Last Thursday we took a trip with Jeffrey and Leah to meet with Veronica Kessenich, executive director of the Atlanta Contemporary. Currently, they had on view three solo shows by artists Sascha Braunig, Paul Anthony Smith, and Ja’Tovia M. Gary. Veronica had to leave for a meeting, so she took us quickly around the gallery spaces with a quick tour of the art and background information on the artist. I found it interesting because last time I was here, with ART260 last semester, the exhibit on view was focused solely on Atlanta (or Southern) based artists. However, this time, the goal was to bring up and coming contemporary artists into Atlanta. Sascha Braunig and Ja’Tovia M. Gary are based in New York City and Paul Anthony Smith in Jamaica. Veronica explained how the goal is to bring in artists who are not yet big name, and to show a larger number of women artists, LGBTQ artists, and artists of color.
The images above are of some of Sascha Braunig’s pieces – the one on top was my favorite. She takes her inspiration from Italian horror films, Flemish painting, fashion, and the human body. I was absolutely fascinated by her ability to convey both the quality of a person and a machine in her figures. I am usually drawn to the unusual and, I guess, unsettling so I was immediately pulled in by the horror movie-quality of Sascha’s paintings. Also, the realism in these pieces was absolutely incredible. It’s difficult to see in a photograph, but the way the wire is draped on the metal hooks looks so deceivingly real. Aesthetically, these are not pieces I would want hung in my house, but I am fascinated by them and greatly appreciate her artistic skill.
These works are by Jamaican artist Paul Anthony Smith. The top two are beaded screens covering painted brick walls; the beads mimic the way they are used in Jamaican homes, as a security device. I learned that because of the heat many Jamaican homes do not have door, but instead put across their doorways beaded screens so if someone tries to invade the house they are alerted. I desperately wanted to run my hand through the screens, to feel the beads and hear what kind of sound they made. I thought they were beautiful and the colors so dynamic against the dark wall. The bottom two pieces were incredible as well. They were images of Jamaica (or Jamaican culture elsewhere) that Paul Anthony Smith punctured holes in deliberate patterns. It was a similar effect to pointillism or to impressionist painting; the full image can only be understood from a distance, but up close you can see the skill and what makes up the illusion.
Although contemporary art isn’t really my “thing”, I have learned to better understand and appreciate it. Returning to the Contemporary, I could more easily recognize their mission and how it was reflected in their current exhibit. It’s not somewhere I feel a strong connection to, but I do greatly admire their efforts to make the art world a more inclusive space.