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Review: “Fresh Blood” showcases new Atlanta artistic talent, at Mason Murer

Deanne Andrus: "Chicago - Atlanta" (2012) Archival Inkjet Print

Mason Murer Fine Art Gallery gives the art-viewing public a shot in the arm with “Fresh Blood,” a showcase of 40-plus Atlanta-area recent graduates (and grads to be) and their works of drawing, painting, photography and sculpture. There are hits and misses, but overall, curators Michael Mayne and Aaron Artrip have assembled what might be seen as a preview of artists who will help shape the Atlanta art scene in years to come. The works are extremely varied and engaging, and the standouts exhibit a maturity sometimes absent in more lauded artists’ efforts. 

A photographer himself, Mayne is especially attuned to the medium, and this is evident in the show, in which the photographers offer some of the most compelling work. 

Savannah College of Art and Design graduate Deanne Andrus’ two works here, “Chicago-Atlanta” and “New Port Beach-Atlanta,” are strong images that play with concepts of place. In each, a photo of a separate location is projected onto a white, spare domestic interior, saturating it with color and texture. This reworking of space to reflect two locations simultaneously speaks to notions of time and memory and the way in which our experiences and travel shape our everyday lives.

Another SCAD student, photographer Sergei Isaenko offers two works from his “Stranger” series. Set in uninhabited environments, his “Part of the Treeline” and “Untitled” summon ideas concerning identity and inclusion vs. exclusion.

Sergei Isaenko's "Part of the Treeline" (2012)

In both images, a dark, lone figure stands in the center of an empty but dramatic natural setting, evoking a sense of separation and detachment. Not to take Isaenko’s roots too literally, but the use of light and contrast in these portraits suggests a kind of internal psychological reckoning found in the tragic characters of classic Russian literature.

SCAD-trained photographer Julie Sharpe also employs elements of the psychological in her small-scale series of encaustic-on-panel collages. Melding her own image with those in photos of her female ancestors to produce fragmented hybrids, Sharpe’s work raises questions about individual character and genetic destiny and where those influences intersect to create our sense of identity.

In that vein, Emory University grad Charlie Watts’ black-and-white series “The Ruination Triptych” embodies the paradoxical duality — sexual object and domestic matron — of the traditional female role. As the title suggests, the figure, a lone woman behind a crocheted swath on a clothesline, goes from exhibiting an expression of playful sexuality to one of tragic dismay.

Charlie Watts' "The Ruination Triptych" (2012)

Duncan Shirah’s functional sculptures inject some humor and fun into the exhibit. “Grow Gun” combines the SCAD-trained artist’s strong conceptual ideas and deft fabrication skills. The toy-like, steam-punk-esque carved wooden weapon, which features an actual plant sprouting in its transparent barrel, offers a positive, agro-friendly take on the green revolution. The image of fragile life within the gun also conjures up themes concerning life vs. death, peace vs. war, creation vs. destruction and so on.

Recent University of Georgia grad Justin Plakas was a standout in UGA’s last MFA exit show, and he holds his ground here as well. Striking despite its very muted, low-contrast values, his “Bout” envelops anonymous figures of a crowd in ethereal surroundings. In “Takeoff,” his everyman is a shrouded body ascending through the sky. Plakas’ surreal work suggests a 21st-century ennui that is both unsettling and transporting.

These works join many other fine pieces in a smorgasbord of innovative talent, on view through July.

Justin Plakas' "Bout" (2011)

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