The Velocity of Gesture, or How to Build an Empire is a show about the pure emotional wallop of art: the application of paint to canvas, the swirling, obsessive repetition of drawing, and the building and making of wholly original stuff for no utilitarian function. The Velocity of Gesture asserts that gesture does indeed have a power on its own terms, as an expression of individual agency and presence and a direct taproot into the artist's consciousness.
Despite a title that threatens to welcome all comers, The Velocity of Gesture (at Agnes Scott's Dalton Gallery) exhibits the often-elusive concept that makes group shows work: While not all the work separately is great, together the OK work is lifted up by the good.
A number of works evoke a world defined by the conceptual space of the Internet and the equally calamitous cityscape, as in the two large paintings by Albino Mattioli; fractured collisions of the artist's point of view and imaginative representations of physical space.
Recognizing that the usual borders of our lives -- between public and private, for instance -- are no longer intact, Andrea Prince allows her work to incorporate painting, installation and sculpture. Her colorful circular forms appear to leap from the flat, confined wall to hang like mobiles from the ceiling or grow like fungus. Prince's is not the only work that gets outside the frame. Gesture in this show can be the literal mark of a paintbrush or pen on paper, but it can also be the gesture of escaping the limited parameters of the picture frame or in many cases, the mental frame of straight, figurative representation.
Torkwase Dyson is another artist who gets outside the frame, creating video work and wall-bound installation pieces that bring a relevant kinetic energy to an object synonymous with freedom and movement: the car. Dyson's multimedia work examines the life cycle of the automobile with humorous aplomb. The work manages to send up the American worship of cars and comment on pollution without being didactic or pompous.
Much of the painting and installation work, while engaged with formalist concerns, also engages with topical issues and the texture of contemporary life, such as Rocio Rodriguez's references to Iraq in canvasses that convey the frenzy of a battle zone.
Many of the artists create imagery suggestive of, or derived from, maps that become a metaphor for consciousness. Sid Garrison's abstract drawings with colored pencils suggest satellite imagery of the terrain viewed from above. Also about individual subjectivity, Myrtha Vega's satisfying ink-on-paper drawings collapse travel into one loaded image: riots of roads and cities, country and town and work that suggests how space and time collapse quickly with air and car travel and how the human brain, especially when hyperstimulated by new places and new experiences in travel, can occupy many spheres of consciousness at once.
While the abstract expressionist tradition is to spill one's guts all over the canvas, many of these artists allow their visual information to clot and congeal, suggesting a consciousness more tightly reined in, and less freedom rather than more. Brent Fogt's repetitive drawings compress information into continents of pen marks and Teresa Bramlette Reeves creates comparable clots of graphic information such as lace work or Arabic handwriting.
It is a pleasure to see a show that satisfies on so many different levels without feeling like it fails, as so many group shows do, in its effort to be comprehensive. The show doesn't bite off too much and it doesn't visibly strain to incorporate work in every media. The show is formally, at least, pretty specific. It shows the pleasure of translating what can feel in the real world like too much: too much noise, too much information, into the far more pleasing realm of art that takes that mania and illuminates.