Jerry Cullum’s Notebook is a monthly survey that highlights some of the more notable art + design happenings in metro Atlanta. Cullum, the recent winner of a Rabkin Prize for arts journalism, has written about the art world in Atlanta and beyond for decades.
Restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic continue to have repercussions at metro Atlanta’s commercial galleries. A growing number are reopening week by week, maintaining regular hours with limits on the number of patrons allowed to enter and strict adherence to CDC guidelines in general. Some continue to offer an ever-changing lineup of online alternatives.
Nonprofit art events have suffered similarly. Swan Coach House Gallery has an online sales catalog supplementing a physical Summer Invitational Exhibition that can be visited by appointment only through August 27. The Decatur Arts Festival Fine Arts Exhibition, normally up for three weeks in May and June, opened this year as a purely online event and will remain on virtual display through August 15.
The Decatur exhibition’s main page features photos of the artwork that would have been in the physical show. This format lets viewers scroll through the artwork, something that’s become familiar the past few months.
A few commercial galleries have built virtual models of exhibitions, too — Maune Contemporary has one for its Say It Ain’t So, a solo show by mixed-media artist Justin Lyons (through August 29) — but the Decatur Arts Festival is the first Atlanta institution to construct a complete virtual substitute for a much-loved annual event.
Its “gallery” is a fictional template that bears no resemblance to the Agnes Scott College space that would house the physical exhibition, and it has the disadvantage of presenting three-dimensional work as flat and hung at a disproportionate scale. But the template lets viewers enlarge images of individual works and access companion text blocks combining basic information with the artists’ statements. This isn’t entirely satisfactory, but it’s a step beyond the presentation of a simple catalog page. We can imagine how the template could be tweaked to provide a more fully realistic gallery experience.
If the uncertainties brought about by Covid-19 have caused one set of challenges for galleries, the rapid sweep of history has caused others. Already reeling from having to replace spring exhibitions with online viewing rooms, Whitespace delayed its return to physical exhibitions so curator Teresa Bramlette Reeves could reconfigure Parallel (the first show in some time to feature a strikethrough in its title).
After the outburst of global protests following the death of George Floyd and other Black Americans, it became abundantly clear that there were and always have been parallel social universes alongside the hypothetical multiverses of physics that Reeves had been using to explore the implications of the coronavirus pandemic. The three-venue show (Whitespace, Whitespec, Shedspace) is open through September 5 and documented online in a parallel viewing-room format rather than a virtual gallery.
A final note: The High Museum of Art reopened Tuesday (July 7) for members and frontline workers (free with valid ID). It begins welcoming the general public on July 18. Four exhibitions are open: The Plot Thickens: Storytelling in European Print Series through July 19, Paa Joe: Gates of No Return through August 16, and Pioneers, Influencers and Rising Voices: Women in the Collection and the Shaheen Collection of French Works, both of which are ongoing.
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