Atlanta artists sprawl across High in new exhibition

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Atlanta artists sprawl across High in new exhibition

The Southerner

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WIDE EYED: The Antinori fund acquired Greg Mike's pen drawing, titled "Aloha"

WIDE EYED: The Antinori fund acquired Greg Mike’s pen drawing, titled “Aloha”

By Reilly Blum

Caught in the fanfare of famous artists like Vincent Van Gogh, Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso, museum patrons often forget the creative minds in their own cities. The High Museum’s Sprawl! Drawing Outside the Lines seeks to remedy this problem by displaying local artwork.

Sprawl!, which closes on Oct. 4, is a follow-up to a 2013 exhibition that exclusively featured pieces from local artists. Sprawl! expands this criteria, and as a result, features artwork that ranges from strikingly realistic to gestural and abstract.

The relatively small exhibit is easy to overlook in the backdrop of the High’s main exhibit, a labyrinth of Alex Katz landscapes. Though Sprawl! encompasses only three rooms, it features a dynamic breadth of talent and stands its ground against Katz’s monolithic paintings.

The exhibit opens with a Fabian Williams watercolor, Gossip, which depicts several Atlanta-based artists communicating with one another. Though small, this piece features 24 exquisitely rendered portraits reminiscent of caricatures. No face is void of expression—Williams’s meticulous attention to detail ensures that the viewer’s eye finds its way to all corners of the piece. Artist Michi Meko, whose drawing, The Standard, is also on view, appears in Williams’s piece as a cheerful man smoking a cigar.

Though Sprawl! primarily showcases drawings, its selected artists draw in a less conventional sense of the word. The exhibition features paintings, sculptures and collages in addition to the more traditional combination of graphite and paper. Some of the artists incorporate text, photography and defunct currency into their work, while others capture a sense of frenetic energy through more conceptual pieces.

Findings Series Number 2, a drawing by artist Angus Galloway, is one such piece. Galloway’s interconnecting shapes, drawn with graphite, are reminiscent of coral or internal organs. He plays with scale to make his twisting, deformed masses mesh together into a fluid work.

Greg Mike’s Aloha, a small pen and ink drawing, is inarguably energetic. Mike’s cartoonish depections of characters and monsters, many of which have three eyes, intertwine to form a busy but still effective composition.

Sprawl! contains over 100 pieces, and while this sheer volume of work has resulted in a true breadth of styles, it also unfortunately, but perhaps inevitably, features some artworks that miss the mark.

Hannah Israel’s Untitled (Line Study), a sculpture made of a crumpled piece of paper entirely covered in graphite, is easy to miss. The piece seems lifeless when viewed with the show as a whole because it lacks accessibility. Perhaps greater context would animate the work, but to the average viewer, Untitled (Line Study) appears to be no more than a wrinkled bit of metal.

Right-Hand High-Five, a piece by Curtis Ames, is meant to look unfinished. It consists of no more than the word “Hi” written five times on an unprimed canvas. Though Ames acknowledges that his art “may appear unfinished or fragmented,” and intentionally challenges “the conventional conception of the artistic `masterpiece,’” his piece lacks developed intention.

While many of the drawings exhibited in Sprawl! are simple in the conventional sense of the word, Right-Hand High-Five seems, bluntly put, too simple. The composition is fragmented and the piece as a whole seems to be an afterthought. Other, similarly sparse pieces in the show look well thought out, but Ames’s drawing is unrefined. Though the repeated “Hi’s” are friendly and inviting, Ames’s work as a whole is obscure.

Despite a few discontinuities, Sprawl! Drawing Outside the Lines displays an incredibly diverse body of work by local contemporary artists. Though the exhibition transcends numerous styles, it is remarkably cohesive. The varied approaches to drawing lend the show its individualistic, but still conglomerate, atmosphere. p

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