This fall, the Atlanta scene is shimmering with good shows and hope for an art-filled future. One especially sparkling light is the exhibition of Jim Waters' new work at Kiang Gallery. It's all about the letter "O", raised to ecstatic heights. The Atlanta-based Waters has transformed the typographic cypher with a group of repeating 3-D works that effectively erase the line between sculpture and painting. His circular shapes, painted in glittery solid colors -- mauve, aqua, sea green and eggplant -- reference both Minimalism and Pop art. Ranging in diameter from 12 inches to four feet, most of the forms are angled a few inches off the wall and given highlighting reflections of contrasting fluorescent paint. His jazzy abstract symbols ($1,250-$7,000) exceed all expectations of the orb.
At Sandler Hudson Gallery a few doors south on Peachtree Road, another Atlanta artist shows his psychedelic, spiritual side. Don Cooper's new paintings ($800-$10,500) ripple with enlightenment, picturing the transcendent lotus flower, cosmic egg and empyrean sea in swirls of green, tan and orange. Paintings like Whirl and Swirl pull the viewer into their bright hypnotic meditation.
Next door at Marcia Wood Gallery, Dublin-based artist Jeff Dick has installed a group of abstractions that are collectively titled "Paintings Adrift" ($850-$2,400). Using crushed glass, clear acrylic and pigment on square wood panels, Dick achieves a particularly notable atmospheric effect. His glistening undulations of organic and artificial colors -- green, blue, crimson and rust -- evoke ocean eddies, chemical reactions or brewing storms.
Over at the Lowe Gallery on Bennett Street, South African-born painter Robyn Michalow continues to speculate on the creation of the world in her glimmering "cosmogony" series ($1,900-$8,000). Inspired by lunar mappings, NASA documentation and her own observation of the evening sky, Michalow's paintings erupt with the palette and surface vocabulary of deep space. Bubbling black pigment flows around slick white egg shapes that have collapsed onto her canvases. Sometimes glowing tiny grains of charcoal cluster and hover just above the surface, bringing an even more visceral character to the cosmic experience.
Last weekend, in conjunction with a survey of his photo works at Fay Gold Gallery, Chris Verene (the former Atlantan who is now a hot New York property) reappeared in person only to disappear -- behind his ghost curtain. In a virtuoso performance, "Vereni the Magnificent" managed to vanquish attempts to bag and rope him, magical antics that New Yorkers had already admired at the Thread Waxing Space and in a Times Square storefront window.
For a couple of hours, Vereni's show eclipsed the display of new glass sculpture and works on paper by Richard Jolley ($1,500 to $20,000) and a roomful of huge chocolate-toned photographs of horses ($1,100-$3,000) by Michael Eastman.
Atlanta celebrates photography
While Verene's hijinks kept them busy at Fay Gold, the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center opened a pair of photo shows, "Masking" and "Rear Window." One highlight is Andres Serrano's Klansmen photos, along with a group of photographic and video works that linger on America's fascination with the morbid. Among images are prisoners in Dachau, a morbid portrait of Laura Palmer from David Lynch's Twin Peaks, a murder victim photographed by Weegee and a few horrific lynching postcards published in the book Without Sanctuary. Works drew viewers up close to contemplate the unspeakable, effectively squelching most of the typical opening night schmooze. Verene's comic fluff was a relief in comparison.
October was a month brimming with "Atlanta Celebrates Photography" shows and events, ranging from Ernest Withers' civil rights documentary photographs at the High Museum downtown to the poetic travel photos of retired physician Mario DiGirolamo at the Reinike Gallery. Now in its third year, the democratic ACP has grown to fill 100-plus venues with photography shows and gained an important corporate sponsor (Kodak donated $10,000 to the effort).
And in Buckhead, Jane Jackson and her gallery, Jackson Fine Art, keep an eternal flame burning for fine art photography. Last month, the gallery featured Michael Kenna's work. Through December, we'll see the cyanotype poetics of John Dugdale and magical prints by Luis Gonzalez Palma.
Atlanta's new spaces
The new Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia (MOCA GA) opens its midtown space in January 2002. The 250-piece core of works by Georgia artists comes from the corporate collection of CGR Advisors, an Atlanta-based real estate investment advisory company, and the private collection of CGR president David Golden. Golden chairs the museum board, while local artist and arts consultant Annette Cone-Skelton directs the new venture. MOCA GA opens with a one-person show of new work by Martin Emanuel, a Georgia-based sculptor who is professor at the Atlanta College of Art.
Also on the contemporary art front, Eyedrum, Atlanta's premier alternative space, has moved from its hole in the wall on Trinity Avenue downtown to a new warehouse build-out on Martin Luther King Drive. Eyedrum has been managed for three years by volunteer artists, musicians and writers. The immensely popular space has now gone (formally) nonprofit, with a 17-member board that will continue to stage its experimental art exhibitions and performances.
Another hyper fresh space is the redesigned Solomon Projects, unveiled last week by Nancy Solomon. Atlanta architects David Yocum and Brian Bell re-envisioned the midtown venue with a huge skylighted master gallery that now holds a exhibition of New Yorker Lynda Grimm's sensual suspended sculptures. Solomon, who opened her gallery in 1994, stages some of the best shows in town, exhibiting works by Janet Biggs, Jerald Ieans, David Lowe and Leslie Wayne from New York and Atlantans Karen Rich Beall, E.K. Huckaby, Joe Peragine and others.
Expansion at the High
In a move that bodes well for Atlanta's institutional center, the trustees of the Woodruff Arts Center -- home to the High Museum of Art and the Atlanta College of Art -- have approved a $124-million expansion of the complex. Designed by architect Renzo Piano, the plan introduces a European esthetic to the midtown arts destination. Over 226,000 square feet is to be dedicated to multiple gallery buildings for the museum, as well as a new residence hall and sculpture studio for the college.
The High has always been proud of its Richard Meier architecture, but the Woodruff as a whole has long needed a more dynamic relationship among its many constituent parts -- the museum, the art school, the Alliance Theatre and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra -- and the city as a whole. The new attention to the school is a particularly favorable sign, since the ACA gallery -- which just closed the Independent Curators Inc.-organized "Telematic Connections: The Virtual Embrace" -- has often played stepchild to the great white cube next door.
Phase two of the project will involve the transformation of Symphony Hall into a lyrical environment for ballet, jazz and musical theater performances. (The symphony has plans of its own for a new center across the street on 14th and Peachtree.)
Art and design
Moving two doors down on Peachtree Road meant a world of difference for the Kubatana Gallery this year. Now renamed Kubatana Moderne, the 2,000-square foot design showroom and gallery specializes in interior design, fine art, furnishings and accessories from Asia, Africa and South America.
KModerne, as it is also called, shows the work of Zimbabwean stone sculptors, including Nicholas Mukomberanwa and Norbert Shamuyarira, plus work from French furniture designer Jerome Abel Sequin, California functional sculptor Daniel Pollack and others (sculpture $5,000-$20,000, furnishings $600-$30,000).
Change at "Art Papers"
The local art press -- Art Papers -- got a new editor this month, as Charles Reeve arrived in Atlanta just in time to help celebrate the publication's 25th anniversary edition (which was assembled by former editor Michael Pittari and crew). These days, the mag comes in an 8 1/2 x 11 inch format (smaller than the original) with a glossy cover and the usual ton of good writing. Reeve, who has a Ph.D. in art history from Cornell, is a Canadian native and has been a regular contributor to Parachute and other publications.
And finally, a shift in focus for your Atlanta correspondent: After curating freelance for three years, I've taken on the challenge of directing the galleries at Georgia State University downtown. The venue has been given a bit of a facelift, and I've begun dreaming up curatorial projects -- some of my subjects include the universe of adolescent girls, contemporary art from Cuba, Iran and France, experimental sound art, and more (can't stop!). The goal: to make the galleries pulse with the best art to seen in the Southeast.
CATHY BYRD is director of the galleries at Georgia State University.