Whitespace, Spalding Nix ending the year with far-ranging group exhibits

Two Atlanta photographers featured in Center gallery’s debut in Chattahoochee Hills.
Tim Hunter's "Birds of America in Decline" (detail above) is beautifully displayed this month at Spalding Nix Fine Art.

Credit: Courtesy of Spalding Nix

Credit: Courtesy of Spalding Nix

Tim Hunter's "Birds of America in Decline" (detail above) is beautifully displayed this month at Spalding Nix Fine Art.

This story was originally published by ArtsATL.

The survey exhibitions that galleries stage at year’s end, which usually consist of small works by all the artists they represent, are frequently confused with the art-themed holiday markets, aimed primarily at gift-giving.

At their best, the gallery shows are much more than that. They reflect not only what the gallery has to offer but the gallery’s larger vision of what art is and what art should do.

I want to focus briefly on two examples, because the shows are so illustrative of this and so outstanding.

“The December Show” at Whitespace includes work by artists who have exhibited at the gallery in 2023.

Credit: Courtesy of Whitespace

icon to expand image

Credit: Courtesy of Whitespace

Whitespace does have an outright no-holds-barred holiday sale -- with first-class works of art -- in its smaller Whitespec project space -- but the main gallery’s “The December Show” (through Dec. 30) is very different from that.

The invitational show goes beyond artists represented by the gallery to include artists exhibited in any of Whitespace’s three exhibition spaces in the past year, and gallery owner Susan Bridges has curated a coherent exhibition out of the eyepopping diversity of styles and concerns that characterize the gallery’s artist roster.

The show’s dynamic installation both reflects and reveals the gallery’s distinctive angle of vision. To take only one set of examples, two walls of this show contain work by artists from a range of ages, genders, ethnicities, project spaces and chosen artistic media.

A first glance reveals that each wall is unified by a visual rhythm of irregularly shaped and rectangular artworks arranged with repetitions and contrasts of palette, texture and other formal elements. This is an admirably complicated achievement in itself.

But that isn’t all that’s going on. Bridges said that the grouping on one wall was “inspired by nature, magic, environmental and spiritual darkness,” while the other’s inspiration comes from “architecture, glitches, systems and weavings.” The other walls are sometimes united only by color and pattern, but more often encode similar rhythms of related thematic concerns.

Blair Hobbs’ “The Radiance of Transfiguration Sunday Shines Through the Jesus Window.” at Spalding Nix.

Credit: Courtesy of Spalding Nix

icon to expand image

Credit: Courtesy of Spalding Nix

Spalding Nix Fine Art is another example of galleries in which owners have expanded their gallery’s field of vision beyond its original focus. Although the 60-artist “Ensemble” (through Jan. 12) deserves extended analysis, all I can offer in this column are two outstanding examples:

The first is “Ensemble’s” accompanying solo show. Blair Hobbs’ “Radiant Matter” is a suite of memorably archetypal mixed media artworks that arise from her thoughts while undergoing radiation treatments for breast cancer and transmute them into transcendent loveliness.

“Ensemble” offers a visually dramatic wall-spanning presentation of a body of work I have long hoped would be exhibited on this scale -- a 48-piece grid of Tim Hunter’s “Birds of America in Decline,” small asphalt-on-cement silhouettes based on John James Audubon’s paintings in “Birds of America.”

Unlike the works in “The December Show,” which remain on display until the show’s end, this grid is itself something of an endangered species -- part or all of it may be sold off the wall.

This in itself illustrates the dilemmas of gallery owners, regardless of their idealistic range of vision. The legendary gallery owner Fay Gold once said, albeit with a tinge of regret, that her cutting-edge shows were not the Fay Gold Museum -- she had to take into account the fact that the works were there to be sold. The same goes for even the most visionary of commercial spaces.

Nonprofit spaces have a different focus, even though they also usually offer work for sale, as well.

At Center through Jan. 6, “Contemporary Portraits: David Clifton-Strawn” and “Modern Master: Pinky Bass” illustrate how a gallery can be re-imagined to give birth to a new nonprofit space.

David Clifton-Strawn’s “Saint Balthazar, Patron Saint of Playing Card Manufacturers” at Center.

Credit: Courtesy of Center

icon to expand image

Credit: Courtesy of Center

Housed in a multipurpose building co-owned by Thomas Swanston and Gail Foster, but an independently conceived entity, Center is described as “an inspiring hub designed for communal exploration of arts and culture, championing living artists and creating a space where visionary artworks come to life.”

These two shows by established boundary-pushing photographers with ties to the metro Atlanta art community are meant to stretch horizons, challenge expectations and encourage imaginative exploration within surrounding communities.

Bass’ photographs, placing elements of her own body in elemental settings, raise personal and conceptual issues in visually lyrical ways, and Clifton-Strawn’s equally lyrical photographs present male figures of various ethnicities and states of dress (or undress) in ways that range from emotionally powerful to gently comic. Both shows are worth seeking out in their Chattahoochee Hills location, close to the better-known community of Serenbe.

ART REVIEWS

“The December Show.” Through Dec. 30. Whitespace, 814 Edgewood Ave., Atlanta. 404-688-1892, whitespace814.com

“Ensemble” and “Radiant Matter.” Through Jan. 12. Spalding Nix Fine Art, 425 Peachtree Hills Ave., Suite 30-A, Atlanta. 404-841-7777, spaldingnixfineart.com

“Contemporary Portraits: David Clifton-Strawn” and “Modern Master: Pinky Bass.” Through Jan. 6. Center, 6401 Campbellton Redwine Road, Chattahoochee Hills. 770-463-1943, 6401center.org

::

Jerry Cullum’s reviews and essays have appeared in Art Papers magazine, Raw Vision, Art in America, ARTnews, International Review of African American Art and many other popular and scholarly journals. In 2020, he was awarded the Rabkin Prize for his outstanding contribution to arts journalism.

ArtsATL logo

Credit: ArtsATL

icon to expand image

Credit: ArtsATL

MEET OUR PARTNER

ArtsATL (www.artsatl.org), is a nonprofit organization that plays a critical role in educating and informing audiences about metro Atlanta’s arts and culture. Founded in 2009, ArtsATL’s goal is to help build a sustainable arts community contributing to the economic and cultural health of the city.If you have any questions about this partnership or others, please contact Senior Manager of Partnerships Nicole Williams at nicole.williams@ajc.com.

About the Author