“Withershins” — a Scottish adverb meaning going in the wrong, or unnatural, direction — sums up the mood of quite a bit of contemporary art. It is, in fact, the title of Jeff Grant’s exhibition at Whitespace gallery and of my favorite sculpture there.
The first thing you see is a bulb in a metal shade dangling from the ceiling, on a long cord so that it hovers inches from the floor. Then you notice the concentrated light that seeps beyond the rim like a UFO, drawing your eye to the legs of the miniature animal figures beneath it, moments before the light completes its downward motion and squashes the little beasts. Or so it seems.
Grant effects a queasy elegance in this and his gesso-on-mylar silhouettes of mutant animals. His floor sculptures, minimalist arrangements of fronds, are merely elegant — not that there’s anything wrong with that.
“Withershins” also applies to the work by Sarah Emerson at the Inman Park gallery. The Atlanta artist has earned a reputation for landscape paintings of an unnatural nature, so to speak, which meld the sugary sweetness of Disney cartoons with the obvious artifice of paint-by-numbers. She drives her point home by seeding them with rhinestones.
Emerson’s paintings swing from sweetly disconcerting to vaguely creepy. “Swarm” (below) depicts a mash-up of giant locusts: a biblical plague, all pretty in pink.
Both shows are worth seeing and are featured in Friday’s AJC Go Guide.