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Pretty things

Melissa Sims at Tew Galleries

Melissa Sims' paintings have the high gloss of something spit-shined and polished.

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It's an appropriate use of resin, laid thickly on the painting surface to give it that shiny glow. Sims' subject matter is also about the appeal of packaging and bright things and all of the many ways sex and pretty ladies and neon cocktail signs entice us to act, to buy, to want as surely as a fish will charge a shiny, bright lure.

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Using a vocabulary of images culled from old neon signs and vintage packaging, Sims illustrates — through contemporary eyes — how advertising has always saturated our consciousness.

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Sims is especially hung up on vintage neon — that most spectacular, graphic and old timey of consumer culture's hucksters. In "girl," a Veronica Lake-era honey painted in shades of TCM black and white lounges on a neon sign whose visible letters spell out "G-A-" Is it "Gams"? We don't know. Sims chops up the lettering to emphasize how it's about the salesmanship rather than a reference to what exactly is being sold.

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Her paintings tend to be collaged scenes of lights, signage and people with the hubba-hubba curves of sweater girl Lana Turner or the brooding brow of beefcake Tyrone Power rendered in the rudimentary lines of large billboards and circus banners. Shown together, they suggest the frantic, pulsing mania of Times Square or Fremont Street in Las Vegas.

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When even that's not enough razzle-dazzle, Sims overlays her canvases with '50s-style sparkles and lines of color. One of the seminal Pop artists, Roy Lichtenstein, used comic book imagery to critique mass media's silly urgencies in the 1960s. Sims has chosen an interesting tack in referencing imagery from another time rather than her own. By using imagery of the past, the work can have a contradictory feel. It is both snarky and seductive, critical and charming.

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Some of the force of Sims' message may be blunted by the eyeball porn of all those vintage beauties, and by her color schemes of hot pinks and tangerines. But if we are going to die from this sin called avarice, maybe it's nicer to die happy.

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Melissa Sims. Through June 19. Tew Galleries, 425 Peachtree Hills Ave., No. 24. Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sat., 11 a.m.-5 p.m. 404-869-0511. www.timothytew.com.



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