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Ayutthaya Gallery brings contemporary Thai art to Atlanta

Stephen Greer ventured far from his birthplace in East Point before circling back to open his first gallery in a shared space with the Barbara Archer Gallery last month. To gather the works on view in the first exhibition at Ayutthaya Gallery, Greer spent a couple of years in Bangkok, Thailand, where he taught English at the University of New South Wales.

Ayutthaya, named after the ancient capital of Siam, is meant to be an oasis of Thai art. (Greer promises to offer pronunciation tips on his website at www.greergallery .com.) Introducing new art from Thailand, the inaugural show will be followed by an exhibition of tribal textiles, jewelry and folk art from Central and Southeast Asia.

A collector himself, Greer began acquiring art during his sojourns as an English teacher in Spain and Saudi Arabia. When in Jeda, he met travelers selling family treasures to fund their pilgrimages to Mecca. First prints, then heirloom textiles became his passion. The first Thai painting he bought was by Chalit Nakpawan, an artist/actor known for his resin painting and for his involvement in Cobalt Blue, an artists' group in Bangkok. Chalit knows everybody in Thailand, says Greer, and he introduced the collector to many of the country's contemporary artists.

With the opening of Ayutthaya Gallery, Greer becomes the exclusive representative of more than 25 Thai artists, and, to his knowledge, the only Thai gallery in the United States. "When I was in Bangkok," he recalls, "there was a lot of talk about doing something like this. While they were talking, I was working."

The work in Ayutthaya's first show is mostly Western in style, which is not surprising in today's globalized art scene. In fact, says Greer, it was an Italian who initiated the first art school in Bangkok; formal art training there is European. In this debut, there's a spectrum of art, from loudly colored punk dog paintings, to Buddhist-inspired etchings in soft colors, a multi-paneled village scene painted in tempera, a few bright impasto abstractions and a predictably quiet watercolor of houseboats titled "Warm and Peaceful" by Surapon Saenkham.

Featured artist Thaiwijit Puangkasemsomboon has shown work at The National Gallery in Bangkok, the Bhirasri Institute of Modern Art in Bangkok and the Rheinisch-Westfalische Auslandsgesellschaft in Dortmund, Germany. In this exhibition, he's the star, showing whimsical prints, drawings and paintings as well as small form and function sculptures. But for the rare inclusion of indigenous objects like a small cooking pot, a bit of teak or coral, his clever vases made from found materials might come from anywhere in the world. It's impossible not to find a reference to Duchamp's "Fountain" in Thaiwijit's "Vase 2," an assemblage of concrete, wire and aluminum.

Greer will alternate with Barbara Archer to stage six-week exhibitions throughout the year. Even while the Ayutthaya shows are up, Archer will be conducting business; works from the inventory will still be available for viewing by appointment. "I'm really excited about this fresh, new art," she says. "It adds a great energy to the space."

Ayutthaya Gallery's debut show runs through March 9 at the Barbara Archer Gallery, 1123 Zonolite Road, Suite 27. 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Wed.-Sat. 404-815-1966. greergallery@mindspring.com.??



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