10 Atlanta exhibitions you can’t miss this fall

The Alexander Report previews the shows to catch in autumn 2019

by Andrew Alexander

Featured image: Chris Verene, Jayden and Mercedes, 2012.

Looking Up is the evocative title of an upcoming show of work by renowned photojournalist Henri Dauman at Atlanta’s Breman Museum. But like a lot of Atlanta shows this fall, it could almost just as easily be titled Looking Back. The number of retrospectives, new curatorial takes on historical works, and long-awaited homecomings on our list is unmistakeable, and perhaps it points to an intriguing trend.

Bob Dylan famously advised against the practice, but maybe looking back is actually a productive thing to do in troubled times, a crucial part of moving forward. Anyway, here are a few of the backward glances that The Report is looking forward to most:

Sally Mann, Jessie Bites, 1985

Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings.
October 19–February 2. High Museum.

Sally Mann’s provocative images have made her one of the most prominent artists of the last 40 years. The new High exhibition A Thousand Crossings takes a broad look at Mann’s work across the last four decades: her famous portraits of her family as well as her haunting landscapes. Organized by the National Gallery of Art in Washington and the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, the retrospective aims to place the Lexington, Virginia-native’s work in the context of Southern history and the South itself. “To identify a person as a Southerner suggests not only that her history is inescapable and formative but that it is also impossibly present,” Mann has said. Jackson Fine Art, which represents Mann’s work in Atlanta, will run a concurrent show of Mann’s prints if you’d like to hang one in your home.

The High is pretty much crushing it lately, and the museum will be worth several visits this fall. The exhibition “Something Over Something Else”: Romare Bearden’s Profile Series (September 14–February 2) is the first reassembling of Bearden’s series of profiles and images of people and places from his past created in the late 1970s for The New Yorker. Fine Lines, opening October 26, celebrates a recent gift to the High of 50 late 19th-century drawings from Atlanta collector Paul Stein. And on November 9, the High opens an exhibition by designer Virgil Abloh, whose work combines the street culture of his native Chicago and the haute couture looks of Louis Vuitton, where he is now a creative director.

Andy Warhol, Georgia O’Keeffe, 1979, Polaroid Polacolor Type 108, 41⁄4 × 33⁄8 inches, The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc., 2000.2.12, © 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Warhol and the West
August 25-December 31. Booth Western Art Museum, Cartersville

In the first museum exhibition of its kind, the Booth Museum explores Andy Warhol’s lifelong fascination with the American West in 100 works, including his last major project before his death in 1987, his Cowboys and Indians series. “Even ardent Warhol fans aren’t likely aware that the pop icon loved the West,” says Seth Hopkins, executive director of the Booth Western Art Museum, who curated and conceptualized the new exhibition. “However, the West was a nearly constant influence throughout his life.” The show will open at the Booth and travel to Tacoma Art Museum and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. For the full story on this significant exhibition’s conceptualization and development, check out the recent feature by Alexander Report founder Andrew Alexander in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Chris Verene, Brian, Mercedes, Jaylen, and Amber, 2012.

Chris Verene: Home Movies
September 18–October 12. Marcia Wood Gallery.

This fall, it’s all about family. Like Mann, photographer Chris Verene has famously photographed members of his own family and circle of friends. The Emory and GSU grad first rose to prominence in Atlanta in the early 90s with his hand-captioned photographs documenting his milieu in his hometown of Galesburg, Illinois. Although such work in other hands could easily seem far too voyeuristic, exploitative, and sensationalistic, Verene’s images often manage to effectively meld the quiet, touching, and strange; the stories they tell of people getting by in hard times have become even more revelatory and evocative with the passing of time.  In conjunction with the exhibition, on October 10, the Landmark Midtown Art Cinema will host a screening of Home Movies, Verene’s film consisting of short, documentary portraits. A post-screening panel discussion moderated by Atlanta art critic (and longtime Verene advocate) Felicia Feaster features photographer Ashley Reid and Mona Bennett, ambassador of the Atlanta Harm Reduction Coalition.

Brigitte Bardot photographed by Henri Dauman between takes on the set of Louis Malle’s A Very Private Affair in Spoleto, Italy, in 1961. (©Henri Dauman/Daumanpictures.com)

Henri Dauman: Looking Up.
September 15–December 30. Breman Museum.

Atlanta’s Breman Museum hosts a new exhibition of the work of Holocaust survivor and photographer Henri Dauman, one of the most prominent photojournalists of the 20th century. His portraits included such luminaries as John and Jackie Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, Andy Warhol, Brigitte Bardot, Elvis Presley, Louis Armstrong, Federico Fellini, and countess others. In addition, he documented seminal historical events including the Vietnam War and the Castro revolution. Dauman himself will speak at the exhibition’s September 15 opening discussing his journey from his childhood in the French Countryside during World War II to the creative and emotional adventure that led to his photographic success. 

Mildred Thompson, Magnetic Fields, 1991; Oil on canvas, 70 1/2 x 150 in.; Courtesy of the Mildred Thompson Estate, Atlanta, Georgia; art and photo © The Mildred Thompson Estate, Atlanta, Georgia

Mildred Thompson: The Atlanta Years, 1986–2003.
September 11–December 7. Spelman College Museum of Fine Art.

Spelman Museum gives Atlanta abstract artist Mildred Thompson a long overdue retrospective exhibition, focusing on the years she lived and worked in Atlanta, 1986 to 2003. As Atlanta art critic Jerry Cullum puts it, Thompson was an artist who “refused or accepted categories as she saw fit, usually refusing them.” The exhibition considers the artist’s efforts to “make the invisible visible.” The show kicks off with an opening reception and panel discussion featuring curators Andrea Barnwell Brownlee, Ph.D., Director, Spelman College Museum of Fine Art; Melissa Messina, Curator of the Mildred Thompson Estate; and Donna Jackson, Thompson’s partner of 17 years and executor of the Thompson Estate, with participation from Thompson’s fellow artists, friends, and colleagues.

Jan Sadeler (Flemish, 1550-1600), after Dirck Barendsz. (Netherlandish, 1534-1592). The Last Judgment, late 16th century. Engraving. Gift of Walter Melion and John Clum.

Through a Glass Darkly: Allegory and Faith in Netherlandish Prints from Lucas van Leyden to Rembrandt
August 31–December 1. Carlos Museum.

A new exhibition considers how printmakers in the Low Countries between the 16th and 18th centuries utilized allegory in their work to address the most fundamental human issues and spiritual impulses. The show is curated by Emory art history professor Walter S. Melion and curator of Renaissance and Baroque painting at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, James Clifton.

Pierre Eugène Montézin (1874-1946) Femme étendant du Linge, ca. 1940-1945, Oil on canvas Gift of Drs. Yolanta and Isaac Melamed, 2018.9.1, Collection of Oglethorpe University Museum of Art

A Route Campagne: Impressionist Works from the Melamed Family.
September 13–December 15.  Oglethorpe University Museum of Art.

A new exhibition features more than 35 works by late 19th and early 20th-century impressionists donated to Oglethorpe University over the past ten years by the Melamed family of Atlanta. The show includes paintings, drawings and prints by Bonnard, Boudin, Cézanne, Chagall, Corot, Matisse, Montézin, Pissarro, Renoir, and others.

Illustrated map depicting the journey of the Venetian merchant Marco Polo (1254 – 1324) along the silk road to China.

Traveling the Silk Road: Ancient Pathway to the Modern World.
September 28-January 5. Fernbank Museum.

A new traveling exhibition from the American Museum of Natural History brings to life the most important trading routes in history, the Silk Road, which brought goods, technology, and culture from China through the cities and empires of central Asia into Europe. The show explores four representative cities and how they were shaped and changed by commerce, communication and cultural exchange: Xi’an, China’s Tang dynastic capital; Turfan, an oasis and trading outpost in eastern China; Samarkand, in present-day Uzbekistan, once home of prosperous merchants who thrived on the caravan trade; and Baghdad, a hub of commerce and scholarship that became the intellectual center of the era.

Woodblock print by Ben Smith (Image courtesy the artist/Chastain Fine Arts Center)

Ben Smith: Past & Present Retrospective Exhibition.
Through October 5. Chastain Arts Center.

Atlanta-based artist Ben Smith is best known for his enormous images printed from sheets of plywood depicting ceremonial figures in ritualistic garb. A new retrospective explores his work across printmaking, drawing and sculpture created throughout his career, which now spans six decades.

RuPaul photographed in the 1980s by Al Clayton

Al Clayton: Photographer.
October 19–26. EBD4 Gallery.

Award-winning photographer Al Clayton was born in Tennessee, the son of a teacher and railroad worker. He became a photographer by accident in 1952, when he joined the Navy for the sole purpose of getting the G.I. Bill to pay for medical school so he could become a surgeon. Given the rank of hospital corpsman, he was stationed at a hospital for the Marines and handed a camera to document a surgery. In that moment, his dream of becoming a physician fell way to a lifetime career in photography. His photographs of people ravaged by poverty in the Mississippi Delta, Eastern Kentucky, Georgia, and Alabama were compiled in Harvard professor Robert Coles’ seminal 1969 book Still Hungry in America, and his photographs have appeared in Look Magazine, Life, Time, Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report, The New York Times, Esquire, and others. The new exhibition centers on Clayton’s photographs of drag queens and club kids in 1980s Atlanta. Portraits include RuPaul, Charlie Brown, Larry Tee, LaHoma, Sable Chanel, Spike, and many others. The gallery will also display images from Clayton’s famous 1969 book, as well as select images from the new Ken Burns’ documentary Country Music of such luminaries as Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Townes van Zandt, and Tammy Wynette.

Also on our radar:

 Dorothy O’Connor, Passage, 2017, archival pigment print, part of the MOCA GA Permanent Collection, a gift of Edwin Robinson in Memory of Pauline Katherine Dibella.

Hudgens Prize Finalists Exhibition. Hudgens Center for Art.

Alex Katz: Coca-Cola Girl. September 13-November 16. Maune Gallery.

Dorothy O’Connor: Scenes. September 6-November 2. MOCA GA.

Form & Function: Shoe Art by Chris Francis. Through December 8. SCADFASH Museum of Fashion & Film.

Shanequa Gay: Lit Without Sherman: A Love Letter to the West End. Through October 11. Hammonds House Museum.

Myra Greene: Interval. September 11-November 2. Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia.

Flux: Ponce City Market. September 26-29. Ponce City Market.

Cosmo Whyte. November 16-January 11. Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia.

Art on the BeltLine. Fall 2019.

Andrew Alexander is an Atlanta-based writer and founder of The Alexander Report.

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