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In transition 

More artists and galleries are calling Castleberry Hill home

Castleberry Hill is a neighborhood that represents the bizarre extremes of Atlanta's rapid gentrification. Pawn shops are still the most visible businesses, the soup kitchen does a thriving trade and yet, sharing those same windswept blocks is a hidden world of mega-lofts outfitted with granite countertops, BMWs corralled behind iron gates and suburbanites-gone-citified.

Artists have always profited from such extremes, feeding off both the "edginess" of transitional neighborhoods and profiting from the vast space and cheap rents, and the arts are becoming a growing presence in Castleberry Hill. Former Miami art gallery owner Skot Foreman (www.skotforeman.com), has become the latest player in the area's growth, having quit his Dania Beach digs and opened up a new Peters Street gallery.

Foreman, an amiable, slickly groomed former corporate banker, enthusiastically details the changes afoot in this neo-Soho: a day spa, a tavern, a wine and cheese shop and lots of appropriated industrial buildings to accommodate the upscale loft-dwellers. Foreman's three-story gallery-cum-office-cum-living quarters sits across the street from artist Diane Haus' own 3 Ten Haustudio living/gallery space, and is a quick jaunt from the Spelman Museum, Hammonds House, the Candler-Smith Warehouses artist complex and sculpture park, as well as the living quarters of a number of area artists and art patrons.

Foreman, 38, will inaugurate his self-named gallery Feb. 22 with a solo show of 50 works by Miami self-taught artist Purvis Young, who was recently featured in Art in America. In addition to a roster of tentative upcoming shows, including a Tom Wesselmann exhibition and a group show, Foreman will also be nurturing private clients and encouraging the "placement" of what he calls "blue chip work," including linocuts and etchings by Picasso, Chagall and Miro.

"I'd say I'm kind of a hybrid between a retail gallery and a by-appointment private dealer," says Foreman, who will have limited gallery hours (Tues.-Fri. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sat. noon- 5 p.m.) to allow for plenty of by-appointment and private showings, aimed at a particular clientele.

"I think Atlanta is an under-serviced market," says Foreman, when asked what he can offer the local art scene, "and I think with education and grooming ... these young professionals that are out there now, they have a desire to learn, but they're probably intimidated a lot of times, and they probably don't want to go into a sterile, antiseptic gallery that's all white walls. That's why I want to do a lot of private eventing here, so you can see and experience art in almost a homelike setting but still be in a gallery."A handsome retrospective of Atlanta-based artist Donald Locke's sculptures and mixed media works occupies City Gallery East's show The Road to El Dorado: 12 Years in Atlanta. Like familiar characters in a long-running soap opera, totems of an individual obsession occur again and again in Locke's work. Female nudes with the bountiful, sexual spread of the Hottentot Venus proliferate in Locke's visual universe; institutional found photographs culled from high school yearbooks and newspapers give a sense of the many, many ordinary voices lost to time; and paint applied in shockingly robust layers of charred black give an impression of something part censor bar, part scorched earth.

Locke's work is an accumulation of history from the ancient to the present graced with a cosmic touch. While other black artists flavor their work with tender nostalgia for lost generations, or fury at a racist past, Locke's work has an unsettling ambiguity that often makes it waffle between the mystifying politics and incendiary image bank of David Salle and the black history vibe of Radcliffe Bailey. It's never quite clear where Locke is going with all those headless, iconic female nudes -- elevating woman to goddess or suggesting woman as some eternal "trope." The sculptures of those decapitated torsos probably represent the most unadventurous phase of his work and a return to the art world cliches of obedient, modeled female flesh.

Far more interesting is Locke's collision of old and new in the spooky/cute sculptural figures sprinkled throughout the gallery. Primal action figures with twigs for arms and branches for legs, these hybrid creatures somehow reference Africa and history but with a frisky conceptual edge. Like refugees from history's orphanage, the figures have an almost lovable appeal with their guileless, pleading pinhole eyes.

Catherine Cobb's solo show at The Swan Coach House, The Past and The Present, through March 8, features large photographs centered on young women captured in vague reveries, like a hipster with cropped bleach blond hair and a faced smeared with berry pulp, or a pregnant woman sleeping with her belly bared to our view. Cobb flirts with the "Another Girl, Another Planet" ambience that has fixated Cobb's fellow Yale photography graduates like Dana Hoey and Justine Kurland. But Cobb doesn't seem to have found a voice of her own in these wan images vaguely concerned with ideas of female sexuality, awkwardly interspersed with landscapes that do little to articulate her themes.

felicia.feaster@creativeloafing.com

For Art's Sake is a bi-weekly column covering the local art scene.

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