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Swimming Them Homeward
Institute 193 at the Atlanta Contemporary: Swimming Them Homeward
March 2, 2017 - April 30, 2017
“How green green and summer church bell
Is this poisoned meadow, where the heifers
Swing, swing, their poisoned udders
And slowly walk towards their poisoned well
Excerpt from ‘Pastoral’”
- James Baker Hall
Swimming Them Homeward, is a survey of artists from Lexington, Kentucky featuring works by Charles Williams, Louis Zoellar Bickett, Robert Morgan, Mike Goodlett, Guy Mendes, James Baker Hall, Mare Vaccaro, Lina Tharsing, and Robert Beatty.
Lexington’s art community is extraordinarily prolific and interconnected, but artists from here are rarely shown outside of regional art centers. This relative seclusion has led to the development of a geographically specific style that is seen today and can be traced back at least to the early 70’s. Anxious, baroque forms and compulsive tendencies of collecting or producing objects define these artists’ practice. The relationships between these artists extend beyond theme and tendency and also, perhaps most importantly, take place in the real world. They collect each other’s work and have maintained long term friendships.
Four of the artists included in this exhibition have structured their entire homes as works of art. The first, Charles Williams, filled his yard and home with bizarre structures that were both utilitarian and ornamental. Bulbous lamps and molten pencil holders were scattered among painted plywood cutouts of cartoon characters and ersatz machines meant to bend time and space. Robert Morgan and Louis Zoellar Bickett, both of whom knew Williams, furthered this approach to living and making with very different end results. Bickett is a meticulous cataloguer of the world around him and has, over the last forty or so years, created an immense, impenetrable record of his life in his home, dubbed The Archive. Morgan on the other hand, has arranged found objects and detritus into lush and gaudy assemblages, sculptures, and installations that populate his maze like living space. Mike Goodlett’s home on the outskirts of town is spartan by comparison, a chasm of light and shadow populated almost exclusively by his voluptuous sculptures and drawings, and a few sculptures by both Morgan and Williams. The remaining artists in the show have engaged with this lineage directly. Lina Tharsing grew up around Bickett and Morgan and is a close friend of Goodlett’s. Robert Beatty’s work engages directly with Goodlett’s fluid, strange forms. James Baker Hall and Guy Mendes have photographed and documented nearly all the participants, developing close personal relationships with many of them.
In keeping with the dense relationships, both biographical and thematic, that connect these artists to one another, we will be creating an interior domestic space mirroring the aesthetic that has been developed in Lexington over the last 50 years.