Out in the shanty

A humble shed becomes a tool for artist exposure

While some would have you believe it's all about the art on the walls, more cynical types know that in the culture racket, it's as much showbiz as raw talent. Thus the headline-making importance of design in recent art-world spaces such as Richard Meier's Getty Center, Frank Gehry's Bilboa and Yoshio Taniguchi's expansion and renovation of New York's Museum of Modern Art. The politics and aesthetics of space are of equal concern to smaller venues where the difference between art hung on exposed brick walls and pristine white ones signals the difference between grass-roots exposure and upwardly mobile sales.

That subtext of space is being given an amusing spin by local writer-cum-art entrepreneur Joey Orr, an imaginative Atlanta native who's chosen an unlikely venue for a series of art exhibits: the humble, utilitarian shed. Formerly home to brown recluse spiders and dad's aborted home-repair projects, the shed is the outdoor version of the attic, a realm of denial where the overflow of American accumulation finds a country home. If the gallery space is all about fetishizing setting (and thus, the work that hangs there), the shed is the inverse — the kind of forgotten space you put things you'd rather just went away.

ShedSpace, Orr's reinstallment of the shed to center stage, has the energy of the lemonade stand or puppet shows staged in summertime backyards as a kid — the kind of anarchical lark far from the self-serious pretensions of the art world.

Throughout August, the ShedSpace exhibitions will feature a host of artists displaying their work for one day only in four sheds in East Atlanta, Decatur, Reynolds-town and East Lake. Shed owners chose the artists they wanted to present in their own sheds, though Orr says that in the case of the last shed, owned by Todd Johnson and Anne Palmer, "they didn't really have any connection to the art scene at all, so I hooked them up with Ballroom Studios."

The debut ShedSpace is in Orr's own Decatur backyard and features works by 27-year-old Georgia State graduate Alli Royce Soble. Soble's work has been featured in the 1999 Nexus Biennial and Hairdos and Tractor Pulls at Trinity Gallery. This is, thus far, her first "outbuilding show." Soble, who realizes the importance of venue says she wisely looked at the shed before deciding to do the show. As young artists quickly learn while pursuing their BFA's, the wrong shed could break an artist's career.

The idea for ShedSpace came to Orr after a visit several years ago to San Antonio where he was inspired by Blue Star Arts, an industrial space revamped into an art complex. Of particular interest to Orr was a small room housed behind the complex in which artist Ethel Shipton allowed a rotating cadre of emerging artists to exhibit for a week. It is, says Orr, "the same concept as the shed — where they have three days to move in and do whatever they want to do, the middle day to exhibit, then three days to return the room to the condition they found it." In other words, a nightmare of disarray and rusting tools. Each ShedSpace project can be seen by the public for only one evening, on the Saturday of the opening.

Soble has taken the shed theme and run with it, offering a pun-oriented spin on the utility shed in works melding digital photography, painting and collage, all in an homage to that classically macho accessory: the tool. In one digital image, "Screwed," a woman's head vibrates violently on the head of a screw, while in another, a confused young man wears a wheelbarrow for a hat. Soble's installation blends the overt tools of her trade such as brushes, greasepaint and charcoal (displayed on a small table at the center of the shed) with more covert, technological tools like the printers, computers and cameras that allow her to translate idea to canvas. Like characters from her images come to life, Soble also displays a selection of the hammers, screws, screwdrivers and knives that make up the handyman's repertoire.

"There were a lot of things we wanted to accomplish with the show," says Orr. One of the things was to support the arts community by having a place for them to show and a cool project for them to be a part of. Curious backyard dabblers can spend every Saturday in August finding out just what lies behind the shed mystique. There are two remaining ShedSpace exhibits on view this August. Artists Charlotte and Tom Wegrzynowski will show their moody oil paintings with the Concept Union on Aug. 19, and photographer Todd Carroll, writer/performer Jason Wagner, painter Jeremy Dost and other Ballroom Studios participants will have work on display Aug. 26.

Shed Space exhibitions: Charlotte and Tom Wegrzynowski with the Concept Union on display Aug. 19 from 6-8 p.m., 2459 Boulevard Drive. Todd Carroll, Jason Wagner, Jeremy Dost and others with the Ballroom Studios on display Aug. 26 from 6-8 p.m., 1447 Newton Ave. For information, call 404-288-8572 or go to www.hometown.aol.com/shedspace/exhibitions.html.

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