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Sobriety won't stave off pink elephants at this year's ArtParty


An invasion of the Buckhead party animals or one of the few nights when art seems to matter to the general populace? There are many possible interpretations of Atlanta's annual blockbuster ArtParty. This year, the Contemporary's über-bash titled "Self-Exposure" has attempted, in the words of its curator Helena Reckitt, "to bring the ArtParty more back to the art. I think over recent years we got a bit distracted with massage therapists and opera singers."
In that vein, this year's focus shifts from the teeth-gnashing curatorial nightmare of hanging pricey, fragile artwork in the vicinity of booty-shaking drunkards to showing more ephemeral work. "I thought, let's come up with a solution and relish the fact that there are loads of drunk hedonists in our gallery," says Reckitt.

The show is evocatively titled Gone Tomorrow and several of the works suggest "let's confuse the drunks" is something of a leitmotif. Recent University of Georgia MFA graduate Kathryn Refi has cleverly recontextualized the Contemporary bathrooms, mounting antiquated doors onto the entrance and filling a medicine cabinet with her own personal effects, including condoms and cleansers. Another UGA grad, Neil Bender, has painted an entire room of the Contemporary in homage to the drunk's favorite hallucination: the pink elephant. A humorously Pepto Bismol-colored nightmare, this pachyderm grotesque could either kill a buzz or send it skyrocketing into the Robert Downey Jr. zone. ArtParty is Sept. 14. Gone Tomorrow runs through Oct. 12.

Two head-scratchers, conceptual art and philosophy, play in tandem in a series of five artworks currently on view at Emory's Michael C. Carlos Museum. Noted '60s conceptual artist Mel Bochner's If the Color Changes is a small but heady selection of monoprints and one painting linking German philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein -- whose words Bochner has sampled in German and English -- with the equal brain-teaser of conceptual art. Challenging the route from perception to understanding, each piece features a cryptic Wittgenstein quote set against varying Op Artish backgrounds suggesting soap bubbles, pills and tie-dye -- all signifiers of illusions that quickly vaporize.
Tucked into a small alcove at the antiquities-dominated museum, the show includes two Bochner works recently acquired by the Carlos, part of the efforts of a high-profile Emory art history professor, James Meyer, (a longtime friend of Bochner's) to help bring such conceptual work to the museum. Bochner himself will appear at the Carlos in conversation with Meyer Oct. 17. The show runs through Jan. 26.After only two years at City Gallery at Chastain, curator Linh Ho-Carter is resigning at the end of October. Carter brought her own brand of innovative programming to the progressive space, including shows devoted to Vietnamese artists, which brought a new audience of Asian viewers into the gallery. Her final show of installation work, Night and Day by Atlanta artist Chris Sancomb, opens Sept. 5 with a reception 6:30-9:30 p.m.
Carter is vague about her reasons for leaving Chastain, though she admits that the stress of working with a city bureaucracy and limited funds were particular challenges. What the future holds for the space is unknown at this time. Because the city has a hiring freeze, the vacancy may not be filled any time soon. "I do not know what will happen in regards to the [curator] city position," says Eddie Granderson of the Atlanta Bureau of Cultural Affairs, "but as far as the facility, it is always going to remain there."

Also in question is the mission of Chastain, which has been geared toward what Granderson calls "avant-garde work." "That's what we're trying to make a determination on," he says. "Is it a viable kind of programming to have, or should we be looking at some other kind of programming?"

The grass-roots art space has taken on a new prominence on the local scene. Art galleries are becoming curiouser and curiouser as they pop up in various forms throughout the city -- in living rooms, restaurants, coffee shops and even beauty parlors. But Maze Gallery still surprises. It's tucked into a vacant apartment in an edgy, burglar bar-ornamented brick complex on the wrong side of North Avenue. Owned by Phoebe and Markus Maze, the gallery is the brainchild of a group of post-slacker fiftysomething artists who want to showcase the work of friends and other frustrated artists.
The theme of the first show is Sinners and Saints though "Naked Ladies" might have been a better choice. There is a preponderance of disrobed lassies, some of which question the association of vice with women's bodies and others that seem to promote that hackneyed notion. Sculpture, installation work, paintings, etchings, Phoebe Maze's jewelry designs -- the space has it all, though stand-outs are Pat Berryhill's witty found-object designs using everything from bottle caps to cheese graters in loving shrines to regular folk. The gallery is in Apt. 1 at 600 Arnold St., and the show runs through Sept. 15. Hours are Saturday and Sunday noon-6 p.m. For information, call 770-479-6917.

For Art's Sake is a biweekly column covering the local arts scene.

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