Joe Dreher has experienced a phenomenal rise in the metro Atlanta artworld (where emerging artists are emerging at a happily remarkable rate) since beginning a career as a muralist. His show at the Decatur Arts Alliance, up through November 30, 2015, illustrates his capacities in smaller mixed-media artworks.
An atmospheric homage to the life of Martin Luther King Jr. (Kings) indicates his possibilities in one direction of development. His icons of everyday African-American Atlantans are indicative of a direction that could be extended indefinitely.
The photo transfers on paper are evocative portraits, but the three paintings transforming their subjects into something like secular saints against the type of gold background associated with Byzantine and medieval devotional portraits. Atlanta, in which the subject’s particular beard, glasses, and facial structure have led viewers to (mis)identify him as Spike Lee, Cornel West, or Malcolm X, is particularly indicative of Dreher’s ability to turn the everyday into the extraordinary.
In a world less burdened with intrusive commitments, I would write a great deal more about Dreher’s work, but I’m confident that art writers will have ample opportunity to evaluate his work in greater detail in the year to come and the years after that.