A spirit of joy and experimentation define Spalding Nix group show

"Trio" (2022) by Laura Dargan
Photo credit: Spalding Nix Fine Art

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"Trio" (2022) by Laura Dargan Photo credit: Spalding Nix Fine Art

Four Southern-based artists use bold color for various effects.

The current group show at Spalding Nix Fine Art feels like a very post-COVID-19 exhalation of breath and longing for something bright and hopeful. The exhibition titled “Properties of Being” is inspired by that philosophical concept of beauty, truth and goodness contained in all beings.

“Properties of Being” features four Southern-based artists — Susan Hable, Laura Dargan, Sachi Rome and Zhou Peng. But the majority of space is given over to Athens-based artist Hable whose cut-paper collages, paintings and sculptures certainly embody the show’s spirit of cheerful optimism. Unapologetically sunny, the work conjures up Picasso’s modernist lithographs mashed up with a cheerful Lilly Pulitzer print.

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"Garden Show" (2022) oil on canvas by Susan Hable.

Credit: Spalding Nix Fine Art

"Garden Show" (2022) oil on canvas by Susan Hable.

Credit: Spalding Nix Fine Art

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"Garden Show" (2022) oil on canvas by Susan Hable.

Credit: Spalding Nix Fine Art

Credit: Spalding Nix Fine Art

Hable’s roots are in textile design and her design work has regularly landed her mentions in shelter magazines. You can also buy her happy, mass-produced prints from Anthropologie, One Kings Lane or on her own website.

Her original pieces at Spalding Nix undoubtedly find their origins in the hand-drawn patterns rooted in nature she creates for her textile design. Clearly talented in more than one realm, Hable fills the gallery space with a delightful rainbow of color and whimsy. Her paintings in oil on canvas recall other women designers inspired by the odd shapes and magical qualities of flora, like 19th-century botanical artist Marianne North, printmaker Mary White and fashion designer Orla Kiely.

In Hable’s painting “Buttercup” a variety of flowers bend and genuflect like neighbors gossiping over the back fence. Her scenes of nature are animated and ultra-lively but don’t always break away from her inoffensively well-mannered design roots. Hable’s works make you long for her to dip more than a toe into a goofiness that also flits around the edges of the work. In the intensely silly “Smiling With Eyes Closed” a wall-eyed bird photo-bombs a riot of flowers and the effect is nutty and captivating. Likewise some of Hable’s more outlandish stoneware sculptures like a Barbie Dreamhouse-pink radishy form with ear-like leaves or a work like “New Growth” that conjures up the sci-fi emergence of new life from plants. The natural world is undeniably lovely but it’s also weird and Hable could stand to push those inclinations a little further.

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"Young General," (2019) acrylic and diamond dust on canvas by Sachi Rome.

Credit: Spalding Nix Fine Art

"Young General," (2019) acrylic and diamond dust on canvas by Sachi Rome.

Credit: Spalding Nix Fine Art

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"Young General," (2019) acrylic and diamond dust on canvas by Sachi Rome.

Credit: Spalding Nix Fine Art

Credit: Spalding Nix Fine Art

Atlanta artist Sachi Rome surrounds her Black figures with firefly swirls of light and color (and actual diamond dust), like celestial ripples in a pond. Hers is a cosmos of enveloping calm rather than chaos. Rome’s talents really sings in pieces like “Young General” in acrylic and diamond dust on canvas with its relatively simple composition and the refined interplay of colors that are a nice antidote to some of the busyness of other works.

Charleston-based artist Laura Dargan’s abstracted, graphic explorations of depth and shape in acrylic on canvas paintings add a jolt of neon color and graphic shapes to Hable’s more whimsy-based visuals.

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Atlanta artist Zhou Peng's "Untitled."

Credit: Spalding Nix Fine Art

Atlanta artist Zhou Peng's "Untitled."

Credit: Spalding Nix Fine Art

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Atlanta artist Zhou Peng's "Untitled."

Credit: Spalding Nix Fine Art

Credit: Spalding Nix Fine Art

And Savannah College of Art and Design Atlanta MFA student and Shanghai, China-born Zhou Peng is the photographer in the mix, offering an eclectic grab bag of images that feel like four distinct bodies of work. There are promising moments in Peng’s “Untitled” photograph in which an almost surreal image of perfect beauty and pink roses against a blue sky has been scratched out as if to rupture its seductive power. There’s also great potential in the striking and strange juxtaposition of assaultive colors and swirly, crumpled, contorted plastic — creating something seductive out of ugliness in the artist’s “Seen and Unseen” series.


VISUAL ART REVIEW

“Properties of Being”

Through July 8. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays and by appointment. Free. Spalding Nix Fine Art, The Galleries of Peachtree Hills, 425 Peachtree Hills Ave NE, Suite 30-A, Atlanta, 404-841-7777, spaldingnixfineart.com.

Bottom line: Less work and a little more cohesion might have helped a theme of beauty and brightness hang together more, but there are many gems and some promising exploration in the mix in this group show.