It was so hot
Jackson Fine Art pays homage to summer
Never mind that the temperature outside is hovering in the 90s. Summer in Atlanta means an arctic atmosphere indoors and only brief, very reluctant contact with sweat. It seems that most of us have forgotten how to appreciate what used to be our favorite season. For two summers now, gallery director Anna Walker at Jackson Fine Art has taken exception to that norm, curating shows that make the relentless Southern heat feel oh-so-sexy. Last year, the August photo show was Humidity. This time, it's the seduction of It Was So Hot, We Had to Take Our Clothes Off.
Ian McFarlane begins to set the tone with a room full of his silver prints picturing girls who mostly pose standing in streams or fields, under great shade trees and on country roads. The young women, whether emerging from bedsheets, wearing slips dress or just skirt have an awareness of the camera that implies intimacy. In a few ethereal images, McFarlane takes a removed, narrative approach. The preteen "Claire in the Kitchen," having slipped into her mother's feathery mules, evokes a wistful Cinderella.
In the next room, Keith Carter's approach is less personal and more otherworldly. His toned silver prints capture summery European street scenes and canals in Venice, coins gleaming up from a wishing well, boule balls on a stone court and sailboats seen from afar. With soft, hazy-edged images that come into focus for only one detail, he creates romantic vignettes.
Larger scale photos in color and black-and-white draw the viewer toward It Was So Hot in the back gallery, where walls are lined with the real-life effects of summer heat. Naked torsos and exposed posteriors, bodies carefully stretched out to capture the slightest breeze and figures suspended in cool water propose relief. Boudoirs, screened porches, shadowy and sunlit rooms, beach sand, tree-lined rivers and swimming pools set the stage for scenarios that memory has long tied to the season.
Mallory Marder's untitled black-and-white self-portrait shows the artist lying on a wood deck revealing her most private landscape. Beside her head stands a glass half-full of water. Behind her, the sandy bare legs of her lover suggest a sultry tryst.
Through a porch screen, Joel Meyerowitz sees "Vivian" sleeping naked in the half-light. Bettina Rheims captures a young beauty disrobing in a ribbon-candy striped bedroom. Derek Henderson suspends a slim topless girl in the deep blue of an indoor pool. While James Herbert captures the classic contours of a sleeping male nude, Sally Mann records the sensual aura of a boy lying on rumpled bedsheets beneath a knotted mosquito net.
Jack Spencer offers a misty image of round-faced boys floating in a Virginia river. Mark Steinmetz discovers a shirtless boy-child lying across a table in a backyard, daydreaming his way through a hot, thirsty day. In an image from her "Coney Island Series," Tova Baruch pictures a half-clad cowgirl aiming a red water pistol. Rubin Cox finds lovers sprawled out on rocks as the edge of a swimming hole in North Carolina. David Levinthal's blond pinup dolls pose for Polaroids in their bikinis.
Arousing and amusing bodies aside, the image in It Was So Hot that pulls hardest at a landlocked Atlantan is a family affair. "The Forans, Cape Hatteras," by Eugene Richards triggers a palpable longing. In the black-and-white print, the door of a van opens out to the very ocean edge. A small boy and his dog in the foreground look expectantly at the viewer. His eyes and the seascape behind him are a compelling invitation to abandon the swelter and smog that lie just outside the gallery door.
It Was So Hot, We Had To Take Our Clothes Off continues through Sept. 16 at Jackson Fine Art, 3115 E. Shadowlawn Ave. 404-233-3739.