While Dicko’s work is contemporary, Sanlé Sory’s black and white photos, taken in Burkino Faso’s club scene of the ‘60s and ‘70s, feel like a thrilling patchwork of past and present. The photographs capture the eternal condition of being young and cool, and the more particular historical moment of a country breaking away from French colonial rule. Sory photographs teens — the mods and teddy boys, hipsters and goths of their time — adopting an armature of cool in starched and ironed streetwear, cigarettes dangling from lips or straddling prop motorcycles. Sory’s subjects pose in front of painted backdrops in what feels like aspirational film stills — the stories they’d like to tell about their lives.
Witness the young woman in “Chasse-Spleen” (which translates to “chase away the blues”) from 1972. Standing in what looks like a lacy white bra, a richly patterned kente cloth skirt and a “Mod Squad” pair of shades, she serves Nina Simone-level confidence. It’s hard not to see her as a kind of collage of Africa and the West in her fashion bricolage of the village and the city, history and the future.
That same sense of affection defines Atlanta native Gay’s delirious hybrid photos printed on aluminum in “The Beautiful Tale of Atlannahland.” Gay’s cut-and-paste little girls dressed in pop culture headdresses and sprouting zebra legs embody an Atlanta of head-swimming collisions. It’s a landscape of “We Buy Houses” signs, the Pink Pig, peaches, Maynard Jackson, Hot Cheetos, gold chains, hair beads and Trappey’s hot sauce. Her crazy quilt characters embrace the now but with glancing references to Africa. It’s a joyous celebration of the distinct character of place that also makes Sory’s portraits sing.
It therefore feels like a missed opportunity not to have made the striking similarities between Sory and Gay clearer with a closer pairing. Instead, like so many other local artists, Gay’s work has been consigned to the gallery’s more out-of-the-way viewing room. But she deserves some more serious, prominent real estate and an opportunity to be measured next to her peers.
“The Beautiful Tale of Atlannahland,” “Volta Photo” and “The Shadowed People”
Through Dec. 23. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, and by appointment. Free. Jackson Fine Art, 3115 East Shadowlawn Avenue, Atlanta. 404-233-3739, jacksonfineart.com