Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Back from the dead...

Well, back from the hell that is final papers. Besides the point. I know today is not Friday, but it seems like I have enough catching up to do that the day doesn't really matter anymore. So, this weeks Belle of the emerging artist ball is photographer, Sunni Johnson.

Johnson does photography as well as mixed media sculptures and collages, but I think her strong suit is really her photography series. She uses her friends as models in theatrical backdrops created in their everyday environments. Johnson's photographs recall iconic pop cultural figures on a subconscious level. Between the costumes and dramatic poses Johnson is able to create renderings of film stills from the type of movies that would have seemed legendary cinema classics for the early '80s generation.

The two series that Johnson has completed to date are Portrait of an Ingenue and Knave or Not. Here are my favorites from the two collections:

UPCOMING SHOWS: Johnson will be showing at MINT Gallery in February.

WEBSITE: Website is under construction but should be up soon. I will post it on this review once it is up and running.

Friday, November 2, 2007


So, now we have a photographer and a printmaker. Needless to say, I think it is time to look at some sculpture. This weeks artist is Atlanta native Dana Haugaard. I feel I must preface this post by saying that I have only seen two pieces of Haugaard's work, so this is not necessarily a fair or in any way complete look at his current work.

Of the two pieces I have seen I have loved one and been less in love with the second. The first piece was in the Spruill Gallery's Looks Good on Paper exhibition. The work consisted of a plaster hand emerging from a black frame against a red background. It was nicely executed, but I think suffered from having too small of a scale. Unfortunately, in a salon style show pieces are easily lost, and I think that happened with the work.

The second work was at his show at Eyedrum over the summer. Longer was a much more impressive installation.

The piece took up the better part of the small gallery, which paired with the precarious-seeming hanging of the heads created a spectacularly anxious environment.

Haugaard will be one of the artists participating in the Mattress Factory Open Studios tomorrow afternoon-evening.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Hipster Life

Sorry I didn't get this up yesterday, everyone. I was a bit out of commission, but am now back and ready to update your visual horizons.

Karly Wildenhaus' series Atlanta Portraits, despite being a bit too embrasive of the hipster counterculture is quite a well composed, and produced series that could easily scale the pages of VICE. I have never seen these photographs outside of her website and I'm sure that in person something about the size or printing of the pieces might make them less striking for me, but as it stands, I still enjoy them.

Wildenhaus just moved to Chicago and is attending the Art Institute for (I think) visual criticism, which is unfortunate, because I think fashion photography would be a great route for her to pursue. Right now her work exudes a kind of raw talent and understanding of composition and color that with the right training could become really phenomenal work in a few years. I believe when she completed this series she was actually working for a fashion photographer, which I'm sure didn't hurt the richness of these images.

Here are some of the portraits from the series that I like in particular:

Besides the fact that Wildenhaus has a wonderful grasp of what makes a GOOD image, her content has certainly been considered. Granted, I think the style of the work pulls from photography less focused on content and more on dazzling the viewer, but that's not to say that her subjects are solely pretty faces. There has obviously been a great deal of attention to capture these people in their environment and to include objects, pets and people that have some amount of significance in the portrait-sitters lives. This is the one place where I think a couple of the images fall short. In more than one case the subjects seem a bit uncomfortable and stiff in their poses, which considering the locale, should have been considered. Although, going back to my previous statement, I think that these images draw heavily enough on photography that uses blatantly posed figures that is isn't too terribly bothersome.

On the whole, I think the series captures a small sect of the Atlanta population in a very well executed manner. I am very curious to see what else will be coming out of Wildenhaus in the next few years.


Friday, October 19, 2007

Jessica Mills

This week's artist, and the first to begin the trend is a MFA Candidate at the University of Georgia in Printmaking. Her approach to printmaking is a great departure from a medium that can be very traditional and limiting for many artists. Several printmakers, including the greats, seem to become overwhelmed by the medium. One of the most common criticisms of printmakers is that they are more concerned with the process of making an image than in the image itself. The criticism is far from the truth for this artist.

So without further ado, Jessica Mills.

If I had to guess, I would say that Mills is going places. Her work is able to achieve a familiarity with its' audiences that is hard to find outside of old family photographs and movies that you can replay in your mind. The underlying Americana sensibility is one of the characteristics of this series that instantly won me over. Mills' upbringing in Nebraska is undoubtedly what gives these images such a personal stake in her wide and minimalist landscapes.

Her current body of work is predominantly trace monotypes. Previously she was working with intaglio, so I'm guessing this was a pretty smooth transition for her. The work deals with the idea of memory and the images that your mind saves from specific instances, although not necessarily particular events. From what I understand of her working method, she pulls her images from photographs she takes using a digital camera that never leaves her side. This close companion is definitely helping her to turn out some stellar work.

Here are some of my favorites:

Under the Red Sunlight, 2007. Trace monotype.

Afternoon Drags On and On, 2007. Trace monotype.

Passing Afternoon Series, 2006. Trace monotype.

Through intimacy in layering, the transparency of papers and meditative mark making the prints invite the viewer to enter into them. Invite the viewer to read into them in a similar fashion to his or her own approach to a favorite book. To react to them in a similar way to a song that could just break hearts. These images serve as evidence of the body’s imprint on land, of our constant dialogue with the environment that surrounds.


Mills has work up at the Lamar Dodd School of Art right now. In terms of upcoming I have yet to find anything, but will post if I see something come up.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Hair to the throne... sorry bad pun.

Bands have made it based off of their hair. Take the 80's. I'm not saying I condone it, but would hair metal have been able to achieve its success without the obscenely Cowardly Linoesque coiffures. Try and imagine Motley Crue without the hair. Damn near impossible. Even the ladies of Motown. Hair is a critical part of the image if a musician. Diana Ross has her sweepingly long (and immense) locks, Kurt had his grease laden face curtains, and Dolly had her blindingly towheaded do. Even today, Britney has become even more infamous after the shaving of her ever-changing style.
Jennifer Anniston will forever be known by the infamous "Rachel" haircut she sported on Friends for so many years. You get my point. Hair makes the celebrity.

Last night I attended a phenomenal show at the 40 Watt in Athens ad believe you me, this hair furthers my point like you would never believe. The Melvins lead guitarist and general face of the band, Buzz Osborne has the coiffure of a lifetime. His signature hair is the before picture of a John Frieda Frizz-Treatment commercial in the best way imaginable. I can only imagine what goes into this production. At one point during the show I turned to the constantly mentioned Sara and asked how much hair product she thought he used. She replied that there was probably not much to it. I beg to differ though. If your career has been marker by a signature look that you carry you have to keep it up. Surely Melvins fans do not rely on Buzz's hair alone to enjoy the band, but think it goes without saying that when going to a show it is one of many elements that makes it even more thrilling to see them perform. Watching his hair bounce around is as much a part of the show as watching him play. There is a theatrical quality to it that is an integral part to the show, and I believe that is true of every performer who has a signature style. To think that Buzz doesn't give it a little tease on a flatter day, or occasionally have it cut to achieve maximum buoyancy is just naive.
I would even go so far as to suggest that there is a little spritz involved before the show.

All I'm saying is the hair doesn't make the man, but it certainly doesn't hurt. And, the next time the Melvins are in town I would highly recommend going for the hair watching.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Resident Evil

No I'm not talking about the snakes. Okay, the snakes. My gallery had two clay snakes in the store at one point. I broke the coiled one when I had to pick it up one day and jerk-reaction threw it across the room. The long one that looks like it's slithering just caused an almost fainting episode on more than one occasion. The snakes are awful. The man that made them is also, not surprisingly, a bit evil himself. Every piece of ceramics he had in our store was incredibly racist, offensive, and just downright ugly. Luckily, he picked his things up yesterday so that I never have to scream in the gallery again when I walk into the store.

Never have to scream again until today that is. In the porch area of the house that the gallery is in we have three residents by the names of Lucifer, Evelyn, and Gertrude. They are healthy, turd-making rats. The Terminix man arrived yesterday and set the trap with a brownie in hopes of killing at least one of the beasts. Never having hunted rat I had no idea how quickly such traps (the instant death kind) worked.

Today, while setting up for the groundbreaking at the gallery I realized I was in need of some things from the porch. Upon opening the door I had what might have been one of the most embarrassingly cliche girl moments of my life. There on the floor right next to the refrigerator was Lucifer, in the trap, looking up at me. One of the other staff members heard my squeal and immediately asked if I saw a rat. My face turned red. Of course I saw a rat! And he was gross. Gross. Huge too! I know it was Lucifer and not one of the girls because he was so large! His tail was at least five inches long. Light colored gray fur.

I considered posting a picture so that everyone could understand my experience with Lucifer but decided to spare you.

Hopefully, after setting more traps Gertrude and Evelyn will also be caught. I just hope Lucifer wasn't as fertile as I think he might have been.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Cultural Enthusiast

I have attempted to write a post about Cheyenne* three times now. All of my attempts were thwarted on account of the fact that I continually deleted the post (accidentally). So, here goes a shorter, hopefully less self-destructive try: Cheyenne is a Native American Cultural enthusiast who is a food runner at Highland Bakery. Sara and I encountered her during brunch several weeks ago. We posed as fashion bloggers and had her model for us to put in our non-existent blog, Atlanta Looks. So, without further ado, meet Cheyenne.

Many of you probably remember the Hipster Handbook that came out several years ago and provided a fairly harsh, but none the less accurate portrayal of the infamous HIPSTER. Well they released a follow-up book to the Hipster Handbook, which identified idiosyncrasies within American culture generally, not just hipsters. One of the title characters of the book draws a striking parallel to Cheyenne, the Cherohonkee.

Note the similarities: feathers in the hair, on the arms, a general sense of well-being for Mother Earth. I am the only one catching this?

Now, I must include in this post that Cheyenne was very nice and this is nothing against her personally, merely a general observation on cultural oddities.

*Name shave been changed to assure the privacy of the mentioned persons. Or to ensure that she doesn't find out what I was actually taking her picture for.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A little bit of shameless self-promotion

This Thursday the Spruill Gallery will have an opening reception for "Language" and "Howling and Other Justifiable Acts." The reception is from 6-9pm. Language will feature new works by Sarah Emerson, Jennifer Cawley, Gregor Turk and George Long. Howling is an outdoor installation by Terry Hardy.

The Spruill Gallery is located at 4681 Ashford Dunwoody Road (just north of Perimeter Mall). If you have any questions please call 770-394-4019.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

The Disappointment Artist

As the Decatur Book Festival kicked off yesterday I must say my hopes were high. Originally slated was poet-painter-punk god Billy Childish. Unfortunately Billy came down with a kidney infection and his talk was canceled for the fair, although his booth will still be open. In his stead they found a more able-bodied, but disappointingly less articulate Kinky Friedman.

Now, for those of you who don't know Kinky Friedman he is an eccentric musician-mystery novelist who attempted to run for Governor of Texas in 2006. Friedman has promoted himself as the Jew from Texas and likes to slip in nods to this oxymoronic existence as often as possible. His country music project, Kinky Friedman and The Texas Jewboys is merely the tip of the iceberg. He has recently begun a business venture into the cigar market after his trademark cigar constantly in mouth, although never lit. Needless to say, Kinky has a pretty stacked resume. I was actually fairly curious to go see him.

So, at 7.30pm Friday night my friend Lee Maree and I head in the direction of Agnes Scott to go see the novelist- musician- politician in action. We arrive about 15 minutes before the speech-lecture is supposed to begin and are shuffled into the overflow auditorium where we will be watching Kinky through the mediation of a large television screen. As we enter the auditorium there is an immediate sensation of discomfort. As we make our way to seats towards the front I notice the audience is comprised of Decatur residents who seem to be very proud of being at a pseudo-academic event on a Friday night and Kinky enthusiasts. Both demographics are ones I would prefer to avoid. After introductions Kinky walks onto the stage attired in cowboy hat, western-style button-down, black jeans and cowboy boots with a cigar in mouth and brown-bagged bottle in hand. First things first, Kinky goes out of his way to set the bottle down in order to make sure everyone can see his contraband item. Kinky and his piano player have a somewhat humorous exchange for to prep the audience for the unfortunate thing that is coming their way. Throughout this entire entrance Kinky has either had the cigar in his mouth or is pretending to puff on it, which considering the cigar is not lit merely comes off as a hokey facade as opposed to a promotional tool for his new company.

First things first, Kinky spends the first ten minutes promoting these cigars and mentioning where he will be to sign boxes of cigars. He then proceeded to go into a long list of one-liners he had clearly been saving up since the dawn of time. Too bad fort he audience, all of these one liners were elementary derogatory jokes that you and I have heard some version of in every kitchen we have worked in. The ones that weren't half-baked minority humor were uncomfortable asides about his non-existence but still hopeful sex life at age sixty. Now, before I go any further I should say that I like dumb humor and mean humor as much as the next person. It is not that I consider myself above these kinds of jokes; the jokes were just bad. BAD.

What was baffling though was that the entire audience was in hysterics. The woman sitting directly behind us let out an orgasmic squeal if he scratched his nose. The cult following was eating it up, so unfortunately he never moved passed the recess yard humor. After about thirty minutes we left. I don't know if it was the squealer, the bad sound emanating from speakers every time someone spoke to closely into the mic, or just Kinky but we had to get out.

Kinky Friedman is indeed a name everyone has heard more than once for his numerous accomplishments (and attempts), so the fact that he dumbed down everything that he is capable of discussing was almost insulting. He would have been exponentially more successful if he had instead taken the approach of talking about his history and inserting a few lewd jokes along the way. Oh Kinky, I hope the cigars can support you now.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Director of First Impressions

Almost one month ago (to the day) I started a new job working at the Spruill Gallery in North Atlanta. My first day was uncomfortably enough not my predecessors last day. As I was moving in my new Rolodex, calendar and all of my other accoutrement's the young man was job hunting for a position in California, where he was following his girlfriend as she began graduate school. While scrolling through potential job opportunities one popped out to both of us: Director of First Impressions. Now while this was merely their clever way of saying Receptionist, it got me to thinking: If I were the director of first impressions what exactly would this entail? Dressing appropriately was an obvious one, saying hello and smiling until my jaw hurt more than likely. The list goes on. First impressions are a big deal. I suppose technically since I am the first person one sees when they enter the gallery, that is my job now. I am a Director of First Impressions. Suddenly my new job became much more daunting.

Last weekend, my friend Sara (the same mentioned in the previous entry on movie watching) and I were brunching at Highland Bakery to do gather material for her new endeavor, Howdy Foodie, the Atlanta Food Guide for the GastroVegetarian. While enjoying our delicious assorted muffin basket an old acquaintance of mine from high school strolled over to our table. Introductions were exchanged, hands were shaken, and then he left us to return to his own brunch partners. After he left Sara looked at me and said in a very concerned manner, "He has a very weak handshake." Needless to say this spawned the conversation topic of the importance of a good handshake.

Handshakes are one of the most important ways of judging a person at first introduction. A weak handshake is is too passive and suggests the person can't hold their own, even in a simple grip with another. Too firm of a handshake is overpowering and brutish. The ideal handshake is firm, not too long but not so short that it seems like you are running away from your fellow hand-shakers embrace. I have always prided myself on having a good handshake and have never been concerned about the way other people will perceive me based upon it. What about Ben though? He could destroy any opportunity for being taken seriously in the professional world with the dead fish of a hand he is passing off as an introduction.

As the Director of First Impressions I began to think about this seriously. Would I hire someone with a weak handshake over someone with an assuring, self-possessed demeanor about their hand. Probably not. The first handshake is like the first kiss. If you can't get it right the first time, you probably are not going to get an opportunity for the second. So I say this as a word of caution: Be confident in your handshake and fear not the grip of another's hand.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

List of my favorite fist-pumping, go-get-em, you can do it movies ever:

My dear friend Sara and I have developped quite the weekly routine of dinner and a movie on Tuesday nights. Generally we stick with hunks of the 80s and early 90s classics (read Ethan Hawke ca. 1992, Robert Downey Jr) to get our fill of melodrama and coke abuse once a week. Last Tuesday however was a refreshing departure thanks to an unexpected treat from Sara's Netflix list. We ended up watching a movie (I'll get to it in just a moment) that was one of those heartwarming, cheer for the underdog's success as they struggle through some kind of familial/medical/etc problem to end victoriously. Now, this is not by any means intended to mean chick flicks. This is not the love triumphs films catergory. This is the fist-pumping, go-get-em, you can do it film category. I was so excited about the movie that I decided to make a list of some of my favorites that fall into this category:

On a Clear Day can go at the top since that is the movie that spawned the list. This is about a 55 year-old man who is forced to retire ealry from his career in a ship buildng factory in England. Frank, our protagonist, in order to rebuild his shattered self-esteem and sense of purpose decides to swim the English Channel. Of course there are trials and tribulations to overcome, such as his non-existent relationship with his son over the *SPOILER* drowning of the son's twin at age 12, his growing separation from his wife, and personal demons. There is something about old men that you can't help but rally behind them. I can't help but think that it has something to do with associating them with your father and grandfathers and connecting the characters success to the film or something odd and Freudian along those lines. But, regardless of what the reason, the film is wonderful. Certainly a classic to be added to the category.

Anyone who doesn't love this movie, especially during Olympic years has no soul: Cool Runnings. If you can't get behind the Jamaican wonder team in the bobsled competition for the Winter Olympics with an overweight cheat for a coach than I don't know what to say. This was my favorite move growing up, and I still LOVE it. With lines like "I'm feeling very Olympic today," there's just not a whole lot you can't find endearing.

Shower is another great that my old roommate and I discovered last year on the Staff Favorites shelf at Vision Video (good job, guys!). This one has every essential element to make a great movie. Father and two sons: one son is retarded, the other a successful, married business man, the father runs a bath house to support himself and the son. Best of all, it is Chinese. Of course the successful son comes back to help take care of the father after he has a medical issue and cultivates a relationship with his father and brother. Of course, they keep the bath house going and the family ties strong.

Billy Elliot is one of those that everyone saw when it came out on account of its indie film star child of 2000 status, but that does not mean that further praise is undeserved. Young, lower class English boy who takes ballet lessons despite dsapproval from his peers and parents. Only the ballet teacher believes in him as he pays for dance lessons with the money his father gives him for boxng lessons. Trust me, even if you can't enjoy most of the movie, I will put money on the fact that you will hold your breath in anticipation at the end when he auditions for dance school. Oh yeah, it's one of those.

Water Boys. I don't know what it is with me and Asian films, but for some reason in the feel-good category I just can't get enough of them. Well, this one is a treat. Agroup of Japanese high school boys who are encouraged to form a synchronized swim team. Now, I must preface this by saying that if this were not a Japanese film, it would be a stupid American one. But, for some reason it is absolutely endearing and of course they overcome the mocking of their peers and get the girl(s).

An older, but great movie for the list: An Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain. If you have never seen this, go to your video store today and rent it, immediately. First things first, Hugh Grant is in it, which for some reason to me makes it even better. Well, Hugh Grant plays a mountain surveyor who travels to a Welsh village (apparently I am obsessed with Asians and Brits today) because the town has a local mountain, the highest in the area, which is not listed on any official maps. Grant arrives and finds that in fact their mountain is actually a hill; this is not good news for the townspeople. But the community perserveres as they mobilize and gather earth from the land below to put on the top of the mountain so that it can gain the 20 feet (or something like that) it was short of the mountain.

Mystery, Alaska: Granted Russell Crowe is in this which makes it slightly harder for me to root for his under-dogged team, but if I manage so can you. Great movie that makes you get that cheesey grin when the team pulls through. Classic corporation vs. the local town, but this time its wth hockey. Not much more to say, other than it certainly fits the category.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Hop into spring.

Despite the burst of cold, spring is here! Now, I am not a spring chicken. My prime months are early May to late October. I will take a fading summer over an oncoming deluge of allergies and rainy weather any day of the year. But, the one thing that I do look forward to every year, right as the pollen comes, fresh blades of grass sprout, and magazine racks piled sky high with the 'prom' editions erupt has finally arrived: The day after Easter candy sale. Oh yes! The week is still young and I feel confident that there are still plenty of Cadbury Creme Eggs left to be had. Seriously, whoever thought of creating a candy that looks like an egg is brilliant. What a fabulous way to celebrate the commerical aspect of a holiday all about eggs. Although I am not in this grouping, I'm sure there are numerous people who dislike hard boiled eggs. Because of Cadbury, they too can enjoy the holiday! Brilliant.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

The writing's on the Wall.

So, last week I accompanied a contemporary art history seminar class to New York for a long weekend that promised to be full of eye candy and delights. And it was. After what I estimated to be 9 hours of Chelsea gallery meandering, a full day of the Whitney (although sadly without a view of the current Gordon Matta Clark exhibition due to unfortunate timing) and MoMA, followed by another day of museuming at DIA: Beacon (which I must say has made me come around to many of the minimalist sculpture that I had previously brushed aside during many an art history class) I think it is safe to say, on reflection, that the highlight of the trip was, by far, the Jeff Wall exhibit at MoMA.

My favorite piece from the exhibit (as if I could choose one, which led to the purchase of a rather expensive book I could not afford) was his 'Picture for Women' from 1979.

The most interesting thing about his work was that he was so aware of the historical context in which he was creating his images. 'Picture for Women' is such a well done reworking of Manet's piece 'A Bar at the Folies-Bergères' (1881–82), but does it in a way that avoids being overly referential and is simply a beautiful hommage to the Manet. The entire show was filled with wonderful examples of this. Wall's work is very aware of itself, but in that is very careful to reconsider the work to give it a modern context. All of his works can easily fit into traditional genres of still-life, historical, and portraiture but none of them seem dated or cheesy. His ability to revise those traditional categories created work that still seem relevant today, both in an art historical context and in general pop culture. Wall's depiction of an eviction in a lower middle class suburb speaks wonderfully to this in that he uses the same monumental scale as historical paintings and a similar active narrative, but the subject matter is profoundly contemporary. I think that was perhaps the greatest feat of Wall's work was his ability to fill every work with a sense of contemporary society, chock full of literary and historical illusions but never to the extent that they overpowered the work and became its focus. Every piece was filled with exceptional attention to detail and little treats if you observed each work long enough. If anything his meticulous attention to detail reminded me of a Kubrick film in its subtelty. Every photograph was enough in itself a well composed and thought out composition and idea. But, within that every element held imformation that illuminated the intent of the imae even further.

More to be said on the wonders that I came across through gallery hoppings later, but for now, adieu.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A brief introduction.

So, as my undergraduate career is coming to a rapid close I am realizing that the only traces of work that I hve to show for myself are very dry, academic writings. Well, hopefully this blog can correct this sorry state. So, I christen you, dear blog, to be my forum where I can unleash musings on things that I encounter in my daily happenings. Hopefully there is some continuity to this once it is all over and done.

Since I have no writings to present at the moment, I suppose the best way to start things off are to establish some sort of connection between this blog which will eventually be chock full of writings, and my other cherished internet addiction which simply has things that I find throughout the web and post either for research, general amusement, or simply things to keep in the back of my mind via internet.