I spent Saturday morning in crisis mode, frantically driving around Atlanta in search of a prescription for insulin. Not to be hyperbolic, but it was the worst thing that ever happened. Miserably, I trudged across the highway to the Westside, hardly expecting art to make me feel any better. To my surprise, the four recently opened shows I saw that afternoon made me forget about our draconian healthcare system entirely.
At Sandler Hudson Gallery, Corrine Colarusso is showing Shaggy Land, a series of geography-inspired invented landscapes. These are some nice, nice, nice paintings. I say ‘nice’ three times because most of the canvases here are enormous, and every work bears essentially the same scene: swamp-scapes dominated by glowing, organic abstractions. Acrylic doesn’t give the artist much time to work: the disparity between marshy daylight and glittering buds and anemones piled up against the sky is created by quick flecks of bold color. It takes some skill to work like this; many canvases are 78 x 66 inches. Just one of these paintings will dominate a room. In a white-box space filled with about 15 of these paintings, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Each piece blurs into an ambient mass of sensory deprivation.
The success of Meta Gary’s Animal Instinct at Emily Amy Gallery is due to the pervasive flatness of the artwork. The subject matter is animals in human spaces: a raccoon in the foyer, crows on power lines, a three-quarter profile view of a rooster’s bust donning a crisp blue oxford sport coat. These things are presented on neat wooden boxes in acrylic and pencil. The palette is alternating neon and pastel, often in the same work. The effect is that the flatness of the paint and the texture of the wood and graphite create a kind of visual richness in their juxtaposition. The scenes in these paintings are straightforward, not terribly deep — but to the artist’s credit, often amusing and pleasant.
It’s the intelligence of design that makes Gary’s stuff stand out. To be clear, it’s good stuff. While DIY culture has been expanding (and commercializing) over the past five to 10 years, the thin line between art and craft is wavering. Animal Instincts is what happens when the cloying tweeness of DIY crafting is polished and refined.
Incidentally, leftovers from Emily Amy’s last show — origami spaceships by Nate Moore — linger in the back of the gallery and near the front desk. The precision grids of Moore’s spaceship compositions and their neat trajectories along the wall are an excellent complement to Gary’s two-dimensional harnessing of fauna.
At Get This! Gallery I met Jill Storthz, creator of the works in Woodcuts. She glowed while describing her process: reductive woodcutting. Storthz intuitively cuts away at a block of wood until it’s been whittled down to nothing. Thus the print series is quite limited and the ephemeral act of creation itself is part of the final product. While Storthz’s recent work feels tribal, almost ethnographic, her earlier prints — from 2007 or so — look Art Nouveau or Deco. Her lines ungulate around unexpected curves; close inspection reveals the pressure of printing or the absence of ink where the deepest lines were gouged.
Two works in particular stand out: The blackness of Cathedral against the greenish, golden turrets are most effective at revealing Storthz’s method. The organic form that dominates Twist, on the other hand, is not exactly symmetrical, but highlights the kind of balance Storthz strives for. In conversation, the artist was exuberant and delighted with her own method. I think the prints of Woodcuts are joyous, and show how much Storthz enjoys making art.
My last stop of the day was at Solomon Projects, near Piedmont Park, where the current offering is Something Along the Lines of Rock-n-Roll. Most people will think they have a concrete conception of rock and roll and the themes a show about it must comprise. I think most people will be surprised by this particular exhibition. By putting together very different works by five artists (Karen Rich Beall, Amy Landesberg, Carter Kustera, Joseph Peragine, and Amy Pleasant), Solomon Projects has done a commendable job nuancing subject matter that in the wrong hands would feel overwrought or cliché.
The most blatantly hardcore installation here is Kustera’s Sex Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll, a 20-part series of gouache silhouettes individually framed and labeled in pencil. Kustera’s work was familiar to me from Barneys department stores, where his candy-colored silhouettes of human beings line the walls of the dressing rooms. Kustera’s portraits are also available for commission through Jonathan Adler boutiques. Each silhouette bears a name or title in hand-written block letters along with a lower-case description that reduces the subject to a statement like, “CARTER says he loves everyone.” At Solomon Projects, he’s done essentially the same thing, but with rock motifs. It’s caustic and silly, but it sets up the viewer’s expectations, providing a safety net for what one assumes is rock and roll.
By this logic, the other installations in the show are all counterpoints. Amy Pleasant’s How I See You, How I See Me offers giant white male and female profiles in latex paint which face each other in a corner of the gallery. Like an anamorphosis, from head-on the noses are too long and the faces seem wide and uncanny. But if the viewer is standing against the wall so as to get only a slanted perspective of the image, the shape shrinks back into something proportionate.
There’s a total lack of music in this show, which further destabilizes one’s prior assumptions. An installation by Peragine uses repeated fanfares to score Breakfast of Champions, a wall of mixed media that assaults the viewer with images of old movies, crawling ants, and war — but that’s the only sound in the room. It’s certainly worth a visit to puzzle over why Something Along the Lines of Rock ‘n’ Roll is a wholly visual premise.
The Westside Arts District hosts their monthly Westside Art Walk every third Saturday. Corrine Colarusso’s Shaggy Land exhibition will be showing at Sandler Hudson Gallery through April 2; Emily Amy Gallery will be presenting Meta Gary’s Animal Instinct through April 30; Jill Storthz’s Woodcuts will be up at Get This! Gallery through April 30; and Solomon Projects, which is near Piedmont Park, will be showing Something Along the Lines of Rock ‘n’ Roll through April 23. The next Westside Art Walk will take place on April 16.