Grow up already

Accelerating Sequence ponders mortality

If growing older means gaining the kind of wit and perspicacity demonstrated by the artists in Accelerating Sequence: Artists Observe Time and Aging at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, then bring it on.

Artists are great debunkers of myths and falsehoods, and the artists in Accelerating Sequence clearly relish the opportunity to comment upon mortality, a subject that contemporary society has veiled in a thick fog.

David Ivie's project, which combines the artist's usual cocktail of whimsy and the macabre, is just one of several exceptional works. His morbidly adorable collection of cast bronze sculptures is meant as memento mori for friends. The objects — a small bird, a spaceship or a spider — are meant as memorials or even vessels, to contain the ashes of his friends upon their deaths. Explaining the impetus for his piece, Ivie states that advances in medicine and the eradication of disease have made the very idea of mortality a little abstract. Death has become an urban legend no one really believes will ever come to fruition.

But the navel-gazing, grown-up wit and sentiment going on in Accelerating Sequence is much appreciated as an antidote to an adolescent age whose official motto could be "let the good times roll" no matter what.

Barbara Schreiber gets high marks for the humor she brings to mortality with her series of postage stamp-sized paintings placed throughout the gallery; some almost too high to see and others at ankle height. The images offer a hilariously terse signage of aging's indignities: dentures, nose hair, bifocals.

Like Schreiber, many of the artists in Accelerating Sequence give ample evidence of their maturity with work that uses form so superbly to articulate content. In Schreiber's case, the tiny scale of the canvases speaks to the incremental, sneaky realities of aging.

E.K. Huckaby's wit is of a drier sort, laced with no small share of regret. In a glass vitrine he features what looks like a cross-section of the earth's layered strata, but onto each layer he has pinned fortune cookie epiphanies - "time expands as want demands," "parents are imperfect," "don't say it aloud" - to suggest the accumulated wisdom of age.

Lisa Tuttle is an Atlanta artist whose work has deepened with age and begun to really get at the poetic melancholy and shudder of human connection vintage photographs can inspire. In "Translucent Time," the artist uses old photographs that show a woman's progression from baby to old age to illustrate how life's quicksilver quality is often only apparent when we ponder someone else's mortality.

Curator Dan Talley has managed to incorporate artists with diverse styles and employed them to explicate a common theme. On one extreme is the busy, decoration-encrusted shrine by Lynn Marshall-Linnemeier, who creates a memorial to African-American culture in her assemblage of photographs, jewelry, baskets and wooden stools. On the other extreme is the calm austerity of Gloria Ortiz-Hernandez's minimalist works on paper. Ortiz-Hernandez contemplates the slow fade age brings in a subtle progression of graphite markings on paper, which morph from solid strokes to increasingly vaporous ones.

The overriding metaphor of Accelerating Sequence is, of course, time: abundant in youth and increasingly ether-like with age.

Susan Cipcic pays homage to the unstoppable, stealth-like assaults of time. Onto a selection of silver objects such as candlesticks and plates, Cipcic has embossed images of moths and butterflies with the intent that over time, the shiny surfaces reflecting viewers' faces will be overtaken by tarnish. Like aging, it is a progression so gradual, you hardly notice it until finally, you are gone.


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