ArtsATL > Art+Design > Apocalypse Now in two Atlanta art exhibits, with a happy ending

Apocalypse Now in two Atlanta art exhibits, with a happy ending

Man-made catastrophes seem much on artists’ minds these days. Several current group shows elsewhere address this theme, as will the 2010 Quebec biennial curated by Art Papers editor Sylvie Fortin. Here in Atlanta, that pervasive dread bubbles to the surface in two solo shows.

In Scott Silvey’s paintings at Whitespace through July 3, which I reviewed in Friday’s AJC “Go Guide,” nature reclaims a cityscape moldering in some post-human future. The suggestion that the world can renew itself and the visual pleasure of the paintings soften their bleak implications. (At this posting we can’t find the story on; we’ll link to it when it’s online.)

Leisa Rich serves up apocalypse with comic-book bravado at Callanwolde through August 28. Using stitching as line on shiny vinyl and brazenly breaching the comic-book grid, the Atlanta fiber artist has created a wham-bam chronicle of disasters, both natural and man-made, that conspire to end humankind.

The highlight of the show, however, is her vision of the aftermath: the lush, colorful, fantastical garden in the center of the gallery. The sculpture is alive with creative energy. Rich embellishes surfaces with quilting, smocking and free-motion stitching. She uses materials with wit and invents wonderful flora.

Spirals of rolled felt suggest blooms. Stuffed forms encased in recycled plastic tablecloths and topped with little balls spiked with recycled plant sticks are “amoeba mushrooms.” A humpless camel with a quilted chintz skin is among the mutant animals emerging from this garden of Darwinian delights.

Although Rich speaks of apocalyptic anxiety, she is no Cassandra. Like the comic books her late father collected, her art de-fangs violence and wanton destruction. As in Silvey’s work, nature triumphs: It has reclaimed the earth and is populating it with new life. Providing a reprieve from the doom and gloom that envelops us these days, Rich and Silvey offer happy endings, if not for humans, at least for Earth.

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