Atlanta’s sprawling geography can be a double-edged sword: Navigating from point A to point B is an often-frustrating chore, but at least there are some nice visual distractions along the way. Our city has more greenery than most, and even the gray industrial zones have their own bohemian appeal. This summer brought big rain for Atlanta’s trees — and big outdoor projects for its visual arts. Primordial energies, like a seed sprouting fresh roots, seemed to hum quietly in the background, even at indoor exhibitions completely unrelated to public art.
2010 continues the BURNAWAY tradition of asking a panel of distinguished guests to select their top, most inspiring arts events of the year. (Click here to read our Best of 2009 feature story.) See below for mini reviews by Rebecca Dimling Cochran, Nikita Gale, Young Foxy & Free, Ashley Anderson, Louise Shaw, Dorian McDuffie, Danielle Roney, Debbie Michaud, and Craig Drennen. All events are ordered according to date. Enjoy!
HARRISON HAYNES: LRLL RLRR
October 17, 2009
Harrison Haynes’s LRLL RLRR was an art event from late 2009 that, even though it happened before 2010, seemed to hover over the entire year. It was a two-hour dual-drum performance (with the help of Moses Archuleta) that took place at Saltworks Gallery where it seemed perfectly at home: Two drummers on two drum kits played a piece whose two-part title was composed of two capital letters. Haynes played his kit without his regular band Les Savy Fav, and Archuleta was there without the rest of Deerhunter. Those of us present saw a crystallized ideal version of ourselves — both solo and collaborative, communal but competitive, generous but then indifferent, and packed with associations but still hipster-lean. And in a year of performance art by the likes of Shana Robbins, Lee Walton, Flux Projects, gloATL, and Big Boi, Haynes and Archuleta’s mirrored drumming could be interpreted as the steady heartbeat of Atlanta’s new downtown scene. Or, as I prefer, it was the extended percussive introduction that 2010 deserved.
Craig Drennen is an artist and full-time professor at Georgia State University. craigdrennen.com
GYUN HUR: REPOSE
Get This! Gallery
January, 23 — March 6, 2010
Gyun Hur’s repose at Get This! Gallery remains seared in my mind. Inspired by her mother’s Korean wedding blanket, Hur coated the gallery floor and a floating shelf above with row upon row of meticulously placed, shredded cemetery flowers. The laser-beam bands of psychedelic pink, green, purple, and yellow electrified the space. A hypnotic video accompanied the installation, showing the artist and her family members methodically chop, chop, chopping the deconstructed blooms as they gossip in Korean. repose was a brilliant exercise in physical and metaphorical layers, simultaneously exploring celebration, mourning and rebirth. It was at once full of longing and hope, and damn pretty to look at, too.
Debbie Michaud is the arts & entertainment editor at Creative Loafing newspaper.
JOHN Q: MEMORY FLASH and DISCURSIVE DOCUMENTS
Public art interventions sponsored by Flux Projects on April 3, 2010
Exhibition at MOCA GA on view October 2, 2010 — January 8, 2011
Featuring artists Wesley Chenault, Andy Ditzler, and Joey Orr
Within an explosive year of public art in Atlanta, John Q’s Memory Flash and Discursive Documents set the bar for site-specificity and cultural dialog. The reinterpretation of place, through their selected queer-historical reenactments, not only intervened into the site and the public, but they also created a mobile journey of discovery and a performative form of critical essay. In Memory Flash, John Q created a meaningful, quotidian navigation through Atlanta’s invisible queer history, contributing to the mythologies of civic spaces and the reinterpretation of our social fabric. The reformation of “catalog” in Discursive Documents, from literary to live presentation, challenged fundamental forms of documentation as well as our social and political capacities. I think this discourse will continue to inform their process and influence mine. Cheers.
Danielle Roney is an artist working in time-based media and installation, focusing on global identity structures and the built environment. She has been in a creative conversation with Joey Orr for ten years. danielleroney.com
(Click here for our interview with all three members of John Q.)
HOW TO BREAK UP WITH YOURSELF
Dewberry Gallery of SCAD
April 21 — May 12, 2010
Featuring artists Serene Al-Kawas, Seana Reilly, Brian Steele, Jonathan Terranova, and Marcia Vaitsman
This refreshing Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) student exhibition presented works based on “narcissism and humility in contemporary culture.” The show was intended to persuade the observer to look at how we operate in our culture of social networking and was more of a “thought exhibit” than an “art exhibit.” The artists selected by curators Brian Steele and Jonathan Terranova (whose artworks were also included in the exhibition) created an environment of self-reflection and contemplation by looking outward rather than inward. Each artist spoke through their personal experience, giving us a perspective that we would not otherwise have. Terranova’s work examined the influence that the military-industrial complex has on American culture. Steele’s artwork challenged the viewer to look at the Middle East with a “just eye” through the Bahá’í faith. Al-Kawas’s Arab English drawings teach lessons of communication between two cultures. Vaitsman’s use of technology allowed interaction between the viewer and the skin of the subject, and Reilly’s “no-self” created from lard, sugar, and wax challenged our perception of self.
Dorian McDuffie is the City of Atlanta’s Public Art Program supervisor. She is responsible for commissioning large and small public art installations throughout the city, and she coordinates all outreach and education activities for the program.
HORMUZ MININA: PROMONTORY
Art on the BeltLine
Site-specific installation with performances on June 12 and June 27, 2010
In a stunning, Allan Kaprow-esque blurring of life and art, Hormuz Minina’s transformative Promontory took place from dusk to dawn on a hot June night. The work was needle-sharp in its site-specificity. A Mumbai-born Zoroastrian and now-citizen of Atlanta, Minina drew upon his intense sense of place, his ability to harness technology in deeply personal ways, and his gifts as a mythmaker to create an unforgettable performance. Minina adapted to the physical conditions of the place before and throughout his poetic ten-hour act of endurance. After commencing with blessings by Buddhist monks and a ritualistic painting of the artist’s naked body with gold paint, the performance proceeded as Minina inserted his body into a deep cleft in the cliff. Not anticipating his discomfort, he turned his ordeal into a hypnotic subtle dance. Throughout the night, the 200 pilgrims who made their way up the path to the top were able to look down upon the artist’s slowly twisting arm, while gazing upon a video projection of his entire body. As chance would have it, bright city lights cast our shadows over the projection, thus symbiotically immersing all of us into this mythic moment.
Louise Shaw has been a cultural activist in Atlanta for over 30 years. From 1983 to 1998, she served as executive director of Nexus Contemporary Art Center (now the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center). She currently serves as curator of the Global Health Odyssey Museum at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is a member of this publication’s Board of Directors, and is a founding member of Idea Capital.
(Click here for our review of Hormuz Minina’s Promontory.)
SHANA ROBBINS: SUPERNATURAL CONDUCTOR and AMY MYERS: FEMININE SPACE
Atlanta Contemporary Art Center
July 9 — September 19, 2010
2010 was the year I got off my duff and discovered the Westside Arts District, and the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center’s exhibition of Shana Robbins and Amy Myers was responsible for cementing the Westside into my consciousness. The level of skill and magnitude of both shows was instructive, inspirational, and a pure pleasure to view. I returned time after time, and I would continue to do so if they were still up. Aside from the incredible array of media on display, Supernatural Conductor was my first experience of performance art. Though the performance may have ran into logistical kinks due to overwhelming attendance, Robbins’s shifting cast of characters, postures, and environments were mesmerizing. It was wonderful and a little scary — just how she planned it, I’d imagine. Likewise, Myer’s drawings in Feminine Space were alien juggernauts of endurance and draftswomanship that reminded me of science fiction and Wayne Douglas Barlowe’s images of Hell. I am in awe and forever will be.
Ashley Anderson is a local artist and part-time fake weapons dealer. You can find a smattering of his work on his Flickr.
(Click here for our review of Shana Robbins’s Supernatural Conductor and Amy Myers’s Feminine Space.)
LIVING WALLS: THE CITY SPEAKS
Symposium at Georgia Institute of Technology from August 13 — 15, 2010
Public murals created during the symposium
Exhibition at Eyedrum Art and Music Gallery on view August 13 — September 27, 2010
Featuring over 50 international artists
The Living Walls Conference presented the artwork of over 50 influential street artists from around the world. We didn’t attend the symposium in August, but we were able to see and enjoy many of the 11 wall murals around the city of Atlanta — still there for anyone to see, now and for an unknown period of time to come. Big, collaborative, diverse, exuberant, fast, public, generous, and free, these works are highly intentional and permanent despite the expedient and one-take aspect of their execution. Living Walls made mundane brickworks and everyday settings strange and wonderful. The conference confidently presented street art as art, and that status was confirmed by the quality on display. But what did we like the most? Living Walls brought art to the public, delivering it free of charge. We love galleries and museums very much, but this art will be seen and seen and seen.
Young, Foxy & Free is a free quarterly magazine featuring local creative talent in a totally visual “gallery-to-go” format. This mini coffee table book is supported by ads from local businesses and produced by Michael Lachowski and Allie Bashuk with plenty of generous contributors. youngfoxyfree.com
(Click here for our online panel discussing the Living Walls Conference.)
FREE PEOPLE OF COLOUR (AND OTHER PICTURES)
Get This! Gallery
September 25 — November 5, 2010, in conjunction with Atlanta Celebrates Photography
Featuring artists Dinah DiNova, Michael Koehler, Craig Mammano, and Santiago Mostyn
Free People of Colour (and other pictures) at Get This! Gallery was one of the strongest photography exhibitions I’ve seen in Atlanta in 2010 or in any year prior. It was an earnest and thoughtful study of the American South. What I found so inspiring was the physicality of the works and how their image-creating process emphasized the ideas behind them. The four exhibiting photographers, Craig Mammano, Dinah DiNova, Michael Koehler, and Santiago Mostyn (who also curated the show), used traditional photographic processes, consciously abandoning contemporary digital methods. This resistance to digital photography enhanced the narrative of the show, emphasizing the strained relationship between the past and present in the South. The artists were literally viewing the present through an “archaic” medium. I don’t believe I have ever found myself so intrigued by straight black-and-white photography. This show possessed a level of abstraction and thoughtfulness that was nothing short of mystifying.
Nikita Gale is a conceptual artist and photographer based in Atlanta, Georgia. nikitagale.com
MICAH AND WHITNEY STANSELL: BETWEEN YOU AND ME
Commissioned installation for Flux Project’s one-night public art event on October 1, 2010
Of the many fabulous artworks shown in Atlanta this year, Micah and Whitney Stansell’s five-channel video projection, Between You and Me really stands out in my mind because it succeeded on so many different levels. As a public-art piece, it was fantastically sited, totally enlivening a location that I’ve passed many times and never noticed. The choice of a non-narrative video meant viewers could wander up and enjoy the experience without feeling that they were missing something, which was perfect for the festival-like event where it was presented. The musical soundtrack was very engaging but those who chose to invest more could call a number on their cell and be rewarded with access to the dialog. The individual videos were beautifully filmed and deftly woven together to create a poetic portrait of human emotion that was melancholic without dipping into despair. To top it off, they pulled off an incredibly challenging technical presentation. Micah and Whitney have clearly raised the bar for public art presented in this city.
Rebecca Dimling Cochran writes as Atlanta’s correspondent for Art in America; is a frequent contributor to Artforum.com, Sculpture, and ArtsCriticATL.com; and serves as curator of The Wieland Collection.
(Click here for our postmortem review of FLUX 2010.)
We would like to thank our guest contributors for their eloquent words and tremendous generosity in participating in our year-end panel, and, of course, we thank you for reading BURNAWAY! Happy New Year! See everyone again in 2011!