Curated by Kelly Kristin Jones, “The Shape of a Pocket: parallel thoughts in contemporary practice,” at Sandler Hudson Gallery through September 6, pensively pairs artworks by Mario Petrirena, Alex Brewer, Marc Brotherton, Steffen Sornpao, Jane Winfield, Don Cooper, Teresa Bramlette Reeves, Carol Mode, P. Seth Thompson, Maggie Ellis, Winnie Gier, and Michael Reese. The title of the show is borrowed from John Berger’s 2001 collection of essays that considers how connections created between the artist and viewer create pockets of resistance to capitalism and social injustice. Viewing the exhibition with Berger’s essays in mind, the connection created between the artworks is often far-reaching and provocative, harnessing the power of art to overcome polarities.
The first pairing, between Don Cooper and Steffen Sornpao, considers meditation versus consumption. Cooper’s large acrylic painting Carbon is a circle radiating from the the bindu point that is center to most of the artist’s circular studies. Cooper focuses on the element carbon, which is capable of forming allotropes like graphite, one of the softest minerals, and diamonds, the hardest. Cooper’s meditative work speaks about the elements that sustain life while his use of acrylic paint addresses the ways we destroy it.
Sornpao’s collection of individually framed shots, titled Instant Watch, reveals the obsessive media consumption that distracts us from being productive and, as Berger would argue, prevents us from connecting with each other. Each frame is a full episode of a TV show or a movie that Sornpao has captured on a single sheet of instant film. A blank square of wall, a void, is at the center of Sornpao’s gridlike photo installation. The installation itself unhinges the viewer as the grid creates contrasts between the white border of the instant film to the black frame, and from the frame to the white wall of the gallery; a disorientation that mirrors that of our media consumption.
Another striking pair involves the work of image-based artist P. Seth Thompson and painter Marc Brotherton. Both artists rely on and react to the inundation of visual images and pop culture that both distracts us and permeates our consciousness. Brotherton’s painting Isn’t It a Pity inspired by the George Harrison song Isn’t it a Pity, features a stale Atari-era design with the lyrics contained in speech bubbles.The painting’s title could also be a reference to Sam John Hopkin’s eponymous song, also about heartbreak and loss. Brotherton’s painting creates an empty space in which unique experience becomes common, just like the most viewed videos on YouTube or an overplayed new song.
Thompson’s work, The Spaceman’s Disappearing Act, takes us on a journey that addresses on how movies and marketing impact the shaping of identities. His image combines marquee posters from the films Rocky 3, Jurassic Park, Moon, and Halloween into a cosmiclike blur.
“The Shape of a Pocket” creates intriguing dialogues between works but requires diving beneath the surface to appreciate the complexity of conversation. Keeping true to Berger’s ambition, the viewer becomes part of the dialogue when the inquiry begins.
Stephanie Dowda is a photographer and organizer from Atlanta. She has a degree in philosophy and photography from Georgia State University and is part of the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center Studio Program.