Month: February 2014

Atlanta Art Community’s Watershed Moment

Left to Right: Gail O'Neil, Richard Powell, Bill Lowe, Micheal David, Jeffery Pacilpan and Kelin Perry

Left to Right: Gail O’Neil, Richard Powell, Bill Lowe, Micheal David, Jeffery Pacilpan and Kelin Perry

A watershed moment in Atlanta’s cultural evolution took place in our gallery this past Friday night.   Over 1200 energized and passionate art patrons packed our Midtown gallery for the opening of our new exhibition featuring almost two dozen local artists from the Fine Arts Atelier.  This substantive and diverse audience made manifest Bill Lowe Gallery’s 25-year commitment to popularizing and democratizing the visual arts in American culture. When we opened in 1989 our mandate was to make the experience of art which expanded human consciousness accessible to anyone and everyone who had an interest; Friday night was another actualization of that vision and a further sign of Atlanta’s cultural vitality.

The gallery was a kinetic confluence of the most diverse and interactive crowd of art enthusiasts ever assembled in a commercial gallery in the city.  Actively represented were cultural institutions ranging from the Hammonds House Museum to the Fine Arts Atelier, Tin Wood Media, the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, the High Museum of Art, the Carlos Museum and more.  All merged in a euphoric embrace of a whole new generation of local artists, many making their debut; others were featured in return engagements.  They were coupled with selected works by a brilliant configuration of international titans from Egypt, Portugal, Peru, Morocco, South Korea, Italy, Canada, Nigeria – and all over the United States.

In recent years, a kind of lethargy had swept over the arts community across the world.  Fueled in large part by the Great Recession, but informed by the dilution of any real cultural focus by hyper-stimulation from digital technologies, the overarching trend was toward a dehumanization of artistic expression in the visual arts.  But that cycle has now ended.  More recently, a succession of remarkable bits of news has invigorated our community and the South as a whole.  The city’s selections as the “Best City in America for Artists” infused the entire arts community with an immense pride in our shared efforts to make Atlanta worthy of its status at the “Capital of the South”.  There is now no better place in our country for artists than Atlanta!

Atlanta, the largest city in North America ever totally destroyed by war, has arisen from its ashes.  With fervor and conviction we have arduously fought to overcome the burden of our history.  What has been forged in place is a transmutation that fueled the greatest contributions to civil and human rights in the world, a global transportation hub, the launch of the first global communications network, the aggregation of music and film industries and the first true cultural epicenter the South has ever seen. Our gallery, and many others arts organizations, have spent decades co-creating what I have described as “An American Renaissance”.

Karen Schwartz - Red Leg

Karen Schwartz – Red Leg

We have long touted ourselves as the “Black Mecca” in the United States. Yet, until only recently, there was a stark divide in cultural interaction between the various ethnic communities in Atlanta’s growing arts community.  Our gallery made a declaration of intention years ago; we titled it “Commence: A Philosophical Détente”.  Its intention is to blur the lines between race, gender, sexual persuasion, religious creed and color.  In the past many years – in the interest of “cultural cross-pollination”, we have introduced artists from around the globe to the American market and, in turn, introduced the world to a host of American artists from across the country.  Friday night was a testament to the success of this initiative.  Visitors from around the world commented that they had never seen so many people so excited about art in a gallery anywhere they had ever traveled.

My staff and I are gratified to see such a kaleidoscopic array of remarkably informed patrons and supporters of the arts.  We are proud that so many in our community “stood ground for the arts” and kept forging ahead in spite of immense obstacles.  The breadth and scope of the artistic offering supported by Atlantans represents the “flesh and bones of a new culture”.  In contrast to world centers where art has become ironic, satirical and narcissistic, the vocabularies that engender heartfelt responses here address themes that are universal and eternal.  Atlanta is a renewed cultural capital.   Our region’s historic predisposition to an embrace of the natural world – and our relationship to it – has lent a rich new array of languages to the unfolding conversation.  These have acted as a grounding force in artistic discourse.

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Bill Lowe Gallery Features 20 Artists from Atlanta’s Fine Arts Atelier

FAWS

Bill Lowe Gallery is proud to showcase a stellar array of new works by artists from the Fine Arts Atelier. Included in the exhibition are artists Barbara Brenner, Karen Schwartz, Ellen DeLoach, Brenda Rehrig, Jeffrey Paclipan, Susan Moreno, Richard Diedrich, Kelin Perry and Susan Grill Joss, among others. The show opens on Friday, February 21st, from 6 until 9 PM.

Fine Arts Atelier, more commonly known as FAWS, provides classes, individual instruction, studio space, and a range of artist services designed to inspire and support artists in developing and strengthening their work. The original concept for this program was based on the Black Mountain School in North Carolina, where artists were taught by artists and worked in groups to gain, grow and hone their individual voice. Michael David launched this program and has been amazed at the pace at which it has grown, not only as a learning and teaching community, but as a family as well. According to Michael David, “it’s corny, but the Atelier is like family; sometimes we argue and sometimes we make mistakes, I am closer to some of the members than others.”

Michael David spends a great deal of time with every artist and is determined to bring out the best in each one of them. Ellen DeLoach has been a FAWS member since 2011 and she describes her immersion within a group of artists who are learning and passionate about art as “eye-opening.” DeLoach never had a formal education in art but, according to her, she feels like she is working on a Masters in Fine Art when being mentored by Michael David.

Another highly acclaimed artist, Barbara Brenner, recalls being “so excited that my hands started to shake” when she first learned of an encaustic workshop David hosted in Atlanta back in 2010. Flash forward to 2014 and her soulfully luminous encaustic panels are stopping gallery-goers in their tracks with an honesty and rawness that completely belie Brenner’s long tenure in corporate advertising at The Coca-Cola Company. The overwhelming success of her exhibition last season at Lowe Gallery has prompted Bill Lowe to schedule a second one-person show for the Fall of 2014.

According to Bill Lowe, “the FAWS show promises to be an astounding one, the accumulation of all these powerful artists in one space will without a doubt entrance the gallery’s patrons.” So bring friends, mingle with the artists, enjoy some good food and wine, and more than an anything take in the extraordinary artwork! The event is free to attend, and is a great way for the community to become involved in the thriving Atlanta art scene.

Bill Lowe Gallery has been recognized for a quarter-century as the South’s pre-eminent contemporary gallery. It is widely acclaimed for the depth and scope of its program, curatorial excellence, and concentration on content-driven work by artists with an advanced technical mastery of their media. The philosophical architecture of Bill Lowe Gallery is built upon a reverence for the alchemical nature of artistic expression. The gallery honors the profoundly spiritual nature of visual language and the role it can play in affecting paradigm shifts at both a personal and societal level.

The Fine Arts Atelier Teaser Video

According to Bill Lowe, “the FAWS show promises to be an astounding one, the accumulation of all these powerful artists in one space will without a doubt entrance the gallery’s patrons.” So bring friends, mingle with the artists, enjoy some good food and wine, and more than an anything take in the extraordinary artwork! The event is free to attend, and is a great way for the community to become involved in the thriving Atlanta art scene.

Thornton Dial’s, “The Bridge,” Honors Prominent Civil Rights Activist, Congressman John Lewis

Thornton Dial's Monumental Sculptural Tribute, "The Bridge"

Thornton Dial’s Monumental Sculptural Tribute, “The Bridge”

Every February Americans celebrate Black History Month and collectively commemorate the trials and contributions of the black community. However, this month is not merely a celebration of African-American contributions; it is a time of recognition of the triumphant unification of people. Atlanta’s rich cultural history, specifically in relation to the Civil Rights movement, provides the world an insightful understanding of equality and diversity. This understanding has been enriched by writers, singers, dancers, actors, and visual artists who have paid homage to the victorious spirit of the American South.

Artistic Giant, Thornton Dial, is regarded as the most important artist to rise amid the tremendous social and political changes that transformed the Deep South and the world.   More broadly, his tireless advocacy of society’s under-dogs gives voice to the historically disenfranchised, placing him among the greatest artists of all time. His work draws from a perspective of not only African-Americans, but the examination and exemplification of all working class Americans, much like the works of artists during the American Industrial Revolution and Regionalism. Dial’s contemporary approach challenges the boundaries of conceptual art and redefines painting and sculpture.

Thornton Dial's "Grinder" at Bill Lowe Gallery

Thornton Dial’s “Grinder” at Bill Lowe Gallery

Thornton Dial rose to national prominence in the late 1980s due to his magnificently complex assemblages that narrate an unspoken story within our culture. Dial’s work serves as a chronicle of his insights into human relationships during a turbulent era in American history; one which spanned the decades of the Jim Crow South and extend into the socio-cultural, political, economic and spiritual struggles that characterize our time. Dial’s life has been defined by hard labor; this informs his assemblages that are constructed of organic and industrial materials, embedded with a kaleidoscopic array of found elements. His gestural and raw aesthetic draws inspiration from the landscape, both literal and metaphorical, and transforms its discarded media into an iconographic language that not only represents but reforms tradition.

Due to Dial’s acclaim as an artist, it comes as no surprise that Atlanta would select his work to commemorate the hard work and dedication of civil rights titan, Congressman John Lewis. Dial and Congressman Lewis are not only connected by their socio-political efforts to promote unity, but share a background of growing up in the Deep South, specifically in Alabama. Dial’s breathtaking sculpture, “The Bridge,” is located in the John Lewis Plaza on the corner of Freedom Parkway and Ponce de Leon. According to The Freedom Park Conservancy, “Each piece of the sculpture marks a poignant moment in the Congressman’s life from his rural past in Alabama; his civil rights journey that includes his courageous march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama 40 years ago; his days as an Atlanta City Council member; to his current role as U.S. Representative for Georgia and a leading voice for human rights for all Americans.”

If you have not visited Freedom Park already, “The Bridge” is a truly noteworthy site to see. More of Thornton Dial’s work can be viewed at Bill Lowe Gallery. The gallery has a vast and unique collection of Dial’s earlier and most recent assembled mixed-media as well as a comprehensive collection of Dial drawings.