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The Atlanta Contemporary Art Center today announced the 31 artists and one group whose work will be featured in the 2021 Atlanta Biennial, opening February 18. The exhibition, larger than its 21-artist predecessor in 2019, will be co-curated by Jordan Amirkhani, a professorial lecturer in modern and contemporary art at American University in Washington, D.C., and TK Smith, a doctoral candidate in the American Civilization program at the University of Delaware (and a former ArtsATL contributor).

The Contemporary’s exhibit will be on view through May 30, 2021, with details on a public opening to be announced later based on the status of Covid-19.

2021 Atlanta Biennial

What’s at stake, says co-curator Jordan Amirkhani, is whether art can provide adequate responses to the conditions and complexities of American life.

The biennial strives to take the temperature of contemporary art being created in the Southeast. It will feature work by artists from Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Washington, D.C. At the time of their selection, all of these artists lived in the South. Because of Covid-19, some have since relocated to be closer to family.

The Atlanta Biennial showcased hundreds of artists in its first run (1984–2007), and then went on hiatus. It returned in 2016 and 2019, and, over the years, has featured such artists as William Downs (who returns in 2021l), EK Huckaby, Jiha Moon, Erin Jane Nelson, Mario Petrirena, Joe Peragine and Cosmo Whyte, among many others.

A biennial, generally, is a report on contemporary art practices after two years of studio visits in a given geographic area. ArtsATL critic Catherine Fox calls it “big-tent curating.” Italy’s Venice Biennale, which dates to 1895, is the world’s largest. In the United States, the title goes to New York’s Whitney Biennial, last held in 2019. Covid has helped bump the 2021 Whitney to 2022.

In her review of the 2016 Atlanta BiennialArtsATL critic Rebecca Brantley called the show “ambitious but problematic” and found it a bit crowded, still describing its overall presence as very optimistic.

In her review of the 2019 Atlanta Biennial, Fox called the show “coherent and engaging” and said its “ideas ricochet through the galleries as the works of art converse with one another and with us.”

2021 Atlanta Biennial

Co-curator TK Smith, now Philadelphia-based, was an inaugural Tina Dunkley Fellow at Clark Atlanta University the past two years.

The 2021 Atlanta Biennial, like everything in the age of Covid, was not business as usual when the process began. All studio visits happened via Zoom, with gallery walk-throughs done over FaceTime. Still, the exhibition “leaves viewers with new ways of understanding and coping with the ephemerality of material life,” says Smith, who curated Looming Chaos at Kennesaw State University’s Zuckerman Museum of Art before relocating over the summer He was an inaugural Tina Dunkley Fellow at Clark Atlanta University Art Museum.

“What is at stake in this exhibition,” says co-curator Amirkhani, “is whether representations can provide adequate responses to the fluctuating conditions and complexities of life lived in the United States.”

Amirkhani curates Of Care and Destruction in the Contemporary’s main galleries for the biennial; Smith curates Virtual Remains in the project spaces. The artists in each part of the exhibit follow.

Of Care and Destruction 

Regina Agu
Born: Houston
Lives: Chicago

Davion Alston
Born: Landstuhl, Germany
Lives: Atlanta

Lillian Blades
Born: Nassau, Bahamas
Lives: Lexington, Kentucky

Marianne Desmarais
Born: Gulfport, Mississippi
Lives: New Orleans

William Downs
Born: Greenville, South Carolina
Lives: Atlanta

Nekisha Durrett
Born: Washington, D.C.
Lives: Washington, D.C.

2021 Atlanta Biennial

From Atlanta artist Davion Alston’s 2019 exhibit “The Literal Is Unimaginable.”

Shanequa Gay
Born: Atlanta
Lives: College Park

Myra Greene
Born: New York
Lives: Atlanta

Katie Hargrave
Born: Chicago
Lives: Chattanooga, Tennessee

L. Kasimu Harris
Born: New Orleans
Lives: New Orleans

Donté K. Hayes
Born: Baltimore
Lives: Kennesaw / Cliffwood, New Jersey

LeAndra LeSeur
Born: Bronx, New York
Lives: Jersey City, New Jersey

Jesse Pratt López
Born: Cali, Colombia
Lives: Atlanta

Meredith Lynn
Born: Boston
Lives: Tallahassee, Florida

2021 Atlanta Biennial

“Hambone” (2019), acrylic, charcoal and oil pastel on canvas by Augusta artist Hansani Sallehe. His work has been seen at SCAD Savannah and Atlanta’s MINT gallery.

Courtney McClellan
Born: Greensboro, North Carolina
Lives: Atlanta

Michi Meko
Born: Florence, Alabama
Lives: Atlanta

Eleanor Neal
Born: Gary, Indiana
Lives: Atlanta

Yanique Norman
Born: Spanish Town, Jamaica
Lives: Atlanta

Michelle Lisa Pollissaint
Born: Delray Beach, Florida
Lives: Miami

Lucha Rodríguez
Born: Caracas, Venezuela
Lives: Atlanta

Hansani Sahlehe
Born: St. Thomas, Virgin Islands
Lives: Augusta, Georgia

Saba Taj
Born: Raleigh, North Carolina
Lives: Durham, North Carolina

2021 Atlanta Biennial

“In the Grass” (2020), acrylic on canvas by Atlanta artist Tori Tinsley.

Zipporah Camille Thompson
Born: Charlotte, North Carolina
Lives: Atlanta

Tori Tinsley
Born: Atlanta
Lives: Atlanta

Melissa Vandenberg
Born: Detroit
Lives: Richmond, Kentucky

José Villalobos 
Born: El Paso, Texas
Lives: El Paso, Texas

Christina Renfer Vogel
Born: Atlantic City, New Jersey
Lives: Chattanooga, Tennessee

What Editions
Founded by Cora Lautze + Julian Wellisz in New Orleans
Features Abdi Farah, Dapper Bruce Lafitte, Akasha Rabut and Ashley Teamer

Virtual Remains

Danielle Deadwyler
Born: Atlanta
Lives: Atlanta

Shane Dedman
Born: Palm Beach, Florida
Lives: Atlanta

Adam Forrester
Born: Columbus, Georgia
Lives: Atlanta

Artemus Jenkins
Born: Baltimore
Lives: Atlanta


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