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Atlanta Celebrates Photography in October

October now brings two seasonal traditions: small children outfitted as hockey-masked serial killers begging for candy and Atlanta Celebrates Photography (www.acpinfo.org). For the fourth year in a row, this summit of shutterbugs and the people who love them will feature an amazing 130 events, which guarantee a town virtually beat into photographic submission.

The eclectic settings for this year's event include retro furniture shops (City Issue), bars (Flatiron Bar), head shops (Highland Tobacco & Gifts), a hair salon (Cortex) and a cemetery (Oakland). It also features a diversity of content, from plainly conceptual work like David Levinthal's XXX series at Fay Gold Gallery to the scientific photography of fossils in Fernbank's Ancient Microworlds. Participating photographers are too legion to mention, but standout events include the first public art photo event, "The Big Picture," which will feature artworks commissioned specifically for ACP projected onto downtown buildings Friday and Saturday nights; a show devoted to portraiture called Face Time at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center; and a survey of African-American photography, Reflections in Black at the Atlanta History Center.

Education is one focus of Atlanta Celebrates Photography. The roster of visiting speakers last year included popular lectures by photographers Michael Kenna and Joyce Tenneson. "This year our lectures are more diverse: these are not household names," says Corrine Adams, a photographer and president of Atlanta Celebrates Photography. The lecturers include two members of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, Tom Rankin and Wendy Ewald, along with photo curator Mark Sealy, writer/curator Deborah Willis, and photographers Mona Kuhn and Ann Elliott Cutting.

Sometimes the best curators are the ones who momentarily step aside to allow another vision to dominate. The Atlanta Contemporary Art Center's curator Helena Reckitt has already asserted her own presence at the gallery by, ironically, stepping back. Though the usual tradition at the Contemporary has been to have its current curator select the survey of notable local art in the Atlanta Biennial exhibition, Reckitt is breaking with precedent by inviting an outside curator to select artworks for next year's show.

"I felt that he would bring a fresh eye," says Reckitt of her decision to have New York curator and critic Franklin Sirmans helm this year's Biennial. "I don't think the gallery should just be about my vision and my aesthetic."

Sirmans will spend time in Atlanta this fall conducting studio visits and reviewing slides to pick participants in the Biennial next spring. The Contemporary (www.thecontemporary.org) is currently accepting submissions to its Biennial from artists living within 100 miles of the city.

A former editor of Flash Art, Sirmans also curated the highly regarded show One Planet Under A Groove: Hip-Hop and Contemporary Art at the Bronx Museum in 2001. In addition to his participation in the Atlanta Biennial, Sirmans will imprint the local scene in another significant way when the highly anticipated Groove, featuring such luminaries as Mel Chin, Adrian Piper, Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, comes to the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art in March. (www.museum.spelman.edu).

Reckitt sees one other important advantage to having a New Yorker curate the Biennial. "I also wanted the Biennial to be a springboard for people to get their work shown outside of Atlanta," says Reckitt. "To bring in someone who has influence outside Atlanta could potentially lead to other opportunities for the artists who get selected."

City Gallery East curator Karen Comer has also occasionally stepped aside to offer a forum to another curatorial voice, a gesture that pays off nicely in the noteworthy exhibition Crossing Over curated by local artist Melissa Messina and on view through Nov. 29 at the Ponce de Leon gallery.

The show's mission -- to reflect "the personal journey of overcoming psychological, emotional and social boundaries" -- initially sounded like the most repugnantly New Age thing going. Fortunately, Crossing Over never adheres too closely to the current navel-gazing victim culture, but features a high caliber selection of interesting work about identity seen through a variety of filters including race, culture, sexual preference and an array of more subtle tensions between the individual and society. One of the show's most interesting elements is its slightly conspiratorial investigation of the invisible structures of our lives as seen in Gretchen Hupfel's photographs of the unseen radio waves perpetually buzzing through the air; Lisa Hart's assertion of an invisible architecture of self in her curio boxes of hair clippings, teeth and bones; and video artist Bethany Springer's short work "Vehicle," which imagines people as another cog in a modern grid of parking lots and a white noise of telephone rings and pulses.


felicia.feaster@creativeloafing.com


For Art's Sake is a biweekly column covering the local arts scene.

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