Thursday, January 31, 2008

Sounds like Johnny Cash; Looks like...?

Carol Ashley, Mr. Hooper, Jason Limon, & Shaunna Peterson.
Opens at Alcove this Friday night.

Folsom Prison Paul.
Nashville vibes. Sponsored by Stomp and Stammer.

New website... New art? We shall see.

(Is anyone going to that "ArtWino" thing at Foundation? You have to bring a bottle of wine to get in, though they never said what type of wine... I wonder if it'll work.)


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

By the by: If you're

registered to vote in Georgia, you can actually vote for the presidential primary THIS WEEK. You don't have to wait for that "Super Tuesday" foolishness. Some advance poll locations are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. If you've moved around since you last voted or if you have chronic memory loss like your's truly, you can check your GA voter registration status here.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

More Love for Beep Beep

As a late New Year's resolution, I'm going to avoid making awkward comments at galleries. Beep Beep was thoughtful enough to send me a holiday card this winter. Given the opportunity this Saturday, I totally botched a simple "Thank You."

Plus, it didn't help that one of my companions, a couch-surfing Frenchman in a pirate hat, wasn't being a great example of European manners. I mean, his idea of a handshake - making to choke slam one of the gallery owners - was pretty hilarious. But the timing wasn't especially great. (I didn't think he had that much to drink.)

Still, Mark was a good sport through it all. Southern hospitality withstood the insults of the Old World. In another time, it might have been cause for pistols or rapiers...

At any rate, I really did appreciate the card. Best of luck guys.


Friday, January 25, 2008

Death's Head

Review - "Skull Fuck 2" at East Side Lounge
Fly Away by Charlie Owens)

Saturday night. As a rare Atlanta snow melted into oblivion over Flat Shoals Ave, I ducked into the East Side Lounge. The title of the night’s art show is "Skull Fuck 2." I expected the worst, already my mind’s eye recalling the bad horror movies of yesteryear. "Ah," I thought to myself, "yet another crawl through some dark alley of Atlanta Lowbrow."

Sure enough, the narrow bar was transformed into a bazaar of skull-themed paintings. Skull mirrors, skulls with chicks, and skulls patterned in tan and magenta, à la Warhol's Marylyn Monroe. But it wasn't quite the dive bar I had expected. Just a little on the posh side, the place was surprisingly bright; at least you could see the paintings over and between the heads of late night regulars.

Executed in his usual style, Charlie Owens’ entries dominated the first floor. Although there’s nothing particularly new about Fly Away (above), the aggressive colors and smooth finish stood out from the crowd. The lines on Charlie’s cartoon ghosts, part flesh but mostly bone, are whimsical yet confidant. What really electrifies this painting, though, is the intricate layering of elements, ephemeral butterflies dancing over interlocking fleur de li. I couldn’t stop staring at those blues and cloudbursts of gold dust.

Yet as I nudged through crowded elbows and dangling handbags, I felt a lingering déjà vu. Yes, there is something universal about skull pictures: most every boy grows up scribbling skulls or robots or medieval weapons into the margins of their math homework. I admire the populism, but why is it so predictable?

Upstairs, pieces by Jonathan Callicutt caused me to take a second look. His horizontals look like banknotes1 from some unknown empire: birds of peace crossed with militaristic five-pointed stars. A message written in cursive: “Poor uneducated people will be made noble in the fire.” Although lacking the graphic punch of Charlie Owens, the collision of cryptic text and unlikely symbols approaches meaning. Something sublime lurks behind the rough, working class exterior.

It begs the question: how do you get mileage out of repetition and cliché? Skulls - a motif with such an ancient history in the medieval vanitas, Aztec rituals2, and the death’s head of the German S.S. – are more likely today to make us think of Pirates of the Caribbean. Looking at some of Jonathan’s other work, there’s something much more mysterious about his use of Michelangelo’s Pieta and statue of Moses. And those kabuki demon masks, which are said to combine a face of intense anger with one of sadness, are especially haunting.

“Skull Fuck 2” delivered what it promised, an informal tribute to the skinless human face. I was just hoping for a little more.


1It's a strange fact that some the world's first paper currency wasn't for the living. It was for the dead.
2Books by George Bataille, Erotism and The Accursed Share, have some hypnotic descriptions of death traditions in colonial Aztec culture and medieval art.

Jonathan Callicutt

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

False February: Public Space

(Above: conceptual drawings and schematics for a proposed Beltline property by Architect Mary Clare DeReull)

Deconform is gearing up for a February release under a new publication name: False Magazine. The intention is to open up a dialog about the use of public space and the impact of development schemes on our way of life.

Do eminent domain laws really serve the public good? What constitutes a greater "blight on the community" - a neglected townhouse or the ugly subdivision that gets built on top of it? How can we think constructively about new construction?

More updates soon.


Saturday, January 12, 2008

Reconstructing Atlanta: Beltline

Inman Park, Huff Road, the Vulcan Quarry... the photos below show wildly different areas of Atlanta, each spot located somewhere in the proposed Beltline loop. The Beltline web gallery allows you to click on a different Atlanta neighborhood, navigate via Google map, and check out shots submitted by volunteer photographers. They still need images from a lot of uncovered neighborhoods.

All part of the Reconstructing Atlanta series put on by GSU and the Fulton County Arts Council.


Beltline Photos

Friday, January 11, 2008

Kinetic Electric

Kinetic Electric is precisely what it appears to be: a self-produced effort by an untested yet talented sequential artist. Saint, also known as Alan Hemphill, premiered his graphic novel at MINT Gallery last Saturday. Rendered in pen and brushed in savage, sometimes oppressive sumi ink, Saint's science fiction brainchild is promising but a little rough around the edges.

Flipping through its 32 pamphlet-sized pages, the book tells the story of a punk rock chick who wants to play God. Before biking out to market to buy robot parts, the unnamed girl narrates, "I will gyrate to the orgasmic throbs of Mary Shelly.” Bursting at the seams with raw energy, statements like that characterize the project as a whole. Kinetic Electric’s enthusiasm helps forgive its shortcomings.

The world Saint envisions is, in his words, an “Orwellian wet dream.” The flavor is pure cyberpunk, borrowing imagery from The Matrix and comic titles like Ghost in the Shell or Transmetropolitan. The future is dirty. Technology thrives like an ambiguous cancer, and everyone is still in search of their own personal gods, their next “big fix.” Additions like advertisements in Hindi script and shots of Buddhist monks with neural implants are a nice touch. Saint comments that the urban decay was also inspired by life experience, living homeless on the streets of New York.

Our would-be Mary Shelly covers herself with "holo-film tattoo spray." The substance turns her skin into a living television screen (using nanotechnology perhaps?). The convention allows Saint to decorate his lead girl with a different exotic tattoo in every panel. The reader is left wanting a little more exposition about gadgets like “holo-film” and the mysterious “uncertainty engine."

And you have to wonder: “Why the hell is she building this robot?” The answer is, it seems, out of sheer boredom. The twist is that technology is so common almost anyone can scrounge the parts to create artificial life. Future Kinetic issues will develop the melodrama further: this new android consciousness awakens to discover an imperfect creator who had nothing better to do with her Saturday night.

Riffing in a violent, almost Dadaist fashion, the writing is chiefly concerned with attitude: “This is the birth pain of ball driven Tantric super science bashing the head meat of god, gyrating in the soft warm centers of its heavy thunder and pouring lightning.” The style is immediate like high-powered automatic writing, but the type needs some editing. Plus there's little to break up the adrenaline pitch.

Kinetic's story text follows the drawings on separate pages in irregular order, so unfortunately, you never quite know when to turn forward or back. In one scene, the girl tries to haggle a price with a market robot. It made me laugh, but it really took a second look for the sequence to make sense. Framed panels may not solve the problem, but just a slight modification will make things easier on the eyes.

With so many conflicting forces, I know the balancing act is daunting: image vs. text, the printed product vs. the quality of each original, etc. When working with less than a shoestring budget, you can’t expect amenities like custom framing or high quality printing. And it’s too bad since the guy is really good with color; just check out Saint’s myspace.

Kinetic Electric has the first main ingredient for creating a great pulp story, what Warren Ellis calls that “true seed of madness.” Otherwise, it just needs some polish.


Monday, January 07, 2008

Earth Rat eats Fire Pig

2007 is over, yet according to the Chinese zodiac, we're still in the Year of the Boar. A "Fire Boar," actually, followed by the "Earth Rat." I imagine some gargantuan, muck-covered rodent devouring one very unhappy piggy. On fire.

Hoping to check out The Contemporary sometime this week for the winter film series: documentaries on the New York Abstract Expressionists, Francis Bacon, and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Emerging from a period of low activity (both online and off) with only a couple of highlights from last month. Winter Soulstice was a heartening success: I've forgotten the numbers, but Groove Muse not only broke even, they raised a respectable chunk of cash for those foster kids. Not bad for a first event.

I dropped by Push Push for a screening and short discussion of the documentary, ¡Salud!, a fairly even-handed look at Cuban medicine. Unlike Michael Moore's film, the documentary tries to assess just what is good about one system (Cuba) instead of focusing on all the negatives of another (The United States). It's amazing that the Cubans were actually willing to give full scholarships to Americans - so long as they went back to the States to practice medicine in poverty-stricken areas. One of the academics on the film called it either a brilliant piece of Machiavellian diplomacy or an inspiring show of genuine compassion.

With Castro readying to step down officially and with the financial controversy surrounding Grady Hospital in Atlanta, the screening couldn't have been timed better. It was nice to sit in a room with a dozen or so well-informed people seriously talking out the issues (although admittedly still a bit above my head...).