Critics’ Picks

Alina Perez, Karaoke, 2018, charcoal and pastel on paper, 38 x 50".

Alina Perez, Karaoke, 2018, charcoal and pastel on paper, 38 x 50".

Atlanta

2019 Atlanta Biennial

Atlanta Contemporary
535 Means Street NW
January 17–April 7, 2019

The American Music Show was a weekly public-access television show produced in Atlanta from 1981 to 2005. Its inclusion in the city’s biennial is characteristic of the loose, improvisational, and ambitious exhibition of twenty-one artists from the Southeast. Curators Daniel Fuller and Phillip March Jones seem to be riffing on certain themes, as if they, too, were creating a late-night broadcast for an audience of ten. Their approach to the show as a bricolage reflects the techniques of some of the artists, such as Carol John, whose Smoke, 2018, a painting of patterned squiggles surrounded by cigarette butts and cartoon speech bubbles, seems to vibrate off the wall. Or Joni Mabe, whose sculptures often comprise elegantly paired found objects, such as a snipped-off ponytail, a colander, and an abstract painting. Or Jessie Dunahoo, whose beautiful quilts, on close inspection, are revealed to be made of colorful plastic grocery bags.

The curators' deft work is most apparent in the smaller gallery, which is quieter and more restrained. In front of a series of black-and-white photographs by Matthew Shain depicting now empty pedestals of Confederate monuments is a grouping of clay pieces by Amy Pleasant. Also muted in tone, her works vaguely recall the figure and might serve as stand-in monuments for the South. Alina Perez presents some of the most accomplished work in a show that largely prizes spontaneity: Her drawing Karaoke, 2018, focuses on a woman whose crouching nude body fills the frame. One hand holds a microphone to her lips; the other grasps a calla lily. Silver hoops hang from her one visible ear, glinting in the warm Miami light.