“Good Trouble” exhibit at Mint Gallery features young photographers consumed by our troubling times

Brandon McClain's "Buried." Courtesy of Brandon McClain

Credit: Brandon McClain

Credit: Brandon McClain

Rebellion and ennui define show of emerging photographers.

It cannot be easy being young today. The world is in turmoil, the bad news cycle escalates daily and so much youthful joie de vivre has been tamped down by the pandemic.

You feel the weight of all of this in the exceptional work by Georgia State University BFA grad Alexis Childress whose collages unite vivid color, punchy graphics and photography — and have the stark, propagandistic look of Soviet Constructivism yet deal with the circumstance of being Black in America. Both elegantly wrought and quietly devastating, Childress’ work, such as “Generational Wealth,” neatly illustrates the trickling of lucre out of Black hands, hands encircled by white lines like handcuffs. In “Walk to Juvie” a female figure is shackled, and her jailer carries a baton leaking a terrifying pink fluid. Violence is a constant in this powerful work that tells stories of oppression and censorship in an absolutely captivating way.

Alexis Childress' "Fragments of Delusion" is one of the works featured in the Mint exhibition "Good Trouble" featuring emerging artists in Atlanta and around the country. Courtesy of Alexis Childress

Credit: Alexis Childres

Credit: Alexis Childres

Local curator Mary Stanley has been featuring emerging artists as part of the annual photo festival Atlanta Celebrates Photography since 2010. Her regular “Ones to Watch” picks highlight artists from across the country. This year’s crop of “ACP 2020 Ones to Watch” sticks closer to home, with the majority of artists locally sourced. And the exhibition, to its credit, expresses the changed perspective of an art scene coming to terms with its omissions, with a large share of the artists of color this year.

Los Angeles artist Genevieve Gaignard's "Lace Front Lawn." Courtesy of Genevieve Gaignard

Credit: Genevieve Gaignard

Credit: Genevieve Gaignard

Borrowing a phrase from Georgia Congressman John Lewis, “Good Trouble” featuring the “ACP 2020 Ones to Watch” doesn’t necessarily always deliver on the promise of political protest that title implies. But several of the artists do specifically address current politics like Oakland, California-based Marissa Leshnov whose powerful documentary images of protests around social injustice have been featured in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Her immediate, urgent images of marching protesters crystallize the sense of grievance so many young Americans are feeling.

Oakland, California photographer Marissa Leshnov's "Heels Down Fists Up." Courtesy of Marissa Leshnov

Credit: Marissa Leshnov / Special to the SFGATE

Credit: Marissa Leshnov / Special to the SFGATE

Not all of the work is heavy. The polar opposite to Childress and Leshnov’s work may be artist Savana Ogburn whose nutty, color-saturated photographs are salutes to camp, performance artist Jack Smith-style decadence, B-movies, gay love and nightlife.

Rosie Brock's photograph "Florida Boy" is part of the Mint exhibition "Good Trouble" featuring the "ACP 2020 Ones to Watch," a selection of emerging artists and part of the annual Atlanta Celebrates Photography festival. Courtesy of Rosie Brock

Credit: Rosie Brock

Credit: Rosie Brock

But ennui rather than merriment is the stronger emotion in “Good Trouble.” Many of these young artists give the impression they are articulating a state of mind or interior pathos in their work. That’s nowhere truer than in the droll, cartoon-terse photos by Brandon McClain. His silly “Art” of a banana peel on a milk jug references the famous Maurizio Cattelan banana duct taped to an art fair wall but also conveys a general feeling of deflation and disappointment seen throughout the work. In the ballad of a wage slave “Employee,” a black clad figure hunches despondently in a shopping cart like a depressed mime. McClain’s visuals are gut-punch abbreviated and clever, and like many other works by these young artists, display a sense of melancholy, of hunched shoulders braced against a crushing wind also seen in the blighted Americana of Rosie Brock, whose images of smashed car windows and a despondent teen in “Florida Boy” are delicately heartbreaking.

For those still reluctant to visit in person a gallery or museum, September Gray Fine Art Gallery is hosting a virtual reality you-are-there exhibition of three artists exploring Black identity, Asiko, Paul S. Briggs and Okeeba Jubalo. The virtual exhibition allows viewers to navigate a gallery space entirely from the September Gray website that’s similar to a highbrow video game. Voice-over narration enhances the slight theme park quality. Indeed, gallerists are coming up with novel ways to deal with the ongoing tribulations of the pandemic and bringing art with some social relevance to people safely.

EVENT

“Good Trouble” featuring the “ACP 2020 Ones to Watch”

Tickets are timed, and visitors are asked to schedule an appointment.

11 a.m.-5 p.m. Through Nov. 28. Free. . Mint Gallery, 680 Murphy Ave., SW, Unit 2095, Atlanta. 404-680-8728, mintatl.org.

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