January 13, 2011 Slideshows » A&E

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Rummaging through ATL museums' permanent collections 

Cinqué Hicks
"KIM" succeeds against all odds. The early modernist trick of quoting African masks was just about exhausted by 1950. But "KIM" comes along 30 years after that, and proves that old techniques can look fresh and current. The work ignites every cultural reference cut and pasted onto its fevered surface. Unassuming yet commanding, "KIM" pulsates with life.
Peter Harholdt/© El Anatsui
"Taago" stitches together painting, sculpture and textile work into a unified visual moment. El Anatsui reconsiders West African fabric motifs by winking at postwar abstraction and throwing the push and pull of painting into a third dimension.
© Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University. Photo by Bruce M. White, 2005
Modernism made it impossible for us to imagine time moving in any direction other than forward. But the heartbreaking beauty of these pottery fragments reminds me that time is pitted with wormholes and singularities where multiple horizons converge. The sensitive lines of a foreshortened foot, the tragic weight on the heel of a hand — the battle of gods and giants depicted on this busted up red-figure vase had already outwitted Michelangelo and Caravaggio centuries before they were born.
Courtesy High Museum of Art
Guilty pleasures. Every time I'm at the High I get an eyeful of pretty from the museum's collection of Gilded Age furniture. A preferred choice of America's robber barons of the late 19th century, interior designers the Herter Brothers translated all that industrial capital squeezed out of coal miners and railroad workers into gorgeous high style. This cabinet of ebonized cherry and gilt foil nearly charms the Marxist right out of me.
Hyperion327/Flickr
Anselm Kiefer's epic contemplation of the stars and the earth is a lesson in how to be brought up short; a tutorial in how incomprehensible it is to be alive.
Courtesy MOCA GA
Lucinda Bunnen's decontextualized portrait explodes in every possible emotional direction. Resonating anxiety and joy, loneliness and love, "Molly" basks in contradiction just as it basks in its hard, bright light and inky, black depths.
Courtesy Clark Atlanta University Art Collections
In 1963, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech; Sam Cooke recorded "A Change is Gonna Come"; and Gregory Ridley Jr. painted this fiercely optimistic urban landscape. The light leaping from water and air and the vigor of the color and brushstrokes defy you not to believe in the human effort to make the world better.
Courtesy Spelman College Museum of Fine Art
Hale Woodruff's painting got better and better as it dissolved into abstraction. "Four Figurations" stands with one foot in the world of human figures and the other in the world of abstract forms. Created near the apex of his achievements, the fearless urgency of the brushstrokes in "Four Figurations" bursts with light.
Courtesy MOCA GA
Larry Jens Anderson evens the score for every queer kid who felt desperately out of place in one of America's bastions of heterosexual normalcy: the Scouts. Anderson uses humor to catapult us to an alternate universe where being different earns you praise instead of pain.
Huismus/Flickr
This one's easy to miss. A small, quiet work by one of the most progressive and experimental of the American impressionists, "Along the River, Winter" shuts out the rest of the world whenever I encounter it.
Bruce M. White, 2009/© Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University
This woman's stoic face is a peek into history back to another empire obsessed with hard work and pragmatism.
Courtesy MOCA GA
Cheryl Goldsleger dissects architecture, inverts it and makes it sublime.
Courtesy MOCA GA
The psychedelic abandon in this painting plunges to the heart of Don Quixote's fiction-fueled acid trip.
Courtesy MOCA GA
So weird. So tortured. So fantastic.
Courtesy High Museum of Art
Magnificent. Fred Wilson's sculpture proves that it's not how broad the palette is, it's how deep.
Courtesy Clark Atlanta University Art Collections
Kevin Sipp meditates on bridging continents; sound collage meets cut-and-paste sculpture.
2/16
Peter Harholdt/© El Anatsui
"Taago" stitches together painting, sculpture and textile work into a unified visual moment. El Anatsui reconsiders West African fabric motifs by winking at postwar abstraction and throwing the push and pull of painting into a third dimension.
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