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Review: A lively “Movers & Shakers” at Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia

You should see “Movers & Shakers: MOCA GA Salutes the Rising Stars of the Georgia Arts Scene” at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia. But beware that the title is a misnomer.

“Mover-shaker” and “rising star” are two very different types, which explains the spectrum here ranging from nationally known artists such as Brian Dettmer and Jiha Moon and those still in graduate school. The show would have been more coherent had it been one or the other, but, as I said in my AJC review of January 28, it exudes the energy of an active art community, and there’s plenty of good work.

Here are a few of the highlights I mention in my review:

Christina West builds an enigmatic narrative in “What a Doll: The Human Object as Toy” (above), an installation of ¾-life-size clay figures, through expressively wrought hands, feet and pained faces as well as ambiguous positioning suggestive of sex and/or violence.

Ting Ying Han embodies the physical distance and cultural and emotional estrangement from her family in Taiwan, and concomitant yearning for familial comfort, in her sculpture of an American-style house constructed out of rice and resin, sitting on a pedestal of an upside-down picket fence (at left). Edward Hopper and Belgian artist Hans Op de Beeck come to mind.

The consciously hand-crafted look of Chelsea Raflo‘s videos, which combine stop-motion animation, collage and oil paint, adds to the psychological intimacy of their affecting takes on change, fear and memory.

Monica Ellis and Jody Fausett take two very different paths to the numinous. Ellis’ installation of black yarn, which hangs from the ceiling and puddles into mounds on the ground, seems heir to Eva Hesse’s sensuous minimalism. The incandescent light emanating from a hovering goose and metaphorical intimations of the barely open door in Fausett’s photo (below) made my heart flutter.

There are a number of artists who would have been better served with a different work. Stephen Hayes’ masks, for instance, barely suggest the scale of his abilities evident in his knockout debut at Mason Murer Fine Art last year. Ditto Lucha Rodriguez, whose installation at Spruill was terrific. Perhaps the museum should give over its whole space to this show to accommodate large-scale work.

I wish “Movers” had been more diverse medium-wise — more video and installation would more accurately represent the scene — and I’d like to see the day when MOCA GA dyes its hair blue and bares some tattoos: the art is awfully safe. But I’m glad the museum has introduced more voices into the curatorial process — 11 previous M&S artists selected those in this show. Although there have been occasional guest curators, adding more diverse points of view would result in a more ecumenical representation of the contemporary art of Georgia and make the institution more relevant to potential constituents.

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