In Atlanta and across the country, art viewers should probably resign themselves to the likelihood that much of what awaits them when galleries reopen will be grim reminders of what caused this spring’s exhibitions to shutter in the first place. This is certainly the case in Parallel, a group exhibition curated by Teresa Bramlette Reeves at Whitespace, on view through September 5. Fraying hazmat suits, echoing chants of I can’t breathe, images refracted through repetition and distortion—element such as these clearly appear as references to the dramatic, unsettling sights and sounds of pandemic and protest that have marked this year.
The most engaging works in the exhibition delicately balance their topical connotations with a refreshing sense of visual ambiguity or material mutability. In textile works that appear as spectral garments, one hung on a wall and another suspended on a clothes hanger, Florida artist Judy Rushin suggests the lingering presence of absent figures—not only through the implied shape of a body but also the unraveling textiles’ material qualities. Rushin’s INCH Coat bares an angsty message in tattered woven scrawl: IM NEVER COMING HOME.
Although their work may be readily familiar to local audiences, Parallel also receives strong contributions from Atlanta-based artists including Zipporah Camille Thompson, Yanique Norman, Sonya Yong James, and William Downs. A pair of stoneware vessels that originally appeared in Thompson’s 2018 exhibition Black Cloud Prism, also at Whitespace, enjoy a particularly striking reprise in Parallel alongside wall works by Norman.
As a whole, however, the exhibition feels too densely packed for works to receive sufficient context or breathing room. In works such as Juan Logan’s installation Waiting, a grid of posters showing the names of Black men who have been killed by the police, and Madeline Pieschel’s audio installation sounds of MOVEMENT, which plays audio recorded at this summer’s protests, the exhibition’s attempts to communicate political and social awareness become heavy-handed, uncomfortably woke. In a 2016 quilt titled White America, Jessica Wohl offers a direct message: Shut up and listen. But in this exhibition, listening (or looking) closely would be easier with less metaphorical white noise.
Curated by Teresa Bramlette Reeves, Parallel is on view at Whitespace in Atlanta through September 5.