By Alexandra Edwards
Atlanta isn't usually known around the country for its art galleries. Theater and fine dining we've got covered, but art tends to get left out of the talk about us in other towns. But ATLart, this year's citywide annual event presented by the Atlanta Gallery Association, is working to change that.
The centerpiece of the three-week celebration is ARThouse, a museum-style exhibition showcasing many of Atlanta's art galleries. The house where it's being held is a work of art itself: 541 West Paces Ferry, otherwise known as the Pink Palace, an Italian Baroque-style home not far from the Governor's mansion, is 16,000 square feet of luxury. From the 18th century English tapestry to the exposed brick work and original incinerator fixtures of the expansive basement, just touring the house would be worth the admission price.
The gorgeous exhibition space allows the art to shine, but it also creates an atmosphere very different than attending a normal gallery show. There are no expansive white walls here. Rather, the art is hung on every wall, with sculptures set on every available surface. Once you pass through the front room, containing the ticket booth and a slightly creepy piano which plays itself, the art surrounds you. It's everywhere you look. Art hangs in almost every room of the house, from the basement to the top floor, even in the garage and all the many bathrooms. The stairwells are crowded with paintings; the lawn, the poolhouse, and even the terrace roof feature sculptures by American master Frederick Hart.
Hart's work is definitely a highlight of the show. He has created public artworks for the Washington National Cathedral and the Vietnam War memorial, among others. On display here are works in bronze (more traditional-looking sculptures) and clear acrylic resin (fascinatingly modern pieces which are, in some cases, lit from underneath). Other highlights include a Chuck Close self-portrait, the garage filled with installations from the Contemporary, and the third-floor exhibit of photographs by Dorothy O'Connor. Painting makes up the most-represented medium on display, with a heavy focus towards expressionistic styles, rather than realism. There are many hidden jewels, like the fashion plate watercolors in one of the second-floor bathrooms and the spiky, wire and bike chains sculptures pieces hung to fit within the existing architectural elements of the house.
The goal of ARThouse is to showcase Atlanta's rich and varied art galleries, to get viewers interested in seeing the art they show year round. It is an unqualified success in this respect. But more than that, it is an enjoyable exhibition in and of itself, one that is definitely worth the visit.
ARThouse runs until February 8.
A helpful hint: Parking for the exhibition is located on Tuxedo Road, which is before the house if you are coming from Piedmont Road. If you miss the turn the first time, or if you have a hard time making the left turn off Tuxedo headed back towards Piedmont, you can turn right onto West Paces Ferry, then turn left onto Northside Drive, then left again onto Moore's Mill Road. These roads form a little triangle that will put you back on West Paces Ferry, as Moore's Mill Road merges back into it.