Critics’ Picks

Lonnie Holley, Waking Up in the Bed of Death (Watching the Marchers’ Dreams Die), 2016, old bed frame, found quilt, shoe-store displays, shoe-fitting stool, 71.5 x 35.5 x 28".


Lonnie Holley

Atlanta Contemporary
535 Means Street NW
January 12–April 2, 2017

Lonnie Holley’s solo exhibition “I Snuck Off the Slave Ship” is a miniretrospective of sorts, featuring some twenty works from as early as 1994, including assemblages, steel sculptures, and paintings on paper. At a time when civil rights are still under attack, the works read as poetic and powerfully charged. Take, for example, The Water Fountain, 2015, a beat-up fountain with two coat hangers emerging from the spout like a Calder sculpture, one black, one white. Or Church and State, 2014, a flag stand with a wooden crucifix hanging from its brass eagle. There is a plainspoken directness to the adjacencies of these found objects that is sincere and deeply moving.

Sounds from a video featuring Holley’s many music collaborations emanate across the galleries, adding rich textures to the show. Most of the works are accompanied by wall texts conveying first-person accounts of the inspiration or stories behind the works. Holley often remarks on the dangers of information and technology, and the way they can foster an almost paranoid need to remember the past. “The journey to the top of the mountain will be long and hard, but if we want to get there we must learn how to be a part of the change,” the text for Waking Up in the Bed of Death (Watching the Marchers’ Dream Die), 2016, states. “Become alert. We can’t keep dreaming and letting those dreams die.”