From surrealism to folk art, focus turns to different styles, visions

Atlanta’s fall visual arts season opens on a melancholy note with fewer galleries in the city. The recent closing of contemporary art gallery Saltworks and the Westside photography gallery Jennifer Schwartz means fewer venues for artists to exhibit their work (although both entities plan to deal online and will continue to present events). Luckily, what is on offer is the usual mix of work by a crop of talented local artists and the necessary infusion of voices from outside Atlanta.

The High Museum debuts "Fast Forward: Modern Moments 1913>> 2013" (Oct. 13-Jan. 20,, in conjunction with MoMA. The exhibit focuses on major art movements within that 100-year time frame, including Surrealism, Cubism, Futurism and Abstract Expressionism. Tapping into MoMA's considerable holdings in modern art, the exhibition will feature 100 works by heavyweights including Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein, Surreal icon Salvador Dali and neo-Pop artist Jeff Koons, all of whom helped create what we think of as contemporary art today.

For those more apt to celebrate the unique vision of unschooled artists who've come to prominence outside the bright lights of New York, the High also features a comprehensive survey of Alabama folk artist Thornton Dial's work, "Hard Truths: the Art of Thornton Dial" (Nov. 3-March 3, Organized in collaboration with the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the show may partly correct the notion of folk artists as dreamy rainbow chasers, mystics or religious zealots with Dial's work addressing real world issues such as racism, homelessness and the war in Iraq. For fans, the exhibition will feature 25 works on view for the first time, including paintings, drawings and found-object sculptures incorporating everything from carpet to baby dolls to paint cans.

A little closer to home, the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia has been an important advocate for Georgia-grown artists. Its annual Working Artist Project grants allow three regional artists to work toward a solo show at the museum and create a new body of work. A talent better known in cities like New York and Chicago than he was in Atlanta, the highly accomplished artist Brian Dettmer is finally receiving some prominent local attention at MOCA GA in a solo show, "Brian Dettmer: Elemental" (Oct 20-Jan. 5, Recently included in the Smithsonian's "40 Under 40: Craft Futures" exhibition, Dettmer creates utterly unique sculptures by cutting into old books with medical tools.

Another idiosyncratic artist, Dallas, Texas-based painter Michele Mikesell, brings his whimsical-sinister paintings rendered in a pleasingly oddball style to blue-chip art gallery Alan Avery Art Company. Mikesell's latest body of work, "Upon the Wheel" (Sept. 21-Oct. 27,, is an homage to writer Upton Sinclair's muckracking 1906 novel "The Jungle," about the American meatpacking industry.

Area ceramic artists including Nancy Green, Tina Cox and Richard and Dinah Stonis will exhibit their pottery alongside work from their own collections at Duluth's Hudgens Center for the Arts "Collections in Clay: The Works of Eight Georgia Artists and Their Collections" (Sept. 11-Dec. 22, Expect everything from Japanese wood-fired pottery to delicate teapots.