Review Roundup: “Parallels” and “Cultivated” at GSU, ART PAPERS LIVE, T. Lang Dance, Shakespeare Tavern and CORE



Jess Jones. "TopoQuilt (Avondale MARTA) " 2015. Found hand-pieced quilt top, hand dyed silk organza, machine stitching.
Jess Jones. “TopoQuilt (Avondale MARTA) ” 2015.
Found hand-pieced quilt top, hand dyed silk organza, machine stitching.

Parallels at Georgia State University’s Welch School Gallery 

“Textiles are topographies,” writes artist Jess Jones in the wall text of the new exhibition, Parallels, at GSU’s Welch School of Art & Design Gallery through July 31, a joint show that the textile artist created in collaboration with her fellow Georgia State professor, Dawn Haynie, an urban historical development expert. Her idea that fabric is already like a map is an interesting notion all on its own, but it’s especially curious in the context of her work nearby, in which textiles literally become topographies.

Two of Jones’ very different handmade quilts show overviews of Atlanta landscapes, the stitches and patches corresponding to intersections, streets, blocks and even the undulations of topographical contour lines. Through a more traditional series of overlaid maps showing the effects of sprawl and historical divisions on the city’s core cognitive structure, her colleague Haynie demonstrates in a more literal (and thoroughly dispiriting) way why our experience of movement through the city can often be such a peculiar, mind-numbing hassle rather than one of the pleasures of urban life.

Some of the mental patchwork that must take place in such fractured and divided spaces is nicely suggested by Jones’ series of abstract photographs of graffiti (she once relied on the markings as signposts through unfamiliar urban territory, but soon found they changed too quickly to serve that purpose). Close-ups of spray-painted letters are printed on lace, a material somehow strangely concrete-like in its cool grayness, dreamlike and insubstantial in its delicate layers, map-like in its intricate detail. It’s a discombobulating comingling of materials, indecipherable markings and representations. Some maps help us find our way; Haynie and Jones seem to use them to show us that we’re more lost now than ever. – Andrew Alexander

Artway of Thinking Workshop, Chicago, 2008 . Image courtesy Art Papers.
Artway of Thinking Workshop, Chicago, 2008. Image courtesy Art Papers.

ART PAPERS LIVE presents “Transforming Places and People: The Art Experience” Thursday, May 12, at Gallery 223 in Ponce City Market

Thursday, May 12– Clusters of chairs invited a full house of attendees to Gallery 223 in Ponce City Market. Curator, writer and educator Mary Jane Jacob presented the artist’s role in social change during an event hosted by ART PAPERS LIVE.

The opening slide projected Katie Paterson’s Future Library Forest in Oslo, initiating a string of past and future work by artists engaging in social practice throughout the world. Other projects included: Mapping the uncharted Phillips Community outside of Charleston; the Trampolinhuset (Trampoline House) in Copenhagen; the Conflict Kitchen in Pittsburgh; to the Conversations at the Castle held during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Process is the link traveling through each of these cities.

In thinking about the value of art, voiced were the experiences that overtly addressed shared values fostering human connection. Jacob contested that such innovation springs from what is already existing, sharing observations with others to cultivate sustainably.

“Transforming Places and People: The Art Experience” provided a glimpse into an academic lecture at the Art Institute of Chicago, where Jacob teaches. This traditional format served as a platform for a public audience representing Atlanta’s art community in the concluding Q&A session. Individuals raised questions on a range of concerns, ranging from the inherent risks in a social practice to using art to promote minority values within a majority-led culture.

As Atlanta is shaped by new developments it is the role of the artist to provide a perspective on the intrinsic value of the city through accessibility of local knowledge, resources and interconnectivity. – Anna Nelson-Daniel

Cultivated at Georgia State University’s Welch School Gallery 

Even a lifelong vegetarian may crack a reluctant smile at the grimly workaday humor of Alabama native Ted Whisenhunt’s charming sculptural work “Ham Hock and Fat Back,” part of the artist’s exhibition Cultivated at GSU’s Welch School Gallery through July 31.

In a somewhat grimly practical, expectant vision of the value of a pig, the animal — built from materials reminiscent of hardscrabble Depression-era rural life and subsistence-level farming such as worn wood, faded road signs and old license plates — has wheels instead of hooves. There are handles in the back so the pig becomes a literal food seller’s cart. Old cans of black-eyed peas are conveniently located on shelves it has in place of shoulders, while antique spoons and forks spin around on a mobile above its head.

Many of Whisenhunt’s works similarly delight and provoke with their sense of playfulness paired with a bleak sense of the harsh realities of rural life. His sculptures consist of rusted tin, abandoned birds’ nests, old buzz saws, dirty jelly jars, and broken drill bits, and they usually depict animals, often made mobile through simple, primitive devices. The viewer turns a crank or pulls a chain, and wings flap, a turkey struts, bees on wires shake and flutter about. The mechanisms are decidedly homespun, but strangely ingenious, too: the movement can be weirdly entrancing and dreamlike. One of Whisenhunt’s mechanical birds sits atop a little house with the words of an old saying inscribed inside: “No time to dream nor drift, we have work to do and loads to lift.” It’s a harsh saying but undoubtedly true of the rural, subsistence-level world that the artist alludes to; though we may fear to acknowledge it, it’s often true of our own, as well. Thank goodness then that Whisenhunt took the time to drift and dream a bit. In doing so, he allows us the momentary pleasure of doing the same.– Andrew Alexander


The Shakespeare Tavern’s seldom-seen Two Gentlemen of Verona

The Two Gentlemen of Verona cast includes Mandi Lee (from left to right), Adam King, Stephen Ruffin and Sarah Newby Hallicks. (Photo by Daniel Parvis)
The Two Gentlemen of Verona cast includes Mandi Lee Rushing (from left to right), Adam King, Stephen Ruffin and Sarah Newby Halicks. (Photo by Daniel Parvis)

The Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse gives a lively production of one of Shakespeare’s seldom-performed comedies, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, on stage through May 29. It’s charming enough that viewers may even start to wonder why the play doesn’t reach the stage more often. The new production, with the likable pair Stephen Ruffin and Adam King as the two young gents, takes full advantage of the fact that the show is a well-paced, compact, sexy romp with plenty of inherently comedic situations and ample room for the additive particulars that individual comic actors can give to their roles. The two gentlemen may get the title, but most of the laughs come from the two servants: Andrew Houchins as Speed and Patrick Galletta as Panthino. Two Gentlemen has a deftly-paced plot that’s a nice balance between the traditionally structured and the goofily picaresque. We follow the parallel, and often intersecting, romantic travails of our two fellows, and there are some wildly ridiculous diversions along the way involving a dog, kidnapping and bandits, all of which the ensemble clearly dives into with the right sense of fun. It’s given some nice, thoughtful texture by sonnets set to music from music director and cast member Rivka Levin. A good time for sure, but it’s worth noting that some of the decisions by the main character Proteus take a shocking turn, which may make him hard for contemporary audiences to swallow as the jolly and likable hero of a light comedy. Shakespeare could make things funny, for sure, but he seldom let them stay too simple or too easy. —Andrew Alexander


Review: Vega Quartet plays fundraiser for Highlands Chamber Fest at Atlanta Botanical Garden

The Vega Quartet at Atlanta Botanical Garden. (Photo by Mark Gresham)
The Vega Quartet at Atlanta Botanical Garden. (Photo by Mark Gresham)

This past Sunday the Vega String Quartet performed an early evening musical soirée in Mershon Hall at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Entitled “Chamber Music in the Garden,” the event served as a fundraiser and awareness generator for the annual Highlands-Cashiers Chamber Music Festival, which will run June 26 through August 7 in western North Carolina. This summer mark’s the festival’s 35th anniversary.

Violinists Domenic Salerni and Jessica Shuang Wu, violist Yinzi Kong and cellist Guang Wang opened the program with “La primavera” (“Spring”) from “The Four Seasons” by Antonio Vivaldi, arranged for string quartet. They then shifted musical gears to perform three Romantic flower-themed pieces: “Crisantemi” (“Chrysanthemums”) by Giacomo Puccini (1858–1924) — an elegy composed in 1890 as a response to the death of the Duke of Savoy — and string quartet arrangements of the “Flower Duet” from the opera “Lakmé” by Léo Delibes and “Waltz of the Flowers” from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s ballet, “The Nutcracker.”

Mershon Hall is an attractive, squarish events space. Its solid traditional tongue-and-groove wood floor supported the sound of the strings well, affording them a robust tone. Attendance at the premium-priced performance was evidently higher than expected; more chairs had to be brought in as the audience gathered during the pre-concert reception. The hall’s pair of double entry doors open directly to the garden space, allowing the audience to roam afterward and take in a recently installed exhibit of large-scale outdoor glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly, which runs through October 30. —Mark Gresham


CORE Performance Company pays homage to Iris van Herpen’s Transforming Fashion

unnamed-8CORE Performance Company’s experiment: question: refine, was inspired by Iris van Herpen’s stunning exhibit at the High Museum of Art. Transforming Fashion closed last Sunday with CORE’s movement homage to van Herpen, who reimagines crows, feathers, water, copper, tesla coils, umbrellas, fractals, even the laws of physics into masterful, wearable 3-D printed garments.

CORE referenced van Herpen through projected, close-up images of her dresses on the immense, blank canvas of the Hill Auditorium’s walls. Setting the mood in a pre-show performance, five dancers clad in little more than leotards, wrapped themselves in long strips of nylon, modestly creating a small-scale version of the grandiose compositions in the next building.

Live, atonal music by Bent Frequency, drifted from a balcony high above our ears while dancers teetered and wove through one another, mimicking the intricacy of van Herpen’s creations with mathematical precision. Replete with sculptural shifts and domino effects, tableaus emerged then dissolved before they could make a lasting impression.

Anna Bracewell, a central figure, delivered a clear and unsettling performance. Like the unknown body encompassed by van Herpen’s dresses, Bracewell moved without armor, and so, with vibrant humanity.

CORE, closing out its 35th season, landed on some intriguing ideas; yet we had to sift through many process-driven experiments to get there. Promising moments were short-lived and collapsed before they were built. In the end, I question whether what remains is sturdy enough to stand without the buttress of its inspiration. —George Staib

T. Lang Dance’s Performance for the Basquiat Bash at the High Museum of Art 

A woman wearing a sculptural crown, made by George Long, dances in a gallery at the High. Making eye contact with viewers, she approaches. In the crowded galleries and spaces of the High Museum during the Basquiat Bash, dance-encounters ebb and flow. The performers, popping off, beckon the viewers to respond. At times, a dance battle begins.

T. Lang Dances performance for Basquiat Bash, a public event for the High’s exhibition Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks, aimed to engage the aesthetics and spirit of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s person, persona, and work with T. Lang’s own, particularly her Post Up project. In speaking with T. Lang, she said that the work for Basquiat Bash is a conversation with Basquiat’s process. Basquiat Bounce, the series of mixtapes inspired by Basquiat she and her company dancers made leading up to the performance, speak to this process as well. Mixtapes can always be altered, rerecorded.

However, the dancers oftentimes got lost in the shuffle, diluted in the museum’s crowds. The dancers appeared and disappeared unexpectedly, perhaps like Basquiat himself, like how he “ghosted” Lang in her attempt to commune with him. But during the last full company dance in a third-floor gallery, the dancers were the focus. Lang, out on the floor, provoked the dancers and audience to participate in call and response, pointed out certain individuals to the viewers, proclaimed their importance: professors and students at Spelman (where Lang teaches and an HBCU institution), a young black girl sitting on the floor – a figure of the future, T claimed. – Meredith Kooi


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