February 3, 2013

Dashboard Co-op’s Boom City

Filed under: Art,Atlanta music — Frederick Noble @ 8:01 pm Share RSS

Dashboard Co-op is a local arts organization that strives to promote Atlanta’s art scene. They don’t usually put on the typical, stuffy gallery shows where a bunch of rich folks show up to drink free wine and talk about anything but the work on display. More often, the events Dashboard organizes feature up-and-coming artists and attract a crowd that skews to the younger, perhaps hipper end of the spectrum. OK, I’ll just say it – it’s all about hipsters. The young, smart, attractive people behind Dashboard are hipsters, the artists they feature are usually hipsters, the crowds they attract are 95% hipsters.

If you know me at all, you know I don’t hate hipsters. ‘Hipsters’ is too often just a word for ‘young people.’ If you use the term derisively, you might as well use it in a sentence such as, “You hipsters get off my lawn.”

If you’re wondering, “Why in the hell is Degenerate Press reviewing art? I thought they were all about music?” you should know yours truly has a degree in sculpture. I have been to galleries and museums across the US, in Italy, Spain, Denmark, Holland, and the UK. I have tried (and failed) to do sculpture professionally. Honestly, I know more about art than I do music. But modern art, unlike modern music, fails to move me often enough to write about it.

Saturday we arrived at Dashboard’s latest effort, Boom City, a show in the M. Rich building at MLK and Peachtree. The space is very interesting, a multi-story, older building with wooden floors, decorative railings and columns, lovely skylights and such. Only the top floor, and only parts of it, had been renovated, so if you took a wrong turn (or were trying to avoid the long lines for the elevator and sneaking up and down the stairwells), you found yourself in vast, dusty spaces with no lighting and construction equipment everywhere.

But the main floor was perfect for a sprawling show. A series of smaller rooms or niches allowed each artist plenty of room with little to compete with the work. The photo below shows only one of the many rooms along the halls of the place.

The large space worked well for installation or sculptural works too, such as these PVC pipes spilling from a vent and snaking down the hall, through a door and wall.


By the time we arrived, Perfect High Fives Every Time were playing, featuring Emily from Back Pockets. They seemed like a Back Pockets redux, and not in a bad way. Jammy, noisy yet melodic, splashes of makeup on most members – good stuff, from what little I got to see (the joint was crowded) and hear (we showed up late.)

Between bands, we wandered the halls, checking out room after room of art. I recognized some of the styles immediately. I believe the genre is called, “Oh crap! I said I’d be in a show this weekend and I haven’t done shit! I’ve got some fabric and spray paint. Yeah, I can do something with this.” I have worked in this genre a few times. It is challenging, yet if the artist chooses a genre in which they are not experts, s/he should not expect a glowing review.

Garbage Art

My thoughts: it looks like garbage tacked to the wall.

Work like this is sort of expected in modern art, but the percentage of artists working in this genre at this particular event was higher than normal. At one point I was walking up the stairwell and stumbled across a bundle of twigs and a swath of paint that looked like it had been spilled, then hastily cleaned up. At a show like this, I was not sure if this was just the remains of an accident or an installation piece.

On the next floor there was a small box, perhaps cardboard, about a foot tall. The thing had been hastily covered in glitter and left in the middle of the floor. The glitter had begun to spread across the floor, either because that was part of the work or just because nobody noticed the thing there and it had been trodden upon a few times and was beginning to suffer. Again, I had no way of knowing what was accident and what was intent, what was leftover construction debris and what was art. I’d say, “How very Dada,” but some of the works at Boom City lacked basic craft, and if those works were meant to be funny or ironic your intent is not coming through.

Another genre I have no patience for: abstract, mostly-splatter-based paintings. Sorry, but since Jackson Pollock did that no one else needs to do it ever again. You have no new story to tell, no new emotion to inspire. Show me something new, you lazy fucker. The common, uneducated criticism of the style is actually apt: anyone could’ve done it. If you can’t paint, find another medium.

Speaking of new mediums, I always joke when I work in large hunks of steel that one of these days I’m going to start working in spray foam insulation. Well, someone beat me to it, essentially. These works were created with the foam board insulation used to wrap houses. There was some pretty interesting stuff, I have to say, though I have doubts as to its marketability.

I call this one, "Beer Cooler Nightmare"

However, the artist used the same material in abstract, wall-mounted pieces.

$75 each.

These works made me want to stomp the rest of his work to bits. But then each of those bits would be worth $75, apparently, so it’s a losing proposition for violence-as-art-criticism. To use words instead, I’d say that if you’re going to use a material that is immediately recognizeable as something else, you have two choices: 1. Deconstruct the material to the point where nobody recognizes it. 2. Use the material itself as part of the meaning or story.  The challenge is when the audience approaches work like this, their immediate thoughts are often not about the composition or the meaning, but, “Wow. Insulating foam board.” Though it is obvious the artist did not choose option #1, I’m not sure he was successful, even in the more complicated works, at #2. If they were spraypainted to cover up the material, would they tell a different story? I suspect that if some of the material were replaced with another material (wood, metal, anything), the foam would be more interesting. If the foam were replaced entirely (or spraypainted to mask what it is), the material itself would be less distracting.

 Insect Infestation as Art

But it wasnt’ all bad. There were some nice photos in some of the spaces. Another interesting work featured a small camera connected to a projector that would reflect your image back at yourself on a lot of small, hanging pieces of glass or fabric. The images were blurry and crudely framed as if it was some kind of live tribute to instagram. Nifty, though the cheap s-hooks joining the individual tiles distracted from the rest of the piece.

Another interesting concept were some quilts with realistic images sewn into them. Very nicely put together, but the artist could’ve chosen more interesting images.

The skewed perspective Ben Franklin was probably the most interesting quilt of the lot. A few random, furry tiles in the quilt added some extra flair.

I’d like to see what this artist could do with some close up, portrait-like images, landscapes, and so on.

We circled back around to catch the Coathangers. They played a mess of new tunes (at least since the last time I saw them), continuing in their Slits-y vein.

They seemed to be having a blast, swapping instruments and singers more often than I’ve seen before. They inspired a little dance party in the back of the crowd, since the entire front of the crowd seem to be composed of 6’4” guys who stood dead still, arms crossed. Dudes, if you aren’t digging it why stand at the front through the entire set, blocking everyone else in the room?

Though most of the art work failed to impress, I was amazed at the number of artists, musicians, and patrons the organizers managed to assemble. It shows promise for the future of Atlanta’s often-struggling art scene. Now if we can just get some of those older, stuffy, monied patrons from the other side of Atlanta’s art scene to show up and buy some art, we might have something!

After things wrapped up, we found our way out of the building to discover we were directly across the entrance to Kenny’s Alley. One of my companions hadn’t been to Underground before. I hadn’t stepped foot in the place since the city cut back on the bar closing hours in the rest of the city but gave Underground an exemption (Christ, how long ago was that?) We walked through to find one bar open. I remember when this place reopened in the 80′s and was hopping almost every night, but at midnight on Saturday there were only a few people in the place. Yet across the street, a half-renovated building was packed with smiling, pretty people having a fine time. It’s the late 70′s all over again.

For more on Boom City, check out this extensive collection of photos from John E. Ramspott: http://www.flickr.com/photos/burnaway/sets/72157632676623431/

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