Perambulating the Bounds

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Atlanta Biennial part 2

Let me touch on a few more things in the Biennial, and try to be more brief than the last post.

There were certainly things here that didn’t do much for me. Usually I like messy, exuberant installations, but the one like that by Sally Heller didn’t strike me as very interesting. The piece, Two Trees, was basically that, made from wire, bottle caps and other detritus. It was like a three dimensional scrawl, which is not a bad thing, but maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for it or would have responded in a different setting, like when Hanna Fushihara took over the living room of a house in Nashville.

Ben Fain made a full-scale parade float with a huge sculpture of a molar as the centerpiece, surrounded by garlands of fake flowers and geometric sculptures made from golf balls. It was fun, but real parade floats are self-satirizing enough to make this piece kind of redundant. (Every year I watch the Orange Bowl halftime show waiting for disasters like this year’s audio problems.) Again, I probably would have responded differently to it in a different context and been utterly delighted to see it in a parade. I have the same reaction to art cars, so common in Houston. I don’t know if I would go out of my way to examine them in the gallery, but I respond really strongly to the way their presence on the street breaks the fabric of everyday experience.

Back to the plus side: Benita Carr’s large photographs the Mother Series show a sequence of group portraits of mothers with their kids on a black background. The mothers mostly have their back to the camera (one pregnant woman is in profile but her head is turned away) while the kids face the cameras dead on. Carr wanted to express the way a woman’s personality and identity gets replaced by that of her kids when she becomes a mother. In addition to making this point, the sequential composition reminded me of an ancient pictorial register showing a king’s subjects bringing gifts. The photographs have a dignified, encyclopedic air, even when the subject is a woman covered by tattoos, and some bruises, wearing hot pants and accompanied by a little boy named Anger who wears a garish jacket.

<>Santiago de Paoli’s paintings and drawings array pictographic human stick figures in masses that express the dynamics of mass or shared psychology. In many of the pieces he has large thought balloons that have multiple points sticking out which associate groups of figures with whatever is in the thought balloon. In some cases the balloon contains an abstraction that seems to depict an emotional state, say confusion or anger. In others, the balloon contains more stick figures, establishing a relationship between humans and their cognition of other humans. In another, the image splits in half with two groups of figures and two associated thought spaces that oppose each other. I like the idea that geometries form across the experience and cognition of multiple people. This idea is not so different from some that Amy Pleasant gets into in her work, although her interest seems much more on individual experience and it contains a spirit of fluidity and unpredictability. De Paoli lays out something that is much more monolithic. <>

Christopher McNulty concerns himself with repetitive processes using many methods. The Biennial includes a series of logs that he split into thin splinters, reassembled, and reconnected with staples. I was more struck by a set of inkjet prints that describe the automatic process of breathing in the form of instructions (“you will then transport this blood, with its elevated levels of O2 and reduced levels of CO2, via the heart to your systemic vascular system”) along with antique-style illustrations of the parts of the body involved (brain, lungs, abdomen). I found it touching to think about this process as if it were something you had to learn.

The two posts leave out 7 of the artists. None of them I liked as well as the artists I describe positively here, and a couple of them I might cite if I went further into stuff that I just didn’t think worked.

<>Next week it’s Cincinnati and the Contemporary Arts Center there, although I don’t know yet what their current shows are.


  • hi dave
    hanna here.
    i googled myself and found your blog.
    email me so i can give you info on upc oming shows. there will be one in baltimore and one in miami in case you are in those towns anytime soon.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:33 PM  

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