Art rock 

Or is that rock art?

To many people, the words "modern" and "art" go together about as well as the words "onion" and "smoothie." Too often, people walk away from modern art unmoved and unimpressed, musing aloud that their children could've made better work.

I seldom walk away from modern art imagining that my children could have done a better job. I don't have children. I do, however, frequently walk away completely confused. Last Friday was one of those days. I went to the Georgia State University Art Gallery to see Lisa Alembik's exhibit, Slough. It was the exhibit next to Alembik's that confused me. It consisted of very abstract, minimalist paintings by Flavio Garciandia with very specific and literal titles that confused rather than clarified.

The first thing you see in the room is a 6-foot-square, solid red canvas with a squiggly line across it. It was pleasant, abstract and simple -- until I looked at the title card pasted to the wall next to it. It said, "I cheat, manipulate, gossip; I'm beyond forgiveness." Hmm. OK.

To the wall on my left, I found two adjacent horizontal rectangular canvases, again decorated with large swaths of color in abstract patterns. The card next to them read, "Sean Penn and Julian Schnabel measure and compare their penises." Alrighty then.

The only piece in that exhibit whose title made clear sense to me involved an enormous blue canvas with a patch of green at the bottom. It's called "Invisible Gardens" which is appropriate since you can't see anything resembling a garden in it.

Less confusing to me -- though, in reality, probably just as obscure -- was Alembik's Slough installation. It consisted of household objects like furniture and garbage, pressed against enormous boards with what looked like translucent wallpaper. The objects looked fossilized. Hanging from the ceiling were a couple dozen gourds covered with stuff like dryer lint, corduroy and moss. Chewing gum was provided for patrons to apply to one of the gourds -- which was a hit with the children in attendance. My gum wrapper came with a temporary tattoo that I'll apply as a reward to myself for finishing this column.

The more things change: Closed for most of January for renovation, East Atlanta's Echo Lounge reopened last week. I was worried that they'd try to make the place fancy, but it's still the too-smoky, too-loud, cigarette-butt-covered place I love. It looks to me as though the main room has been painted, and that curtains have been added to the small side room to create cozy semi-private booths. Why someone who craves privacy would go to a crowded nightclub is not for me to explain.

I arrived in time to hear some of The Indicators' set, but didn't really get a chance to hear much of it because I was talking to a friend who kept telling me how much she disliked them.

The band that I came to see, the Forty-Fives, plays supercharged garage rock (think the Kinks plus MC5). Their set was great and scarily energetic. I have no good reason to believe that the Forty-Fives are on drugs, but I myself would need tons of stimulants and painkillers to move around with as much energy for as long as they did. Come to think of it, the Forty-Fives formed out of the remnants of a band called The Drugs, so maybe I do have a reason.

Good luck: Last week, a new art gallery called Saltworks opened in the industrial area in the Old Fourth Ward. The large, multi-roomed space apparently used to be a piano repair shop, hence the Steinway in the middle of the room. Several of the works had no labels, so I can't tell you the names of what I liked or who made them. The labeled art I liked most was a collection of enormous red models of ants (or models of red ants?) by Joe Peragine, arranged so they were crawling down the wall. They go for $900 per ant, if you're interested.

At the piano, I met a man who calls himself 315. After he played for a while, we chatted and he mentioned that he was playing a gig at The Earl soon. I wished him luck. He replied that luck doesn't exist and that it's nothing more than a gimmick invented by con artists. I don't know if luck exists or not, but after that exchange, I'm certain that rudeness does.

Bring tear gas: I'd never heard of them, but I went to see Haymarket Riot at eyedrum last Sunday because I like their name. Named after an 1886 Chicago labor rally that ended in violence, the band plays rhythmically challenging (or, depending on your tastes, challenged) indie rock that usually goes from quiet to loud to much louder. For some reason, the drummer faced away from the audience during the set. I don't know if that was an artistic statement or if it had some practical explanation.

Despite being right next to one of the speakers and close enough to read the singer's lips, I could hardly understand a word the guy was singing. There was one song that mentioned tasting kerosene, spitting fire on everyone, and then something about feeling clean. Good fun.

In what I hope was an isolated occurrence, one of the audience members came dressed exactly like Albert Hammond Jr. from The Strokes. People older than 13 should not dress like their favorite pop stars -- at least not in public.

Babyface update: Sources say Babyface tipped less than 15 percent after a recent meal at Bridgetown Grill in Buckhead -- and he didn't wash his hands before eating. Apparently, he also wears a lot of cologne.



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