The Museum of Contemporary Art Georgia (MOCA GA) resides in a bustling enclave of Buckhead in the Tula Art Center amidst several art galleries and art-based businesses. The busyness outside of the location stills once one enters the museum doors, making the space a prime attraction for any art enthusiasts visiting the city and even for those who want a brief getaway. The quiet space of the museum environment allows one to engage with the art on a contemplative level. And at MOCA GA, such contemplation surprisingly comes with a wealth of historical ponderings.
The organization is dedicated to exhibiting contemporary works of art by Georgia artists, but MOCA GA’s permanent collection comprises over 1,000 artworks by 290 artists from mid-1940s to today, selections from which are typically on view. It’s the perfect attraction for visitors, as well as locals, who would like to see what the most brilliant Georgia artists have to offer the world. Artists included in the current The Permanent Collection Exhibition are Herbert Creecy, Fahamu Pecou, W. Medford Johnston, Lucinda Bunnen, Radcliffe Bailey and many others. And it will be on view until July 29.
Although the museum exhibits the work of contemporary artists from Georgia in the main exhibition space, the lower level is typically reserved for exhibiting works from the permanent collection. Many are from established artists, but some of the works are also exhibiting the nascent stages of some Georgia artists’ professional lives. The importance of a space that reflects the aesthetics of our community here in Georgia cannot be understated. And the vastness of the collection as an attempt to represent the diversity of our community is significant to the museum’s mission. While the museum is only a little more that 16 years old, the work put in by the staff to create a collection dating back almost 80 years is a valuable resource for our community.
MOCA GA has become a launching pad for several of the city’s most regaled artists. The museum has recently been a hotbed of new talent with the emergence of programs that allow younger artists to show their work to an interested and supportive community. Fahamu Pecou, Sheila Pree Bright and Masud Olufani have all been given the opportunity to hold solo exhibitions in the main space of the museum that has advanced their professional careers. Several of the artists who participated in the Working Artist Project gifted artworks to the museum and are currently on view in The Permanent Collection Exhibition alongside some more well-known and established artists. And other artworks in this exhibition are from the approximately 50 works of art the museum adds to the collection each year.
The ability to exhibit works from the permanent collection was a major factor in the organization’s decision to expand 7,000 additional square feet two-and-a-half years ago. Having artwork from the permanent collection on view at all times falls in line with the organization’s mission. The diversity in the permanent collection encapsulates the breadth of the museum’s collection, from playful and colorful to serious and stark canvases. As this space shares the level of the building with the Education/Research Center, it can also be regarded as a valuable resource for our community to gauge where we’ve been and where we are going as artists and as an audience. It’s interesting to see these works and discover those things we thought were important 20 years ago, and how much of it is important today. It’s also interesting to look at the more recent artworks to tell us where we are going.
As we look at Fahamu Pecou’s Phoenix, an image of the artist struggling to pull up his sagging pants, one cannot imagine this hanging on a museum wall 50 years ago. We didn’t have the same issues 50 years ago. When we look back at this work that has been acquired by MOCA GA, what will we remember about this time? When we look at Sheila Pree Bright’s photographs from 1960 Now, we’ll remember the Black Lives Matter movement and the resistance toward the inhumane treatment of black people by the police. Looking at Masud Olufani’s Poetics of the Disembodied will remind us of those lives lost in the Civil Rights Movement. MOCA GA’s permanent collection, like most permanent collections, is a time capsule of moments in history, and a reflection of our innermost thoughts and ideas.