We’ll be reviewing a few of our favorite, and less favorite, pieces from last weekend’s ART PAPERS Auction at Mason Murer Fine Art throughout the week. Today, Karen Tauches introduces the auction in her own words, followed by mini reviews by Karen and BurnAway’s Joyce Youmans.
Art Papers‘ auction is a fundraiser, more akin to a blingy local art fair than to a real art exhibition—that it’s hyped as our biggest art event of the year speaks mounds about what mainstream fine art is actually like in the ATL. This event is a social shopping mall for framed candy, pumped up with Ru-san’s-style Muzak, gallons of alcohol, and the even more intoxicating promise of Atlanta represented internationally through our locally produced publication…. It’s the one event suburbanites and light-hearts patronize to be a part of the art scene. Participation can be seen as an opportunity for local artists to clear out some space in their studios, shore up with more established international artists, make a little cash, and get some feedback and exposure from a large commercial audience, hoping to attract, perhaps, authoritative lurkers. As requested, I have picked my favorite sweets … the things I might whimfully buy if it weren’t for the ole “downturned” economy … sure. That was this year’s most popular excuse for not buying, hands down. I heard it uttered more than a dozen times as I moved through the labyrinth of hung art and friends with free tickets.
This work falls smack into what I am starting to call 21st century folk art. Xenia‘s piece is graphic and exuberant. It has the spirit of a more sincere Fahamu Pecou piece—less a rip-off of Interview magazine, more an homage to grocery store tabloids and vintage toy promos. I love that loose collage element and the colors. I especially appreciate the custom shape—two plexi squares fused together. I feel like it should be hung crooked or something. I’d love to put it over my dining room table. Yes.
Looking Jeff Whetstone up online, I found that this image is part of a fine photograph series called “Wilderness.” Whetstone is an old school professional; he employs real film, real documentary work, real philosophical insight and killer darkroom technique. A generous donation to Art Papers, this particular image is the most inclined of the bunch to translate as a single art object, as opposed to being a word in a published photo essay about hunting, “struggling forests,” and “forgotten woods.” This print is refined. Laying camouflaged in the grass, a hunter figure is hauntingly transparent … which makes for good art out of context.
A single glance at Chris Scarborough’s Untitled (Sara 4) left me chilled to the bone. My involuntary response was to look away. A second, more prolonged look revealed the primary culprit of my discomfort: the too-large eyes. This realization did nothing to lessen my anxiety. Instead, it forced me to consider why enlarged eyes are so horrifying. Effective art should motivate the viewer to question beliefs and reactions typically taken for granted. Untitled (Sara 4) forces me to consider “normalcy” versus “monstrosity,” specifically: What makes a face monstrous, and why? Is the human response to the face based in culture or is it universal (something evolution has ingrained in us)? I think it’s a combination of both.
Jody Fausett’s Broken Window recalls Freud’s theory of the uncanny—something that is familiar (here, a domestic setting) yet uncomfortably strange. A fox lying in a dated gold chair stares from a slightly run-down, mundane-looking room. Despite the compositional focus on the fox, the title suggests the mirror is the subject. Taken together, the separate elements of the tableau are disconcerting. Why is the septic tank so close the house? What is holding the vertical blinds back? Why is a rotary saw lying on the porch? I appreciate that Broken Window does not even hint at a narrative that might answer my questions. Instead, the photo leaves my mind open, searching for meaning.
Our auction reviews continue later this week with short picks from Jeremy, Susannah, and Ben. Or if you crave even more auction coverage, you can stop by Art Relish to see BurnAway‘s collaborative video interviews filmed live at the event.