Mix it up Art complex planned for Midtown 

Outside-the-box art gallery Modern Primitive has been offering its eclectic wares in the heart of Virginia-Highland since 1990. But owner Mark Karelson is expanding his presence in the art community with a new venue. While an influx of galleries into Castleberry Hill is remaking that downtown neighborhood into a culture hub, Karelson has his eyes on a Midtown warren of industrial spaces, warehouses and interior design studios as a potential mini-art complex.

In May, Karelson and his partner Glen Murer will launch the Mason/Murer Gallery in a 25,000-square-foot former tombstone warehouse at 1999-B Armour Drive in the Armour Industrial Park. Modern Primitive Gallery will remain at its present location on North Highland Avenue for at least another year, though Karelson says he might consider closing that space if it becomes "redundant."

The new space, roughly 12 times the size of Modern Primitive, will allow Karelson to venture out from his first love of folk and outsider art. For the May 7 opening, the Mason/Murer art superstore will feature a bevy of diverse artists, including photographer Ilia Varcev, self-taught artists Clementine Hunter and Sybil Gibson, contemporary artists Thomas Prochnow and Dennis Campay and seniors from Spelman and Morehouse colleges. The space will be broken up into thematic spaces -- a 3,000-square-foot space devoted to noncommercial projects; 5,000 square feet dedicated to photography and outsider/self-taught work; and a 15,000-square-foot chunk of space reserved for contemporary art.

Part of Karelson's mission is to convince art-goers that self-taught and outsider art (which makes up such a large part of the Modern Primitive aesthetic) is as valid as photography or conceptual art. He hopes that juxtaposing art school grads with self-taught artists will lead to a greater democratization of art. Through March 14, Modern Primitive features the vibrant work of African-American painter and Morris Brown professor Louis Delsarte.

After only two years as editor-in-chief of Atlanta's bimonthly Art Papers magazine, Charles Reeve is calling it quits. He has announced his departure from the magazine, which has begun an anticipated five-month search for a replacement. The 41-year-old Reeve, who will remain with the publication through the summer, says he's currently searching for jobs in academia and publishing.

The Atlanta art scene would probably be a more vital place if artists had the resources and know-how to get their work out there in the most advantageous light. But few art degrees come with the "real world" training essential to art world success. To help bridge that gap, the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center will present the second in its "Artist Survival Skills" series March 11-April 24. In these two-hour sessions, artists get a crash course in Everything You Wanted to Know About the Art World But Were Afraid to Ask. Artists and gallery owners will discuss the intricacies of their relationships and lawyers will talk about copyright issues and handling the sale of work. In addition, Carrie Przybilla, High Museum curator of modern and contemporary art, moderates a panel of successful regional artists like Radcliffe Bailey and Todd Murphy, detailing how they "made it," and yours truly will moderate a discussion on alternative spaces.

Admission is $5 or free for Contemporary members. For more information about these and many other programs call 404-688-1970, ext. 217 or go to www.thecontemporary.org.

Look more

- Lambert Gallery of Art (lambertgallery.com), located on an obscure stretch of Lambert Drive off Piedmont Avenue, is not the kind of place you just stumble upon driving through town. And the eccentric range of artworks in its current exhibition, Gender Gap, is equally hard to pin down. The show is probably not the most satisfying exploration of gender, since it seems to imply that male artists deal with tortured themes of war and drug addiction while women are lost in sunshine-dappled reveries of nature contemplating their own reproductive potential.

For the girl's team, Tamara McElhannon's works are delicately surreal oil paintings with a preponderance of ovum imagery. James Ross Oder, meanwhile, offers shocking paintings of John Wayne Gacy-style scary clowns, apocalypse and women contorting their T&A for the best view. It's hard to tell if Oder is questioning this porn- and horror-laced guy's-eye view or just widening the gap. The show runs through April 30.

- Atlanta-bred, New York-based artist Kara Walker has become a lightning rod for controversy. Does she perpetuate negative images of African-Americans in her 19th-century silhouette-derived works featuring caricatured slaves and masters? Or is she merely shedding light on how racial stereotypes have permeated every part of our culture? If you want to learn more about what makes Walker's work so powerful and divisive, The Spruill Gallery (which exhibits Walker's work in its current show Silhouette: The Art of the Form) presents a free lecture titled "Beyond Black & White: Kara Walker's Dirty South" by Elizabeth Chapman Sun., March 7 at 3 p.m.



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