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Out of the studio and into the shed

ShedSpace provides a neighborly way to exhibit art

Art of one kind or another has already found a home in parking lot shows where black velvet leopards and sunsets tempt the lowbrow connoisseur. And the now-legitimized art form of graffiti is appearing on a wall or train car near you. Alternative venues like Eyedrum and Ballroom Studios have carved out niches in an often commerce-dominated local art scene, and a selection of the city's restaurants (the Radial Cafe, Red Light Cafe, Aurora) often features the city's rising artists.

More accessible, populist venues are already making inroads on the Atlanta scene, so in a crazed real estate market, why not use the most ubiquitous, cheapo parcel of space as the art world's latest no-frills site? In a city where alternative space has become remarkably elastic, one site still feels far out: the regular-guy space of the backyard shed.

The focus of a string of exhibitions appearing in a different shed each Saturday for the month of August, The ShedSpace Exhibitions is the humble answer to the art world's elitism — a place where no one needs to feel intimidated.

"We believe that we should reclaim the arts, that we should bring art back into the spaces where we live. We also believe that the arts in our community could use broader and more enthusiastic audiences," says Joey Orr, founder and curator for ShedSpace for the second year running. As part of ShedSpace's second season, a group of artists, including Barbara Schreiber, Troy Eittreim, Ashley Benton, Robert Sherer and Larry Jens Anderson, will take their vision out back to the formerly tool- and clutter-filled shanties of intown slacker and gentrification zones.

A marriage of art mounted on a distinctly low-fi scale, ShedSpace has the kind of prankish sensibility that had Marcel Duchamp displaying his "Fountain" (aka urinal) at the 1917 New York Independent Show and calling it art. Only in this case, it's the context that provides the irreverence. Because as crowded and steamy as a gallery opening can be, no venue, no matter how cramped, can match the shoulders-hunched, head-ducked, pardon-me humility of the shed.

It takes a sturdier, less image-conscious and certainly more playful artist to allow his/her work to be shown in a bare-bones backyard shed, and participating locals like Robert Sherer exhibit the playful spirit of ShedSpace in spades. Referring to his own Jasper, Ala., childhood as pedigree enough for a show on the shed circuit, the artist claims that his suburban upbringing gave him an "early appreciation for sheds." Sillier, perhaps, than Duchamp's Dada anti-elitism, ShedSpace combines a native Southern wit and fondness for lowbrow non sequiturs with a valid response to a lack of local venues. And it is, as some of ShedSpace's outbuilding donaters like Anne, Jim and Max Slatton attest, also a damn good excuse for cleaning out your shed.

Last year's ShedSpace featured venues in East Atlanta, Decatur, Reynoldstown and East Lake, and this year's event continues the show's mission to provide an "artists- run space presentation" with five artists and four sheds from the ramshackle to the pristine in Ormewood Park, Lake Claire, the southeast corner of McDonough-Guice and the old standby shed ground zero of Decatur. Last year, artist Alli Royce Soble found a sense of community and personal artistic validation as the first artist represented in the project. "I feel that ShedSpace has broken down the barriers of having a place for people to gather to view art ... it is an experience for the community to come together."

And, Soble says, it provides an opportunity for an artist to discover a fresh vein to their work. "It was a challenge for me to create new work for such an unusual venue." "Because of the shed, I came up with a series based on tools," notes Soble. "Hence 'Toolshed,'" Soble's take on the macho preoccupations of that butch outbuilding.

The artists in this second season of ShedSpace will in some cases create new work to fit within the shed context, or merely adapt previous work to the new venue. Especially promising will be how artists Sherer and Anderson — whose work so often focuses on emotionally loaded treatment of a retro boyhood and who will share space in McDonough-Guice — apply themselves to the shed, a site that contains the overflow of America's plenitude and industry.

The ShedSpace Exhibitions features works by Barbara Schreiber at 1113 Eden Ave. in Ormewood Park Aug. 4; Troy Eittrem at 2005 Palifox Drive in Lake Claire Aug. 11; Ashley Benton at 225 Melrose Ave. in Decatur Aug. 18; Robert Sherer & Larry Jens Anderson at 1560 Wellswood Drive in McDonough-Guice Aug. 25. Hours are 6-8 p.m. 404-288-8572. communities.msn.com/ShedSpace Exhibitions.??



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