Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Roti’s “Allegory of the Human City” and Its Fate inCapitolView/Pittsburgh

Shortly after we moved to Capitol View, French muralist and street artist Roti was brought to Atlanta by the Living Walls organization, to paint a legally-approved* mural on a wall on University Avenue next to the 75 freeway. Titled “An Allegory of the Human City,” the long, highly complex and detailed piece was, in my not-so-humble opinion, a delightful addition to the urban, industrial landscape. The wall, owned by the Atlanta Department of Transportation, also happened to be right next to the “Welcome to Pittsburgh–A Weed & Seed Community” sign.

Roti's own photo (that's not him in the pic)

The artist released a statement about his work: “Fish symbolize people in our society – the big fish eat the smaller fish. They serve as the infinite symbol because the structure of society functions as an eternal cycle. Nonetheless, the small fish are the center of the mural, as they build and feed the city. The man in the fish mask holds a clock with a keyhole. On the other side of the city, a snake holds the key to the lock. By unlocking the keyhole, the snake could stop time, allowing for the city to morph into a utopia. Ultimately, the human body holds the moon inside the cage, because we want to control things we can’t control.”

Now, again IMNSHO, any community should take greater exception to being called “A Weed & Seed Community” than it should to a fascinating and well-executed mural, but who am I to speak for Pittsburgh? Apparently a Pittsburgh-based church was opposed to the mural, with its imagery of fish, a snake, a shark and an alligator, and felt that the image was Satanic. (Here’s a good article explaining the full story.) In broad daylight these holy crusaders painted over the mural with flat gray paint. Luckily for us heathens, Capitol View residents contacted the DOT and went out with their own rags and brushes and removed the buff-out paint before it could dry. The mural is restored as best as it could be.

There was a huge amount of community furor over this inter-neighborhood conflict, but in my opinion the most interesting thing is the very imagery in Roti’s mural. You’ll notice in the center of it, his representation of the city itself is almost completely dominated by buildings with arched Gothic construction and “rose windows“–Roti’s entire city is comprised almost entirely of churches.

Churches who wanted to remove the mural, apparently.

Before condemning any single piece of work, it’s worth it to look at the body of work created by the artist, learn about what they’re trying to communicate, and question your own reactions as prompted by the artwork. Looking at Roti’s oeuvre, it seems that he uses imagery of many animals in his pieces, creating a bestiary that acts to reflect and interpret the artist’s own ideas about humanity and the world. There doesn’t appear to be any “Satanic” message in his work (and this is coming from a gal who’s seen her fair share of genuine occultist art and religious imagery). I’m mostly caught up in the genuine beauty of the piece, which manages to sweep the cityscape into an undulant sea of scales, as of a fish, light refracting from windows the way it glimmers off a vast school of fish beneath the surface of the waves. The imagery connects our own humanity and the architecture of civilization into the raw, visceral state of being possessed by Roti’s own alligators and sharks, a way of bringing humanity back to basics, our limbs to fins in the sea, our legions of people just animals, like every other creature on earth.

* Apparently it was NOT legally-approved, through a tweak of red tape. The mural will be painted over shortly, I have been informed. Get your photos and enjoy the imagery while you can.

UPDATE Stole Cat

Image from

The super-edgy suburban mall chain clothing store, Forever 21, has a reputation for ripping off designer’s work. This pops up from time to time with Urban Outfitters, too, especially with jewelry.


But this time … well, this time it looks like some junky-ass knock-off store stole from a well-known Atlanta artist. Bold.


R. Land is the crazy cool dude who creates awesome, funny, Atlanta-centric art that you see in local businesses around town. The murals in Criminal Records and El Myr are the two that come to mind, but check out the Facebook page and you’ll say, “ohhhhhh, that guy.” He’s made some scary-funny Aqua Teen Hunger Force stuff, the poster for the L5P Halloween parade, and a street sign for Dong de Leon.


Speckles (the Loss Cat Himself) is just nastily, adorably endearing to me. He’s also enduring, as Land originally created him in the 90’s and is still selling it on his website. Oh, right, and on Forever 21’s website. Nowadays word is that he’s in a lawsuit with Forever 21. I would suggest a peek at R. Land’s website shop (I’m partial to the unaspeckles, myself) and consider supporting a local folk art icon.

EDIT: UPDATE and Loss Cat timeline at Creative Loafing:

Sardonic Christmas Traditions

Atlanta has always struck me as a place that eschews tradition. We have a young, mobile population, we tear down old buildings when they get old (or just abandon them to the point where it’s not a stretch to picture them as post-zombie-apocalypse), and generally tend to get excited about the next big thing, improving and tweaking and changing and leaving behind last year’s big thing.

Which doesn’t lend itself to a lot of tradition – even the Rich’s Macy’s tree has moved from downtown to Underground to Lenox, and the Pink Pig downgraded from mythical flying monorail

Monorail! Monorail! Monorail!

Earth-bound. Might as well be one of those trains at Northpoint Mall.

that soared through the toy department to a flat track on the ground that chugs through Christmas decorations. Bummer.

In an effort to combat this crappiness and embrace the season, my friends and I have set upon a different tradition – going to the annual Santaland Diaries performance at the Horizon Theater in L5P. This year is their twelfth production of David Sedaris’s story, a completely bitter and sardonic one of an out-of-work writer who takes a job as a Macy’s Elf. Harold Leaver plays Crumpet the elf, and guys, the man make me laugh. Pretty hard.



Tomorrow Cabbagetown will host what is inarguably the city’s best festival of the year – that’s right kids, it’s Chomp and Stomp time! As the website says, what’s better than chili on a sunny November afternoon? Oh – chili and beer and music in the coolest, most welcoming neighborhood in the city, that’s what.

Things will get kicked off in the morning with a 5k (my participation in this will be sitting on my porch drinking coffee and blasting music for the runners), then chili starts being served exactly at noon. You’ve got about an hour to taste the individual entrants’ chili, a few more for the restaurants. Spoons are $5.

This year it’s bigger than ever before, which means more celebration, more chili, more vendors and volunteers and revelers, and more street closings. So if you’re headed our way, I’d say don’t bother driving. They’ll be running free fur buses between the MLK Marta station and the festival, and Atlanta Bicycle Coalition will have a bike valet. You might be able to park in Inman Park, but honestly, after all that chili you might want to go for a little walk or bike ride anyway.

Every year it's the most gorgeous fall day. Thanks to jramspott on flickr for the photo.

One more change this year: thanks to Milltown Arms, we are finally able to stop using the Styrofoam chili cups and plastic spoons! They provided compostable alternatives, which is huge, but the organizers are asking for help because no one ever puts things in the correct bin. So I’m helping spread the word – CHILI SPOONS AND CHILI CUPS GO IN RED BINS. Red. Bins. Thanks.

Here’s a map with all the details, or you can check out the Chomp and Stomp website.

I will be pouring Sweetwaters in Esther Peachy Park (the little one at Powell and Wylie) at 3:00, so swing by and say hello!

Mapping Our Snapping

Atlanta photo map

Flickr photo by Eric Fischer

For the “How do people think of this stuff?” file:

Eric Fischer created this map of Atlanta locals’ and tourists’ favorite photo-taking spots, using geotagging data from Flickr and Picassa. Atlanta’s is one of a series of 122 such maps from around the world.

No surprises in the favorite areas for tourists – the CNN/Centennial Olympic Park/WOC/GA Acquarium area, Atlanta Botanical Garden and the MLK memorial are among the most popular. Locals pull out the cameras most often at the Krog Street Tunnel, East Atlanta Village, downtown Decatur and, oddly, all along Ponce. Oakland Cemetery, Piedmont Park and L5P have an even-ish split.

The CL story I originally came across the map in left out the answer to one commenter’s very good question: How did Fischer know who took which pictures?

On the first page of the series he explains that “Blue points on the map are pictures taken by locals (people who have taken pictures in this city dated over a range of a month or more).

Red points are pictures taken by tourists (people who seem to be a local of a different city and who took pictures in this city for less than a month).”

Yellow points indicate that he was unable to determine whether the photographer was a tourist, because the person who posted it hadn’t taken and posted any pictures from anywhere for longer than a month.

“They are probably tourists,” Fischer wrote, “but might just not post many pictures at all.”

I’m about half illiterate cartographically, so what I really want to know is how the people who made made the notes on the Atlanta Flickr photo were sure what they were tagging on a map with no streets names.

Of course there’s a significant limitation here in that the map only tells us about the photo-taking habits of people who use Flickr or Picassa and who go to the trouble to geotag their pictures. It’s really cool just the same.

Atlanta Streets Alive – Again

ASA fall posterIf you missed it (or had a great time at) the first one, there’s another chance to stroll the center city at Atlanta Streets Alive tomorrow, October 17.

The 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. time slot is the same as in May, but the street closures are a little less ambitious this time. Activities will be centered on Woodruff Park and Hurt Park, and along Edgewood Avenue between Peachtree and Raldolph Streets. The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition-led bike loop is back too, this time at 4.4 miles.

Even if you’re not into biking, skating, jumping, hula hooping, drumming or dancing, ASA will be a chance to sample the wares from several Atlanta Street Food Coalition members’ food trucks, with plenty of ensembles providing music to eat by. And all on a day when the high is expected to be around 75, rather than 95. Can’t beat that.

In Praise of the Arts in Atlanta

BAPS Hindu Temple

With a reasonably priced gift shop!

While largely in hibernation during my first months here, finally pushing myself out of the basement apartment house seems to be worthwhile. My latest discovery: Atlanta’s arts scene is really impressive. My own artistic aspirations waned after the paint-by-number mishap of ’89, but I still enjoy looking at interesting things.

On Thursday I stopped by a photography collection on the westside that was truly unique. It actually required special microscopes and a partnership with UGA instead of the usual bating of friends with tall cans of PBR to sit on ragged furniture in front of abandoned buildings. I know that I’ve seen that exact “exhibit” hundreds of times. And while the Atlanta Philosophy Film Festival may have been more rewarding if I was able to debate why a man chooses to drift through the woods for half an hour, I appreciate the opportunity existing for those who are into that sort of thing.


Not pictured: a handcrafted labyrinth

I traveled worlds away on Friday afternoon to marvel at the BAPS Hindu temple. Regardless of religion (or lack thereof), the architecture alone is definitely worth a ride up 85. Later that night I checked out the Castleberry Hill Art Stroll where every spot seemed filled with energy.

But what impressed me most was Inspire, Incite, Ignite at Eyedrum on Saturday. It wasn’t merely the girls dancing with flames, the homemade skeeball or the ad hoc circus acts — it was the people. I watched a man staple dollar bills to his forehead next to a couple in their 50s. And while there was certainly a great number of “those young, artsy types you’d expect to be here,” I turned one way to see a guy wearing Propagandhi, turned another to see what appeared to be a genuine Stanford alum sporting the non-thrift threads of his alma mater.

Good Food Truck

There was also a table selling barbecue that smelled really good

I actually smiled at those abandoned building shapshots the first few times and I understand about creating things that connect with your peers. Really, as someone whose childhood canvas was tracing paper, I’m not in a position to criticize anyone. But lacking resources (see recent DSO strike) and support (Banksy received mix reaction) and sheer manpower, it’s safe to say that innovative ideas seemed rare in Detroit. From the Good Food Truck to the mostly clean bathrooms to the emcee who kept things moving, the Eyedrum event was put together the right way. There was never fear of police busting in, impounding everyone’s cars and shutting everything down. The entire night was accessible to everyone and it showed both in its attendance and the work itself.

This was more real life “doing things” than I’ve subjected myself to in some time. I’ll likely spend the next few weeks confined to my bed, staring into the eyes of Anthony Bourdain and Tina Fey. But when I finally reemerge, it’s great to know that Atlanta offers so many original experiences. I’m fortunate to be here.

Atlanta’s Alt Art

Matt Gilbert's Convergent Frequencies - at Flux tonight

To quote a friend of mine, Erin Roz, it’s gonna be an artsy fartsy weekend. First up, FLUX in Castleberry Hill tonight. Expect open galleries, street performances, parades, an iron pour at Elliot Street, etc.  Atlanta Bicycle Coalition will serve as bike valets so you don’t have to smoosh your bike in with four others around a street sign.

It’s a “one-night public art celebration” – I’m pretty sure it’s basically the same event as LeFlash, which was held around this time last year. Speaking from experience, make sure you stand back from the iron pour. Burnt hair smells awful and holey clothes are just not cute.

Tomorrow night is a show for Atlanta’s most awesome graphic designers, Chromatic, at the Goat Farm. Goat Farm’s a funny place – on yelp, half the reviews gush about how rustic and “real” it is – “I really hope they keep this place as sketch as it is now, because that’s what makes it unique.” Others talk up the “potential” of the venue and recommend air conditioning. Whatever your preference, it’s a great place to have a gathering in the most beautiful weather ever.

Chromatic is also pretty unique in that it’s a graphic design show – CL points out that this is an art form typically limited to an advertising or online presence. It doesn’t get hung up on walls, at least not in galleries, very often. So Chromatic (“A Tribute to Color, A Unique Graphic Arts Showcase”) is kind of cool. Plus a friend of mine is in the show, so, you know, everyone oughta swing by. Show starts at 9.

theater worth seeing. sunset limited at theatrical outfit.

Photo credit: Chris Bartelski From left: Pete Thomasson as White, E. Roger Mitchell as Black

just a few short weeks ago, I was completely unfamiliar with cormac mccarthy’s one-act play the sunset limited. actually i am not even sure i knew that cormac mccarthy even wrote plays. a few weeks back i heard two actors talking about a product of the sunset limited they were performing in, that was taking place in downtown atlanta. the interview, broadcast on am 1690 (a definite favorite of mine), and subsequent several minutes of dialogue from the play they performed on the radio, intrigued me tremendously.

thus, when scoutmob (twitter; @scoutmob) showed up in my inbox the next morning with a 50% coupon for the same play (thanks scoutmob!) i decided to check it out.
so last night i went to theatrical outfit (twitter; @theatoutfit), which is in a small theater next to the rialto and saw one of the best stage productions i have ever seen in this city.

a one-act play that deals with complex issues like race, religion, faith and futility and suicide is not an easy thing to pull off (see the wikipedia entry on sunset limited for a primer on the plot), and to make it work, the actors better be damn good. and in this production they were.

the actor playing “black” was amazing; forceful and tender and with an incredible grasp of the rhythm of the dialogue that mccarty wrote for him. in fact through most of the play i kept thinking that he was overpowering the actor playing “white” and this was my one criticism of the play.

until the end, when i realized the director had done this intentionally, keeping “white” subdued and almost and blank canvas for “black” to paint on. It stayed this way, until about 2/3 of the way through the play, when “white” burst forward dominating the stage and “black.” very impressive feat of acting to pull off if you ask me, being able to hold back like that and then scream forward right at the end.

it’s a complicated work and i am still digesting what it means and what i truly think of what was presented. However, you only have a few more days to see this, so i wanted to get this review out, because if you are a theatre fan or a fan of cormac mccarthy you really owe it to yourself to get downtown and see this before it closes out.

sunset limited
theatrical outfit
through april 11
balzer theater
84 luckie street nw
atlanta, ga 30303

She’s crafty*

I don’t know what everyone else will be doing this weekend but I’ll be at the Cobb Galleria Centre (just ITP for those that don’t venture outside the realm) for the American Craft Council Show. The show is in its 21st year and it really is the premier place for one-of-a-kind handmade items. The show runs Friday through Sunday (with a special preview benefit Thursday night) and you can get $2 off tickets if you purchase online. But, if you’re a member of Scoutmob (which we’ve touted here before), you already know that today’s deal was 1/2 off a one-day admission to the show. Whether you’re into mixed media, jewelry, glass or any other type of handmade craft, it’s worth the trip to the Galleria to see some of the amazing things that people can create.

*And, please forgive the Beastie Boys reference, I automatically sing it in my head whenever I think of crafts. Yes, I know I’m weird.

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