Road work ahead 

Taking a Detour through ArtSpot

VISUAL ARTS

Anyone who's driven

through Atlanta knows instinctively that the path between point A and point B is riddled with orange traffic cones, screeching brakes and detours.

Detour, an exhibition curated by artist Jill Larson at the Inman Park gallery ArtSpot, does a little conceptual off-roading with the notion of bypass and diverted routes. The show is a summit of Atlanta and Pittsburgh area artists concerned with life's tendency to render well-laid plans circuitous.

Almost all of the work in Detour is unified by a simplicity of materials and design that suggests artists have taken their cue from the road signs that dictate diverted courses. That visual economy is probably best illustrated by Paul Rosenblatt's wry "Home Improvement," which at first could be mistaken for something Detour's installation crew left behind.

Rosenblatt has created a tower of ladders stacked head to head, as if indicating the sheer Sisyphian, brow-sweating angst of fixing the essentially unfixable. Like the coats of paint and hours of hammering that never achieve the owner's ambition, "Home Improvement" suggests a metaphor for life as a quest for completion perpetually thwarted by obstacles.

Pittsburgh artist Kevin O'Toole's work is equally pared down. His synthesis of masking tape and silver leaf on paper creates minimalist geometric shapes -- hard right angles, triangles and sharp edges. Like stark traffic signs, the lines of tape that create a pyramid shape indicate ascent while other chunks of sloping silver are ski slope declines. Artist Judith Schumacher's white traffic cones guiding viewers through the space also speak in a visually stark and explicit way to the theme of detour, if not in especially profound terms.

In a charming riff on the snow globe, Atlanta artist Lilly Cannon offers her own evocation of an emotional detour from real life.

Placed upon a series of five pedestals, the snow globes contain amusing little dioramas like "Shangri-La," in which a vintage poolside postcard scene of a '50s motel is overtaken by alligators. On the opposite side of that snow globe image is a tongue-in-cheek map with a bossy red arrow pointing to the titular destination. Other snow globes offer tantalizing detours to "Neverneverland," and to the "Promised Land," destinations more about a fetching idea of place than an actual one. Cannon takes the simple device of a snow globe and makes it a window into the imagination.

That detour from the everyday is tackled in a more serpentine way in Cheryl Cappezuti's thoughtful but not entirely successful musing on "lint" as a Proustian sense-trigger.

Cappezuti combines three large human figures composed entirely of lint and placed in fetal positions on the wall next to letters and notes from lint contributors who describe how the lint was "harvested." One lint donor talks about doing a last load of laundry in their family home before parents are carted off to a retirement home. Another woman recalls potent memories of her childhood and mother while washing towels. The act of harvesting the lint becomes, like Cannon's snow globes, a kind of mental detour.

Many of the constituent artworks in Detour -- from Cappezuti's lint sculptures to Leslie Kneisel's interesting use of embroidery to comment upon human relationships -- are probably more compelling individually than within the overall theme of the show, which never fully succeeds at uniting such disparate work.

But the show is a feather in the cap of ArtSpot, which again demonstrates its penchant for smart thematic shows and for allowing the unique insights of visiting curators free range. Despite some vagueness about how some pieces fit within the notion of "Detour," the overall quality of work makes this one of Artspot's strongest shows in recent memory. u

felicia.feaster@creativeloafing.com

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