Wilay Mendez Paez: Portals to a New World
February 15, 2021 - July 1, 2021
Wilay Paez Mendez: Portals to a New World provides insight into the artistic practice of the Atlanta-based, Afro-Cuban artist. Wilay is the inaugural fellow for The Workshop, a multi-year Clark Atlanta University Art Museum initiative that seeks to close the distance between artist and audience by highlighting the steps fundamental to the creative process. The artist will conduct a series of public workshops illustrating the role of writing, sketching, and modeling in his work. He will also expand an existing project that uses sculpture rather than face covers to give visual form to masks as a broad concept. Masks, for Wilay, are more than a form of disguise and ornamentation. His sculptures, similar to performances in costumes in African and African Diaspora masquerades, draw attention to objects as conduits for reflection about social interactions. They simultaneously conceal, protect, and serve as a site for the development of new vantage points.
The exhibition includes drawings, collages, and sculptures that show how Wilay moves from a vague, not fully formed idea to the realization of a material object. His drawings experiment with bold lines and color contrasts before serving as the basis for his sculptures. His collages carefully combine fragments of ruined buildings, debris from car wrecks, pages of old books with fine lines, paint, and, at times, shading from burn marks. Inspired by urban decay and decline, this body of work shows how discarded materials can be recuperated for use in a new context. Damaged and cast-off things, therefore, become a gateway, or portal, to a world of possibilities
Michi Meko: Black and Blur
February 23, 2020 - December 4, 2020, Extended
This exhibition features a large-scale installation and abstract paintings by Atlanta-based artist Michi Meko. The title is inspired by the work of Fred Moten. In Black and Blur: consent not to be a single being, Moten uses his intimate knowledge of music and performance to expand understanding of the concept of blackness. Meko shares with Moten a desire to give form to blackness as an aesthetic and human experience.
Meko’s concern with color, material, and the meditative seamlessly come together in the large-scale installation. The landscape fabric and trash bags – which were created to inhibit exposure to sunlight and hide contents inside – obscure and give texture to the artist’s desire to emphasize our inner nature. The folds, bulges, breaks, and shifts in the curtain-like structure play with perception. The work also shows how a single, dark color can conjure an entire universe of possibilities.
Blackness in the artist’s abstract paintings are rooted in the experiences of African Americans and the Southern landscape. Meko transforms his intimate connection to these worlds into a cosmic universe. Sharp lines and a few bursts of color hint at emerging states of being that are akin to elemental forces of nature. Depictions of thresholds, or points where things begin to happen, these works also reflect the depth of uncertainty that can emerge when individuals begin to explore the internal self.
Guy Gabon: L'Autre Bord
February 23, 2020 - May 22, 2020 **Extended
L’Autre Bord, or The Bridge of Beyond, is the final project for Black Optics Artist in Residence Guy Gabon. It consists of a new body of work inspired by her engagement with both the museum’s collection and the city of Atlanta. An eco-artist, Gabon uses art to encourage viewers to consider ways to build an environmentally-friendly future. Drawing upon her deep understanding of aesthetic traditions in Guadeloupe, she has created ceramics and sculpture made of organic materials to symbolically connect landscape, historical realities, and contemporary sociopolitical issues. The exhibition also includes a selection of works from the permanent collection that connects Gabon’s practice to African American artists whose works deal with either representations of black women or forms of expression associated with them.
The exhibition’s title is taken from the novel The Bridge of Beyond written by Guadeloupean author Simon Schwartz-Bart. The book focuses on the experiences of women who reside in a remote village in Guadeloupe. Gabon shares Schwartz-Bart’s interest in giving form to marginalized black women’s ways of being. In her site-specific installation Reliance, she depicts portraits of unknown or underrecognized women on kites. The kites, which reference a popular past-time in many Caribbean countries is a way to symbolically elevate these women. The artist positions the portraits above a mound of Georgia’s red soil. In so doing, she subtly suggests that the answers we seek for a sustainable future can be found in the viewpoints and traditions of those who live in harmony with nature.