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Liggins trades fashion for art at Sklo Gallery

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Art has become fashionable.

In fact, sometimes the line between design and art seems to have faded altogether. Fendi, Donna Karan and Helmut Lang have been sliding ads into the pages of Art in America for years. Giorgio Armani scored a fashion show at the Guggenheim just months ago and Issey Miyake took over the Ace Gallery in 1999. The art world's fashion fixation has shown up in Atlanta at exhibition openings where chic style parades have been known to eclipse the art.

Local designer Anthony Liggins zigs and zags between the two scenes. His star-struck blouses have been worn by Halle Berry, Vanessa Williams and Mira Sorvino. He's outfitted Atlanta restaurants Spice and Roy's in custom-made modes. But Liggins doesn't want to stop there. Three years ago, he began dabbling in art. He designed the 2001 Atlanta Jazz Festival poster and this month exhibits his paintings for the first time at Gallery Sklo. Red & Loaded features 11 works.

"I have restrictions when I design clothes," says Liggins. "I don't have the same constraints when I paint." The designer dabs around in color and design, using acrylic paint, charcoal sticks, spray paint and latex coatings. Executed in big strokes, some of his roughly executed paintings look like huge unfinished fabric swatches.

In "Stop," red-orange balls cross through a square of canvas where black curlicued block prints and charcoal ovals overlay slicks of orange and red paint. A tobacco stain underlies a red spiral and bubbles of color in "Journey." "Renaissance in Red" has the closest rapport with fabric. Edge-to-edge, printed block patterns are dipped in brown, turquoise, Chinese red and inky blue.

Sklo Gallery owner and interior designer Melanie Witt juxtaposes the paintings with glassworks created by Czech artisans. Jaroslav Svoboda's deep-hued dimple glasses and blue footed bowl play well next to Liggins' fiery "Rites of Passage." Lenka Cermakova's red and black vase is a counterpoint to "Stop" and Richard Cermak's peaking waves of melted blue glass correspond with "Renaissance."

Liggins is attracted to Chinese, Japanese, Cuban and African designs. He favors geometrics and smooth minimal lines. But he also likes the aesthetics of Robert Rauschenberg and Michel Basquiat, artists with messy and spontaneous style. When he paints, though, the young designer says that he caters to the viewer and thinks about the space where the art might live. "When people come home they want an escape," he says. "Art should be part of that escape. It should speak to you and be comfortable."

Red & Loaded continues through July 7 at Sklo Gallery, 75 Bennett St. in the TULA Art Center, Suite E2. Tues.-Fri. 11 a.m.- 5 p.m. and Sat. noon-5 p.m. 404-350-9763.

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