Sunday, December 7, 2008

Carol Barton at the Papermaking Museum

I am left with the sense that the AJC's relatively small number of column inches devoted to the visual arts means that there isn't even room for stories about certain things that the general populace would like, such as Carol Barton's popup books for grownups at the Robert C. Williams Paper Museum on the Ga. Tech campus. Under the capable curatorship of Teri Williams, the Museum brings us serious yet often playful paper-related shows of contemporary art, such as Julie Püttgen's survey of Swiss and American cut-and-folded paper sculptures (one of the last things I was able to write about in the now-defunct AccessAtlanta tabloid before the AJC downsized still further).

And it is, as mentioned in a comment to an earlier post, scandalous that we have noplace to see the work of an Atlanta-based artist featured in Modern Painters whose work, were it available in sufficient quantity, would be ideal for a Paper Museum sculpture show. But no gallery locally shows Brian Dettmer, who came to Atlanta in 2006 because of his wife's employment here. His transformations of books (written up courtesy of Felicia Feaster in the December issue of The Atlantan) are much acclaimed elsewhere, as the London magazine's special feature in November indicates.

The AJC's Jonathan Williams interviewed Bethany Marchman in Sunday's AJC, providing insight into the life and work of a popular artist whose work was featured in the movie Juno and whose fiancé Rene Arriagada is not so coincidentally profiled in the same section, alongside an article on a 7 p.m. Friday book signing by Russell Howze of his Stencil Nation: Graffiti, Community, and Art, at A Cappella Books, in Little Five Points.

So this exercise in art history gives us hope for the future. Three interrelated articles fill in some of the context and implicitly correct some of the errors in an earlier story on the Atlanta practitioners of the lowbrow movement's aesthetic (discussed in the Marchman interview), and contextualize a subcategory of graffiti (stencil art) as well as putting a name to some of the stencils that most Atlantans know only from drive-by glimpses. (Those who went to Arriagada's exhibition of gallery art at Beep Beep Gallery were already knowledgeable on the topic, but the show attracted little enough attention in the print media. Given the reading habits of the Atlanta public, it is doubtful if many people who needed to be brought up to speed on stencil art actually attended the show to receive an education in the history of contemporary practice.)

So Jonathan Williams proves to be equal to the example of his famous modernist namesake when it comes to enlightening the masses regarding topics about which they are clueless.

And we may hope for similar AJC convergences with regard to the many other types of art exhibited around town, as well as meditations on why certain types of art are represented only in lectures regarding work that Atlantans will never see in local venues. (Given the lovely January convergence represented by Georgia State's "New WAVE Atlanta: When Urban Intervention Speaks French" and the Atlanta Gallery Association's ATLArt09 fest, a study in collisions of the contemporary could be undertaken by any number of commentators.)

We could be pleasantly surprised someday, and have a feast of the international contemporary to rival the unparalleled feast of antiquity currently available in the city. But it won't be because there is a market for it. Although there are significant collectors of contemporary work, too much of it doesn't fit the dominant commercial paradigm. There is a great deal of worthwhile work to be seen here, but within a context that is shaped by many distorting factors.

Right now the local market does not fit much of anybody, which is why I have been more preoccupied recently with the survival of art venues and the problem with keeping their events known to general audiences. But events continue to unfold.

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