Fresh approach 

Indie curators, alternative art spaces, video art make inroads in 2000

If there was a single identifiable trend on the Atlanta art scene of 2000, it was independent curators bringing their off-the-beaten-track ideas to local venues. Such shows organized by freelance curators, critics and artists often brought a fresh, democratic perspective to the local art scene and played upon the talents of a larger spectrum of Atlanta talent.

At the newly christened Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, shows were farmed out to outside curators like former Nexus director Louise Shaw, who organized the underwhelming Contemporary Norwegian Sculpture and Installation and to the Contemporary's Education Director Helena Reckitt, whose conceptually rich Found Wanting, featuring work by international art world rising talents Annika von Hausswolff, Genevieve Cadieux and Adam Chodzko, made this exploration of miscommunication and the struggle for understanding one of the stand-outs in 2000 group shows.

Originated by Swiss curator Hans-Ulrich Obrist, the Atlanta College of Art's Do It! group show was another smart, playful call-and-response between Atlanta artists and established superstars such as Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Yoko Ono. At Jackson Fine Art, the steamy summer show curated by Anna Walker boasted a title and work that struck a comparably frisky note, in It Was So Hot, We Had to Take Our Clothes Off. And at the grass-roots Atlanta Photography Group show, juried by Brooklyn Museum of Art Curator of Photography Barbara Milstein, Hearing With the Eyes brought a hit-and-miss survey of photographers to the group's new 9th Street venue, including two memorable bodies of work: John Jenkins' hazy memory landscapes and Jennifer Rosenberg's incisive documentary photos of her family.

Shows curated by artists continued the trend, with the September show at City Hall East, The Future of Now, curated by artist Peter Pachano and featuring compelling work by local artists like Gretchen Hupfel, Ruth Dusseault and Sara Hornbacher, which commented upon the drab or manufactured modern landscape. Local artist Candice Bennett also transformed the new nightclub eleven50 into a partial arts space with a rotating assemblage of shows organized around Atlanta artists. Another artist-curated show appeared in January at Eyedrum, Charles Nelson's provocatively titled C.U.M. (aka Contemporary Urban Mentalities). The show featured a patchy but often lively sampling of memorable video work and Nelson's own ongoing project of astute, inflammatory hip-hop street photography.

The bootstraps alternative space Eyedrum continued to flourish, with its eclectic roster of music, performance, visual arts and cheap beer. Jill Larson continued her unique photographic obsession with the secret landscape of the flesh in Eyedrum's Growth and on the tail end of 2000, Natasha Pachano's sly Calessi Line had the artist inventing a line of sexy men's and women's fashions presented in Calvin-esque naughty posters. Profanity-laced graffiti, the sounds of a roaring subway train and a "trashed" gallery space illustrated the collision of the tastemakers and the anarchical law of the street where the crude, aggressively sexual salesmanship of fashion designers and movie makers is revealed for its crass underpinnings.

Though its popularity couldn't possibly exceed that of last year's Norman Rockwell blockbuster, November's Chorus of Light: Photographs from the Sir Elton John Collection at the High Museum demonstrated a related interest in originating shows that could bridge the aesthetic fjord between the cloistered museum "us" and the far flung hordes of "them." Though a real achievement would be finding a way to sell a Damien Hirst or Shirin Neshat show to a local audience, the Elton show at least offered the potential for exposing a wider audience to a historical survey of photography's evolution and some cutting-edge contemporary photography (as well as a Western Sizzlin's worth of beefcake to gorge upon), all cynically and seductively packaged to appeal to Atlanta's double jones for celebrity and shopping.

Several local venues also capitalized on ancillary art events, like the Variety Playhouse's art-idea band Negativeland, an Emory University sponsored lecture by controversy-shrouded New York artist Tom Sachs and the Contemporary's fly-down of equally sensation-oriented bad girl artist Nicole Eisenman. The Contemporary, in collaboration with Georgia State University's School of Art and Design, continued to push buttons with an engrossing symposium to coincide with some sticky, hotly debated issues of adolescence and sexuality raised by Athens artist James Herbert's retrospective at the Contemporary.

Video art continued to make inroads into Atlanta's art scene with Jason Forrest's notable video installation "International With Monument" at Sandler Hudson; New York artist and equine-phile Janet Biggs' "Buspar" at Solomon Projects and stunning "Girls and Horses" in the Contemporary's Here Kitty, Kitty show; Candice Bennett's "Trash Aesthetics" and Oliver Smith's "Scenes From a Scene" at Eyedrum; Dan Walsh's top-notch video work in Solomon Projects' Objects That Flicker; and the imaginatively installed survey of some local video artists in the Moving Picture Show at Agnes Scott's Dalton Gallery.

Photography also offered some of the best work in local venues, from Gregor Turk's impressive 10-year retrospective at the Bank of America Plaza to Tennessee photographer Mike Smith's potent Southern landscapes at Jackson Fine Arts, to San Francisco's J. John Priola's lustrous, drenched-in-emotion images at Fay Gold Gallery and a kudzu-prolific range of photographic work at venues as far-flung as the Swissetel and Callenwolde as part of this year's Atlanta Celebrates Photography event.

National and international artists brought a parcel of extra-Atlanta issues to town, in three shows that coincidentally united issues of 20th century landscape and architecture, transformation and past-versus-present like Alejandro Pintado's imperfect, but worthwhile show of paintings, sculpture, video and photography at Vaknin Schwartz; James Huckenpahler's eerily Cronenbergian clothing patterns presented in Trade at Kiang Gallery; and New York painter William Steiger's gorgeous 20th century industrial eulogies at Marcia Wood Gallery. And off the beaten path, the VSA arts of Georgia's Arts for All Gallery presented the wrenching Childhood Revealed: A National Touring Exhibit with Artwork by Children with Disabilities.



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