I recently moved to Atlanta from New York, where you practically trip over art. Here it takes more effort. So a show like “Talent Loves Company,” at Barbara Archer Gallery through August 4, is a welcome opportunity to see what’s cooking locally.
Following “a whim to shake things up,” according to the gallery statement, Archer invited local arts professionals — the “Talent” — to select emerging artists who deserve more exposure — the “Company.” The latter artists have not had a solo show at a “premier” Atlanta gallery, although solos at smaller, younger galleries such as Beep Beep and Kibbee were not disqualifiers. Archer then visited studios and made the final selection of 50 artists, which reflects her gallery’s usual program, a mixture of contemporary and self-taught artists.
It’s a smart strategy. The gallery gets a fresh infusion of artists; the local arts community gets involved and invigorated; and artists receive the double benefit of an expert’s imprimatur and the exposure afforded by the gallery. It’s similar to what many New York galleries do with their summer group shows: test out new artists in a low-pressure season to see who garners interest, and sales.
The exhibition is something of a hodgepodge of styles and mediums, as many group shows tend to be, even those with a purported theme. And likewise, the quality is uneven. Participants range from a tattoo artist with no fine-art credentials to art school students to older artists whose careers have been on hold.
Moreover, the pieces on view aren’t necessarily the best representations of the artists’ work, because some work on a larger scale or have process-oriented or interactive practices. For example, Ashley Hinson’s contribution — stenciled dollar signs covering the front window — isn’t visually compelling, but the signs are made with edible “ink” — bourbon and vanilla-flavored meringue — that visitors are invited to lick off. I’m not sure what, but that adds something.
Among the standouts is Bethany Joy Collins, selected by art critic Cinqué Hicks. Collins, who has just received her MFA from Georgia State University, contributed “I Just Don’t See Race in Your Work,” a child-size chalkboard easel bearing a constellation of tiny white chalk letters, which conjures up the smeared chalkboard works of Gary Simmons. While the title and black-and-white palette touch on race, the flurry of letters frustrates further deciphering. (A similar but larger work is included in “From Cosmology to Neurology and Back Again,” curated by Jerry Cullum, at Whitespace through August 4.)
In his conceptually tight project “Cataloging the Cost,” Savannah College of Art and Design graduate student Nate Kamp tackles the housing crisis. Kamp, who was selected by critic Felicia Feaster, made three boxes labeled with different ZIP codes. Like a catalog of the crushed American dream, the boxes contain hundreds of white cards imprinted with actual keys, which he intends to represent people affected by foreclosure or other mortgage trouble. Underscoring the financial aspect, numerals like those at the bottom of checks or on credit cards are imprinted along the edge of each card. While the boxes poignantly suggest a place for keepsakes, a different presentation might have had more impact.
New York native Jaynie Crimmins, among the older artists in the show, comes via Ben Goldman, artist and director of Kibbee Gallery. Her complex wall piece made of shredded and sewn financial statements creates an undulating textual topography. (Crimmins’ work can also be seen in small group shows at Beep Beep through July 28 and GSU’s Rialto Center for the Arts through August 6.)
Aubrey Longley-Cook used what he calls “manbroidery” to produce “Runaway,” comprising 14 embroidery hoops and two video monitors. Chosen by fellow artist Shana Robbins, he stitched sequential images of a dog taking flight and then photographed them, both the tidy fronts and raggedy backs, to create two stop-motion animations of the adopted stray that didn’t stay long.
Lisa Alembik, artist and director of Agnes Scott College’s Dalton Gallery, has the dual distinction of being both Talent and Company. Her three small graphite drawings of inane postcard-derived scenes, each with the subtle insertion of a stabbed figure lying in a pool of blood, were selected by fellow artist Katherine Taylor. Taylor, who teaches at Kennesaw State University, is also behind the inclusion of Lydia Walls, who every day for a year painted a portrait of a friend, pet or random figure such as David Bowie, Chuck Close or Darth Vader. All 365 of the five-by-five-inch caricaturish paintings are hung salon-style in a large niche.
Some artists had more than one cheerleader, such as Nathan Sharratt, who was recommended by both the ubiquitous Louis Corrigan, founder of Possible Futures and Flux Projects, and Romy Aura Maloon of Dashboard Co-Op. Sharratt’s four portrait drawings are copies of local artist Nikita Gale’s copies of drawings by Andy Warhol. (Dashboard Co-Op is hosting Sharratt’s site-specific installation at 30 Ormond Street, opening Saturday, July 14, from 7 to 10 p.m.)
Chris Walter, an MFA candidate at GSU, who was chosen by his professor Craig Drennen and artist Nancy Floyd, contributed a small, ornately framed painting, “Kudzu 8,” of an amorphous form covered in the eponymous choking vine. It is humorous and endearing.
“Decorative” should not be a dirty word in art, as evidenced by a pleasing, if derivative, colorful abstraction by LaMar Barber, who was selected by visual mythologist Lynn Marshall-Linnemeier. In his artist statement, Barber keys the colors and forms to religious symbolism, imbuing the work with decidedly unmodern content.
Archer says that, “due to the wealth of talent discovered,” the “Talent Loves Company” show may become an annual event. With some minor refinement, that’s something I’d like to see.