Imaginative Narrative: Allan Innman’s Tales in Paint at the Georgia Museum of Art

Allan Innman’s roughly five-foot by six or seven-foot paintings at the MFA Candidate Exhibition at the Georgia Museum of Art enfold the viewer in fantastical realms. Deliberately invoking the nostalgia of childhood through toys, Innman elevates these simple beginnings into intricate narrative told in high-key, fluorescent color.

Sentient Beings - oil on canvas - 63 x 76 inches - 2015

Sentient Beings, oil on canvas, 63 x 76 inches, 2015

Visually complex to match complex narratives, Sentient Beings depicts astral planes as a Sci-fi matrix, in which a Chinese figurine representing the God of Longevity meets the threatening presence of a flaming head of the Flaming Future Ghost. Everything is painted as if made of incandescent neon or located under otherworldly spotlights rather than sunlight. Rippling movement across the sky, the Flaming Future Ghost’s cloak, and the un-solid floor of the world suggests flux. A stream of blue sweeps into the glowing space. Reflected in the glassy green-lined matrix beneath, the blue bolt warps the space-time fabric of the astral plane. Within this encounter, strange beings navigate worlds whose rules and order we can only guess at. One imagines either the incipient creation or destruction of worlds. That is, in fact, the imperative of these paintings—to imagine.

Voyage of the Ancient Sea Legs - oil on canvas - 62.5 x 83 inches - 2015

Voyage of the Ancient Sea Legs, oil on canvas, 62.5 x 83 inches, 2015

Another impossible world beckons in Voyage of the Ancient Sea Legs, featuring a seahorse pulling green people housed in stacking ring toys across an underwater desert. Although everything is given to us—rippling green seaweed, pink ties, streams of bubbles, and long receding strips of desert sand, the narrative of the painting only comes alive if we truly enter the scene imaginatively. Where are the green men going? Are they twins? Are they unable to breathe underwater because they are from a different land? Answering such questions detours through complex narrative by way of childhood tropes. Despite the vehicle—a toddler’s stacking ring toy—the painting asks instead for a developed intellect to take the time to play.

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Mirage, oil on canvas mounted to panel, 10.5 x 10 inches, 2015

Innman draws on world culture for his idiosyncratic tales in paint. Symbols in Sentient Beings such as the God of Longevity and Future Ghost uses ancient symbols of the afterlife in a futuristic setting that recalls magic in the form of crystals as much as contemporary scientific theory of the structure of space-time. In Voyage of the Ancient Sea Legs, the twins are in fact referencing the Ancient Roman twins Castor and Pollux, the desert landscape contemporary sci-fi such as Dune and Stargate. Such knowledge is an adult’s. Yet the artist deliberately returns to the themes of childhood to unlock the creativity and wonder of fresh eyes. In a similar manner, adventures and new worlds unfold before the immersed viewer, suggesting that we are limited in these paintings only by our own imaginations.

More of the artist’s work on his website.

Hair as Material: “Tease” at ATHICA

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Tease, the current exhibition at ATHICA (Athens Institute for Contemporary Art) in Athens, GA features hair as “muse and material” per the exhibition’s subtitle. On view are works by nine artists, some of whom take hair as subject matter in documentary, collage, or drawing. To my mind, the works that involved hair as medium were the more provocative, evoking a bodily connection that varied from the abstracted and decorative to the abject.

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Zipporah Thompson used hair as one of many textured materials, like string and textiles, that were arranged to hang like so many ponytails against a mint green-painted wall (top photo). The mix of materials called for an examination of texture that was sensuous and detailed, and suggested an anthropologist’s orderly display. Hair became a stand-in for fabric in Lilly Smith’s two-tone column dress, which looped hair horizontally in a way that played up its original nature, not becoming a woven textile but falling open and in the process subverting the function of clothing as a covering of nudity (pictured above).

IMG_4598Ari Richter’s work is both more abject and more playful. His large installation featured a string a dreaded hair that spelled out “remainder” in looping cursive, while under it his Dust Buddies gathered. The dust buddies are made from animal tchochkes that Richter then covers with animal hair, making them amorphously more and yet less distinguishable as animals. Next to this installation is Wolfdong (not pictured), an oversized penis carefully implanted with thousands of tiny dog hairs that stick straight out, with all the disquieting and Surreal attention to detail of a Robert Gober sculpture. I had the chance to hear the artist speak about his work, and he sources his materials from himself, his friends, family, and their pets. The personal connection to the hair source reminds how hair is strangely a part of our body, yet one that we willingly detach from ourselves.

On view at ATHICA through May 3, 2015.

What does it take to make a “Living Memorial”?

Image via Budapest Beacon

Image via Budapest Beacon

In Budapest, Hungary, a living memorial is being erected and enacted daily by a group of citizens to counter a more traditional monument that was recently added to the city. The Budapest Beacon describes this living memorial as an act of protest, as people gather across from a new stone and bronze monument dedicated to victims of the German invasion in 1944. Expressing concerns about how the new monument fails to represent Hungary’s responsibility in the Holocaust, the living memorial is also an act of remembrance for citizens who wish to recognize the 70th anniversary of the Holocaust. By virtue of its focus on collective memory and dialogue about remembrance, the living memorial is an exciting alternate monument to what was erected by the state.

Read more here and here.