“Twenty Georgia Masters” and “Recent Acquisitions”
Through March 27. Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia. 75 Bennett St., Suite A2. 404-367-8700. www.mocaga.org.
“Artists in Georgia: Contemporary Works from the Collection”
Through May 16. Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University. 557 S. Kilgo Circle. 404-727-4282. www.carlos.emory.edu.
By Catherine Fox
“Georgia Masterpieces: Selected Works from Georgia Museums” is a book published last year by the Georgia Council for the Arts, honoring 27 state artists and 14 museums that preserve and show their work.
Now two museums are returning the favor: The Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia offer exhibitions featuring works by these artists from their permanent collections.
Between them, there are pieces by 21 artists, plus other worthy practitioners who weren’t in the book.
MOCA GA is a history lesson of sorts. The late Ed Ross, whose delicate and monumental 1971 painting commands one wall of the main gallery, taught at the Atlanta College of Art and influenced a generation of artists who found their way through minimalism to their own distinctive practices. Among them, Katherine Mitchell and MOCA GA director Annette Cone Skelton are involved in the show. Facing off on the opposite wall is James Herbert’s 1992 “Spirit Man,” an expressionist maelstrom of color and brushstrokes. The University of Georgia professor similarly taught and influenced his share of artists, including Rocio Rodriguez, whose 1990 “Schism” hangs nearby.
Works by visionary artists Nellie Mae Rowe and Howard Finster represent Georgians who flourished outside the academy.
The show is an opportunity to admire the eye that Cone Skelton (then an art consultant) and client David Golden brought in building the collection of CGR Advisors, which is the core of MOCA GA’s collection. The adjacent exhibition of recent acquisitions shows how it’s growing.
Three strong, varied Herb Creecy paintings, a gift from his son, join work by younger artists and pieces acquired through the museum’s Working Artist Project grant — demonstrating how that program benefits the institution as well as the artists.
The show also reveals some needs. To name two are a more recent painting by Rodriguez and a major piece by Amalia Amaki.
Carlos curator Margaret Shufeldt covers a lot of the same territory with the museum’s collection of prints from Rolling Stone Press, an important resource for Georgia artists run by master printer Wayne Kline from 1984 until his death in 2005.
Curiously, John McWilliams is represented in both shows by the same photograph, “Easter Afternoon, Georgia,” an evocative depiction of the southern landscape and heat.
Schufelt broadens the roster with works by Art Werger, Sidney Guberman, Stan Sharshal, Genevieve Arnold and Pat Courtney, whose bemused “Self-Portrait of a Regional Artist” is an apt inclusion. She moved to New York, by the way, which is just the trajectory that projects like the book, the Working Artist Project and like-minded efforts are trying to render unnecessary.
Catherine Fox is chief art critic at www.ArtsCriticATL.com