October 19, 2011
The Place Makers
With the first volume of Atlanta Art Now out this Nov., will our city’s artists stake a place at the international art table?
By Nancy Staab
- Portrait of the artists by ErinAshford.com, shot on location at SimCo Lifestyles furniture showroom in Midtown.
A hyper-ambitious new critical appraisal of local visual artists working with the theme of “noplaceness,” situates them in the context of a larger global dialogue.
The first volume of Atlanta Art Now, Noplaceness: Art in a Post-Urban Landscape, is a satisfying attempt to find some continuity in the diverse and divergent practices and approaches of Atlanta’s, at times, seemingly inchoate artistic community. The brainchild of local arts patron Louis Corrigan and his Possible Futures foundation, Noplaceness, is a seriously academic book of essays crafted by three noted Atlanta-based art critics—Cinque Hicks of Creative Loafing and Creative Director of Atlanta Art Now, Jerry Cullum the Atlanta correspondent for Art News and long-time contributor to Art Papers, and co-founder of ArtsCriticATL.com and past art and architecture critic at The AJC Catherine Fox. Likewise, the book surveys three dozen of Atlanta’s most intriguing artists addressing variations of the noplaceness theme: Sarah Emerson, Jody Fausett, Sarah Hobbs, Gyun Hur, Marcus Kenney, Arturo Lindsay, Paper Twins, Fahamu Pecou, Sheila Pree Bright, Shana Robbins, Rocio Rodriguez, Danilele Roney, Micah and Whitney Stansell and Angela West, to name a few.
So ambitious is the book that each of the five chapters is also translated into Portuguese and Chinese--both as a nod to two of the mega-cities (Sao Paul and Shanghai) most “pivotal in any discussion of the changing nature of space in a global paradigm,” with their mass populations and economies and themes of physical and cultural displacement—and in honor of art dialogues that the book’s creators have already forged with critics in these countries. But perhaps it is Dutch architect and theorist Rem Koolhaas who best articulated the sense of dislocation that the city of Atlanta has specifically engendered in recent history due to urban sprawl, the influx of new immigrants, lack of a city center, etc. Koolhaas famously declared that Atlanta is “a centerless city” and “posturban.”
As the authors state in a press release for the book, “Noplaceness examines art made against the backdrop of the currently shifting sense of place, borders, and psychological space both in Atlanta and globally.” How various Atlanta artists react to these themes is the subject of the book’s five taut, but convincing, chapters. The “Battle Grounds” and “Out in Public” chapters discuss art in public spaces; “We Are Not Danes in Denmark” deals with how local artists attempt to create a self in an atmosphere of noplaceness; “The In-Between” addresses the “liquid self” of artists “suspended between cultural and social categories;” and the final chapter “Apocalypse!” represents extreme reactions to the fear of noplaceness and hopes for a new place or Utopia.
In honor of this major critical assessment of Atlanta artists, and what is hoped to be biennial publications by Atlanta Art Now, LuxeCrush gathered five of the practicing artists discussed in volume one on Noplaceness (photographer Jody Fausett, installation artist Arturo Lindsay, painter and performance artist Fahamu Pecou, abstract painter Rocio Rodriguez and digital media artist Danielle Roney) for a symbolic photo shoot at Midtown modern design emporium, SimCo Lifestyles, to celebrate the project and the way in which the book helps place Atlanta artists on the international map. Granted, these accomplished artists are already working at a global level to some degree. For example, Roney is just back from art exhibitions in Croatia and Istanbul; Pecou recently showed in Paris; and Lindsay was one of 15 national artists just selected as an ambassador for smARTpower (a collaboration between the State Department and Bronx Museum of Art) which will pursue global outreach through art--first stop for Lindsay: Cairo.
From Atlanta to the cradle of civilization, Atlanta artists are, indeed, staking claim to a more global stage and Atlanta Art Now is just the latest testament to our fertile local art environment.
For more information about Atlanta Art Now and to purchase a copy of Noplaceness visit www.atlantaartnow.com
Join Atlanta Art Now for the Book Launch Party, a creative black-tie affair, Tues. Nov. 8 at Poem88 Gallery, 1100 Howell Mill Rd in the White Provision Building, 7-11PM, $25 per person but free for artists and students if you RSVP in advance to firstname.lastname@example.org
CLICK SLIDESHOW AT BOTTOM OF PAGE TO SEE ART WORKS BY THESE 5 ARTISTS AND MORE PORTRAITS
Excerpts from Atlanta Art Now volume one, Noplaceness: Art in a Post-Urban Landscape, discussing the five Atlanta artists we photographed:
“ A substantial portion of [Arturo Lindsay’s] work extends the notion of simultaneity by collapsing both time and space to excavate the historical traces of mass traumas and cultural displacements” [such as the slave trade].
“The burden of his own Southern history is felt differently by Jody Fausett, who ironizes his later-generation upbringing by creating surreal tableaux with the raw materials of his relative’s homes in north Georgia….Throughout the series of photographs the deliberately bizarre image occurs alongside images that are bizarre only to the outside observer—something that Fausett has to some degree become during his years of absence from his native region.”
“Fahamu Pecou …has set out to become the interpreter of the present-day cultural image of the black male, beginning with the conventions of hip-hop and working through other models of cultural and financial prestige and/or street cred…His overall accomplishment, however, speaks to the condition of the contemporary self in general, which always arrives in a context to which it adapts.”
“Rather than pointing to a suspended cultural moment that no longer exists, Danielle Roney points toward a profusion of cultural moments—signs, histories, ideas—any of which is as possible as any other.”
Playing into the Apocalypse theme of the book’s last chapter, “Varied Fictions, Rocio Rodriguez’s 2009-10 painting series, is even more intense. Compositions barely hang together. These are landscapes in distress…Her mark-making is infused with the force of her fears, anxiety, and anger. Flames of contorted red marks explode in The Clearing. A scrum of black lines crashes into an architectural structure in Crush. A tornado-like spiral barrels through Hot Wind. ‘When I made Hot Wind, [the image] implied something ominous,’ she explained. ‘Something coming our way that we can’t escape.’”