If you find yourself approaching the intersection of Freedom Parkway and Moreland Avenue, you will spy a structure on a grassy knoll. From a distance, it conjures up strange associations. A Constructivist tepee. The remains of the space shuttle’s scaffolding. A crazy-ass jungle gym.
On arrival, you’ll discover that it’s “Rise Up Atlanta” (above), a sculpture that artist Charlie Brouwer created by tying 200-plus ladders together with heavy-duty strapping. The mostly silver aluminum ladders, punctuated by an occasional turquoise or orange one, are organized along a strong diagonal jutting into the sky. The steps add a horizontal rhythm, with additional movement supplied by the tags attached to each, which during my visit flapped in the breeze like little Buddhist flags.
This is not the first such project. Brouwer has created versions in Grand Rapids, Winston-Salem and elsewhere. Like Patrick Dougherty and his infinite architectural variations of tree saplings, the Virginia-based Brouwer devises different structures and imagery each time. The ladder, an accessible symbol of aspiration and transcendence, also figures in his smaller sculptures. (At left: “Words Cannot Express.”)
The tags bear the names of those who lent the ladders. The piece, sponsored by Flux Projects, is as much about community-building as about creating art. The metaphor in the engineering of interdependent ladders is obvious, as are the spiritual and political echoes in the title.
Too obvious? Maybe, but sincere: Brouwer, who announces his search for ”meaning, truth, and beauty” on the home page of his website, is not afflicted by big-city irony. Me, I’ll stick with art-critical jargon: “Rise Up Atlanta” is a cool-looking thing that lots of people helped make. It enlivens the days of those who encounter it with a moment of surprise and pleasure.
Supported in part by Concrete Ideas LLC and the Atlanta Office of Parks, Recreation & Cultural Affairs, it will be up through the end of May.