Saturday, December 08, 2007

H.C. Wonko


(John Tindel, Sexual Chocolate)

Earlier this year, Chris "H.C." Warner mentioned that his dream was to make Alcove Gallery a Wonka-esque wonderland. Although his "Wonko" show (Dec. 7 - Jan. 20) is a long way from achieving something like a magical chocolate empire, it's clear that Warner is doing well to deliver on his word. The move from affluent Buckhead to a somewhat industrial section of East College Ave. seems to have little effect on gallery attendance.

Again demonstrating his love of things Gene Wilder (the last show was titled "It's Alive!" after Young Frankenstein), Alcove continues in a spirit akin to the 1971 flick. The overall sense of the place is a celebration of returned youth. Take for instance the submission, Wonka Garden, by Barcelona artist Sergio Mora. Although the haircut on the central figure resembles Johnny Depp's rendition of the character, the tone of the piece is pure psychedelia. With a mystical third eye emerging from his hat, a rather androgynous Wonka rides a pale, blue and magenta spotted horse. Several fairy-sized (and notably caucasian) Oompa Loompas dance amid mushrooms and lollipops. One of the Oompas is especially enjoying himself, urinating on a nearby flower.

I regret not writing about Mark Henderson or Lelsie Ditto's work last month, as some of their pieces have gone elsewhere. One of Leslie's entries into the show, a piece I believe called Veronica, captured a bit more of the darker side of the novel. A girl looks directly at the viewer holding the menacing swirl of a giant lollipop. Casting a long, heavy shadow, the strained lines on the girl's face contradict her implied age, an effect reminiscent of bad plastic surgery.

The menu may prove a little too whimsical for some. The taste is indeed saccharine and can tire after repeated servings, but few would argue that Alcove hasn't carved itself a niche. The expanded floorspace of the Avondale location, for instance, makes the gallery more child friendly (without an increased danger to the art). I'm sure the decision is good for business, but it really gels with Warner's overall mission without the hint of anything disingenuous.

**

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