Spiritual medicine 

City of Radiance invades Eyedrum

Atlanta may be the city too busy to hate, but it can also be the city so anxious to be taken seriously that it's lost its sense of humor. Fortunately, the people at City of Radiance are here to provide locals with a necessary dose of irreverent art prankery. On April 4, the group is staging a performance art event that kicks off the opening of Superior Truth, an exhibition of images by Michael Kingston in Eyedrum's small gallery through April 26. The group is planning to unleash its message of old-timey hope and love on Atlanta during their Mind Retrieval Retreat featuring song, performance and a "Keeping the Peace Vigil."

Sampling a range of influences from the overripe prose of Jehovah's Witnesses pamphlets, the Church of the Subgenius and fascist propaganda, City of Radiance certainly knows how to work a look. The group's glossy images advertising their show feature sexless, plastic-sheened men and women with vague bumps in place of genitalia posed in front of flags and blue skies, suggesting the kind of slick visuals Mussolini might have dreamed up if he had gone into advertising. The group's charismatic spokesman is Officer Michael Kingston, Delegate Level IV, who was kind enough to orient interested seekers in the ways of this fundamentalist tough-love. Officer Kingston, who is not prone to understatement, warns that "once Atlanta experiences City of Radiance, it won't ever want to let go."

The group's message should be of special interest to the artist audience at Eyedrum, says Kingston, since they clearly have so much to gain from a little drop of City of Radiance's spiritual medicine.

"You can tell that most artists suffer from PID [Psychotic Isolation Disorder] by just looking at their 'art'!" says Officer Kingston. "It's very sad, really. They need to know that City of Radiance is looking to see some changes. Don't get City of Radiance started on that one!"

New York critic and curator Franklin Sirmans has some high-powered shows under his belt, including the superlative One Planet Under a Groove exhibition currently on view at Spelman through May 17. Hanging out at Atlanta Contemporary Art Center while his second exhibition in town, 2003 Atlanta Biennial, was installed, Sirmans -- who looked like a pitcher for Team Art in his all-black ensemble and Basquiat baseball hat -- picked up on a thing or two about the local scene.

"It's a very, very, very vibrant scene," he says. "There are a lot of artists who are totally aware of what's going on internationally." Despite the level of creativity in the city, Sirmans says there's a definite stumbling block for local artists hoping to take their work to the next level. He cites the lack of support for local artists from the High Museum and the relative regionalism of the galleries in Atlanta as handicaps to getting national exposure for Atlanta artists.

"Who's going to be the person who gets the stuff further out there?" asks Sirmans, making us long for the Vaknin Schwartz gallery, which once played a role in promoting artists like Chris Verene and Kojo Griffin before it closed in 2001.

"Who's disseminating this information? If there's a gallery that's respected all over the place, then people are going to listen," he says. "And without that, it makes it harder."

Lesley Price is a charismatic fiftysomething with a wealth of stories about growing up in apartheid-controlled South Africa. Using video, prints and text, she's turned some of that material from her Johannesburg childhood into a debut solo exhibition at Abernathy Arts Center April 4-30. My Sucker Thumb Story is based on the nostalgic but scary German fairy tales of her youth, combined with elements of the religion, South African folklore, old-fashioned Teutonic discipline and adventure that defined her early years.

Price's German-Jewish grandfather fled to South Africa to escape the Nazis. Her father owned a dress factory in Johannesburg and raised his family in a high-colonialist manner with a staff of four servants, who had profound influences on her life. In the show, Price documents the complex, guilt-ridden aspects of the relationships between her family and the black servants who were so intimately connected to her family's life.

The Savannah College of Art and Design has opened a new gallery beside the Roxy Theatre on Roswell Road in Buckhead called Savannah. The 4,000-square-foot space will feature rotating exhibitions of work by SCAD students, faculty, alumni and other artists such as photographer Joyce Tenneson, the subject of the gallery's first show, Women by Women, running through May 3. Up next is an exhibition of Faith Ringgold's work.


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


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