Kirstin Mitchell; “Midnight at the Oasis”

Color gradients and monochromatic shapes dawned the walls of one of Hathaway Gallery’s galleries, much like Ed Ruscha, but without the words.

Kirstin Mitchell, Limousine, 2017. acrylic latex on wood panel, black neoprene, 72 x 180 in.

Upon experience first, it seemed that Kirstin Mitchell’s work in Midnight at the Oasis is Ed Ruscha’s word paintings without the language. The trade-off finds itself in the iterations of texture and focuses on color relationships. A grey tarp is affixed unevenly at two ends of a large dirty lavender to charcoal gradient painted canvas in Limousine. The neat draping of the tarp is stark against the smoothly blended colors. Another piece, Untitled (Yellow Rubber), appears to be two taught pieces of rubber fabric–one yellow, one white–diverge farther away from each other like a slit, revealing more white underneath. Shadows play in between the flaps of rubber. Surprisingly, the yellow extends past the implied canvas shape and drapes ungracefully below, playing with the color of the wall and casting multiple shadows.

Kirstin Mitchell, Untitled (yellow rubber), 2017, acrylic latex and white nitrile on canvas, 60 x 48 in

The colors, shadows, and material become a more important conversation than anything else. That is, until you peruse Mitchell’s artist statement: a serial list of definitions of key words from the titles of her work and show. Mitchell saved the wordplay for those looking for more than just a gut reaction to her works. Limousine is pulled apart into three definitions, each flourished with historical information.

The artist’s statement suggests as much ambiguity as her work itself entails. The work falls into a reactionary series, open to interpretation, even encouraging self-discovery through her work. Where the ambiguity stood in the words for Ed Ruscha, Mitchell channels ambiguity in texture and color to stimulate consideration.

Tori Tinsley: Locating Barbara

Partially hidden behind a large pink frankenstein-ed being, a larger than life dresser shelving a pitcher, and a sectional wall was Tori Tinsley’s animation cycling through memorable events. Hearing the animation’s audio at the opening was limited by the acoustics of socialization within Eyedrum; though, it did not limit the effect of the video summing up the entirety of Locating Barbara.

A sense of sentimentality, nostalgia, and friendship washes over you as you watch a round, simplified humanoid earn an A++, another getting married, and another on an exciting bike ride with a friend. The bike ride scenario stirred my thoughts of a dream–of which I thought was a memory until recently–where I sliced off the flesh of my palm while using scissors to make some art.

Tinsley’s large cardboard and tape sculptures would be daunting without the Elmo style color treatments. A slightly swollen dresser holds a large pitcher above it, evoking the feeling of a child challenged to reach something they shouldn’t have. More in reach are giant cardboard cookies upon a lopsided plate. The sculptures feel like children’s drawings of fond memories.

Widely spaced are singlets or pairs of paintings with a similar Elmo style coloring. The pastel color ranges move away from the attention grabbing primary colors of childhood to a pseudo-setting folded into deep memory. Tinsley’s gestural strokes of bold colors are like finger paintings, foundational, trying to grasp onto the basics of a fading memory or thought. They’re also layered, as if multiple attempts have been made to locate a memory and accurately represent it. This is evident in Tinsley’s larger painting of a pool where broad strokes of blues look like exciting, vibrating waves; under one arch of a wave is a revealing of what’s below, fingerprint-sized marks of more various colors.

All in all, Tinsley’s Locating Barbara places me in a state of nostalgic recollection of someone else’s exclusive memory. Challenging me to wonder how distinctive our experiences are and what amalgamates nostalgia into a universal sentiment.

Field Trip: Art Institution Hopping

My [amazing] professor Jill Frank scheduled an array of field trips to last us from 9:30 am to 3 pm on Friday and boy was it a blast.

The day started out at the Atlanta Contemporary hearing Paul Anthony Smith talk about his process and work for the show Walls without Borders. Paul’s technique–using clay tools to puncture mounted photographs–is as much of a trademark as his brick facades overlaying most of his work.

From his talk, I gathered he had an interest in glimmers or illusions of reality as well as contained places or contained thoughts. The picking effect does affect the image in the sense of creating or altering the reality of the photograph and the brick walls can clearly emulate contained places or thoughts, but the two together are a hard match.

I am most interested in the four pieces that are picked throughout the entire image–instead of in patterns. Those four are out of a series of nine and speak to the malleable perceptions of reality and shared environmental experiences.

The show’s title is a farce in that there are layers and layers of borders within his work. His neat brick shapes are borders, the bigger picture of brick walls are a border, the edges of the photographs are borders, and the frames are borders. So there are walls with borders, and many of them. Even the paintings of brick walls are bordered by the edges of the panels and then front-bordered with bead curtains.

Our second stop was at Sandler Hudson Gallery where P. Seth Thompson met us to talk about his work and thoughts. Being a curious student, I looked up all of the work we were going to see beforehand and was a bit disappointed by Thompson’s work because it felt dated. I was hoping to hear him explain his work in a way that may contemporize it; however, he did not. His talk was certainly not aided by his reading of an ArtsATL review of his work before seeing us.

His show Insufficient Data for an Image has an overall feel of glitch art with 80s references in a 90s style. He argues that his work is about the impossibility of an inherently true image, mostly focusing on media disseminated images. This is a long time idea, as far back as Hippolyte Bayard’s photograph of his feigned suicide out of petty feelings about not being named the first inventor of photography. His work lacked a challenging perspective on the concept.

The third stop was at Jackson Fine Art where Sally Gall and Lalla Essaydi were on display. Unfortunately we did not spend any time talking about Sally Gall’s work. Her hanging laundry is shot from below, creating beautiful floral shapes while offering an unexpected view of something very familiar. The most exciting part about this part of the trip was that our tour guide pulled out some of the artists’ portfolios for us to see. Being a fan of Kahn and Selesnick, I asked to get a peek at their portfolio; I have to say my geeky curiosity was fully satisfied. Their work is fantastical and fascinating. I will never tire of their magical end-of-the-world stories.

Lastly, we zipped through Whitespace gallery’s display of Bojanna Ginn’s work. Her show features a geometrically patterned video, a couple of geometric neon light forms, a giant sheep’s wool blanket (in a geometric shape), and photographs that are dreamy washes of color. I found the juxtaposition of geometric shapes and soft organic elements intriguing; it reminds me of the geometric nature of flowers and plants despite their softness and organic beauty.

Whitespace also has a small nook called Whitespec that showcased a broken piano by Steffen Sornpao and a video running backwards of someone destroying said piano. Seeing the destruction backwards brings to light the work it takes to destroy something as well as the work that originally built it.


Blurbing: John Prince, Joe Hadden, and Bryan Perry

This week’s MFA bonanza showcases three very differently installed artists. 

John Prince took up the entire small gallery with varyiously sized photographs of people, places, and things. His Three Iterations of Place feel like three iterations of time with some photographs of unplaceable origin and some appearing to be dated computer technology. The stark and beautiful photographs jump between black and white and color but follow a transformation of cool bluish purple to warm yellow and bright greens across the gallery space. I wish I had the opportunity to hear his talk because it feels like there’s a lot wrapped in the blanket of his work. 
Joe Hadden’s Catalyst has household experiments written all over. Some forms are found in trays or large jars, even a pet’s tank, suggesting a modern domestic alchemy. The pieces beg to be active explosions and transformations, yet sit very still on pedestals or hang stagnant on the wall. The colors and shapes are fossils of some exciting discovery cut short. 

Bryan Perry’s installation of Who’s he when he’s at home? is enthralling. Photographs from space all the way to spices in the kitchen hang mid air, overlapping and complimenting their neighbors as a story unravels. Prefacing the series of photographs with the question “who’s he when he’s at home?” forces a narrative to mind as you follow the Google stalk search into someone’s yard, then inside their doors and windows, to inside their rooms and paraphernalia. The move from wide space to very close up offers a bit of agoraphobia within the narrative, by the end you want to get back out of this house, but you’re too intrigued by the potential inhabitant of the home. 

Blurbing: Rachel Ballard & Kathleen Sharp

MFA Exit shows at Georgia State University feel like speed dates; each one lasts one Monday-Friday week and there are three going on each week. Last week I found interest in Rachel Ballard’s and Kathleen Sharp’s exhibitions.

Rachel Ballard’s photographs in Asunder had a Martha Rosler effect, with a feminist’s touch. At first glance–AKA before reading any statements–Ballard’s show feels like it has connection to the home with some touches of age-old-stereotypes of the woman-in-home. Her sink covered in grass and filled with ceramic mugs and clay-tinged water strikes me as a connection of home to earth.

Then I found Ballard’s statement. She writes that the focus is on opposites such as familiar/uncanny and attraction/repulsion. While that plays its parts in some pieces, it doesn’t feel like the important part of the show. I noticed a lot more playing within stereotypical domesticity. It felt a bit Alice in Wonderland if she didn’t have all her muchness yet.

Kathleen Sharp’s show At the end of the spectrum next to orange and opposite of violet present iterations of red on variously sized beautiful metallic-seeming pieces. The photographs present ambiguous shapes and objects that suggest corners, walls, and angular objects. Around the same time that I saw Sharp’s show, I was reading Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the Two Cultures by Eric Kandel which outlines similarities in abstract art and brain science, as well as explains the brain science behind experiencing art. This book deepened my ability to sincerely appreciate abstract art in general, and was quite timely to experience Sharp’s work. I was engulfed to many shades and tones of red and forced to understand how that made me feel.

Anya Liftig 

A most exciting aspect of GSU’s art department is that they pay for the best of the best to come visit. And even more so in the photography department: we were honored by Yale and GSU Alum performance artist Anya Liftig. 

My first experience of Anya Liftig was from a previous professor who shared her Wonder video performance. I was appalled, disgusted, intrigued, and terrified. I was not, and still am, disinterested in most performance art. It’s mystifying to me at best. I could easily relate my intellectual experience with Anya Liftig’s work to my first official college art class that started with a urinal on the table and the question “Is this art?” 

Anya’s talk at GSU was intimate and drew a comprehensive line from her entrance into GSU as a photo-based grad student seeking beautiful black and white pictures of her less familiar Kentucky hillbilly family to her graduating performance where she walked into the gallery nude asking “Do you have any questions?” 

Following the complicated, yet intelligent path from disassociation from external identitifying elements to internal phenomenological elements as the context for the move from photography to performance made performance make sense, especially within Anya’s comical and unexpected work. 

Her overarching desire to simply experience things reminds me of the curiosity and selfishness that commandeers learning and discovering in children; this to me is such an intelligent way to navigate life as an individual in a sea of other individuals. 

Blurbing: Tyler Mann, Ben B. Lee, and Elham Masoudi

Georgia State University features its MFA graduates in spurts of weekly reveals. The series of MFA exit shows kicked off with photo-based artists Tyler Mann and Ben B. Lee as well as mixed media artist Elham Masoudi. 
Tyler Mann’s series A few weeks, maybe months brings to us soothing, traditional landscapes, car window landscapes, and urinals in a look at the experience of a transgendered man on a road trip. The various urinals draw to light internal dialogues with bathroom etiquette and familiarity while the intermittent landscapes ground us in a solo adventure across land. The banal, but beautiful, treatment of composition and eye to color narrate a beautiful story of an “unfamiliar” lifestyle for viewers to consider. 

Ben B. Lee creates narratives in The feeling of being ok. Repitition–certainly a form a visual alliteration–finds itself looming throughout Ben’s work. From a triptych of the birth of a boy next to a man gutting his game, finalized by a sentence about a boy and his father. Elements and notes about manhood, boyhood, and fatherhood underlie the work overall, highlighting perhaps a learned gender space that is engrained within snapshot image culture. 

Elham Masoudi looks at the censorship of the body within the context of Islamic ideology in her works on paper as well as mixed media installations. Her pixelated forms disembody women into generalized colors and designs familiarly seen in garments worn to avoid showing off one’s body. The use of typical colors and designs grounds the work in an ethnic and religious context while the pixelation dehumanizes the subjects.