it just had a resurrection.

Fifth said...

"I find it odd in the extreme how infrequently Atlanta artists respond to space--and I mean space in the immediate sense of the actual room a thing is in AND the larger sense of space: the era, the social setting, and the geography that they inhabit."

I do hear people talking about these concepts a lot. I get the sense that Atlanta artists have been avoiding really confronting space because it's so difficult. Especially the "era" and "social setting" senses of space: have you ever known an Atlantan to willingly tackle those issues?

(I think Jeremy may have written a review of a show at the High that discussed Atlanta as "the city too busy to hate" (or remember))

Cinque said...

"I get the sense that Atlanta artists have been avoiding really confronting space because it's so difficult. Especially the "era" and "social setting" senses of space: have you ever known an Atlantan to willingly tackle those issues?"

I think you are right, and I think it's up to the artist to do things that are hard. All the time.

I mean, I don't want to paint with too broad a brush. Certainly, there are artists such as Larry Walker, Pandra Williams, and others who are doing precisely that. Even someone like Karen Tauches and Ernesto Cuevas in different ways. Denise Lira Ratinoff did a wonderful installation in a loading dock that accomplished that same thing. But one (at least this one) has to wonder why this has not infiltrated the art making ethos of the community, why these folks seem to be the exception rather than the rule.

Jonathan said...

"the city too busy to hate"?

I'm going to search for that posting - there is a lot of truth in that statement. People in Atlanta (maybe people in all cities without an art scene capable of supporting a multitude of full time artists) really stay too busy, or preoccupied, sitting in traffic on the way between jobs and restaurants, to consider or appreciate conceptually layered art - it cannot be rushed.

McCallum and Tarry at Kiang is a good recent example of artists taking the history of a particular place into consideration. They used images from the Atlanta Archives. Of course, they aren't actually from Atlanta.

And Danielle Roney did a piece about City Hall East for the show at GSU - but that seemed to be more focused on technology and architecture than on Atlanta's history.

Jonathan said...

Speaking of shows in reaction to place
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/11/arts/design/11moma.html?_r=2&oref=slog&oref=slogin

Miss Darrow said...

I could not agree more. The show resembled an art school foundation show than one that was featuring some of Atlanta's better talents. The amount of figure drawings in that gallery completely smothered the whole show for me.

mike said...

Who would have thought a critique of a pin-up show at City Hall East would warrent this type of response?

Fifth said...

Funny, I was just reading Miss Darrow's review of the show.

(http://ilfautcultivernotrejardin.blogspot.com/2008/04/playing-catch-up.html)

Jonathan said...

I guess frustration is a real motivator

Cinque said...

@ mike,
I think that as the art scene grows, develops and becomes more sophisticated over time, a show like this won't get such a reaction. But the fact is we've got so few venues that I think many of us have a sense that each one should be "pulling its weight" so to speak. And a venue as culturally massive as City Hall East should be pulling double, not half.

Miss Darrow said...

It's just frustrating because we know that the gallery is capable of putting up great exhibitions and this was just such a resounding flop.

Jonathan said...

The show could have benefited from more structure, a set theme, a link drawn between the artists - and most importantly, there should have been more conceptual and political artists included. This venue is not a commercial gallery and so the curator enjoys the luxury of not having to sell the work - this freedom should have been passed on to more challenging artists.

Cinque said...

sigh... I wish Miss Darrow allowed comments from non Blogger members on Il Faut Cultiver...