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The more the merrier

Atlanta arts collaborative gets it on in forthcoming retrospective

If you Google "Golden Blizzard," you may find a recipe for a noxious drink composed of peppermint and cinnamon schnapps and eggnog. Or a song by an obscure Norwegian death metal band.

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Your third haul will probably be the Atlanta arts collective Golden Blizzard, whose members include the Ukranian-born artist Alexander Kvares and his cohorts, Ellen Black, Errol Crane, Ann-Marie Manker, Jordan Reece, Daniel Upton, Jennifer Kornder and new arrival Lydia Walls.

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The group works every Sunday in the atelier of Crane and Reece's Capitol View bungalow, down the road from a commercial thoroughfare where K.K.'s Deli is offering $1.99 hot links and C&J Variety goes head to head with D&M Variety across the street.

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At the GB clubhouse, the front door is wide open and four free-range dogs drift in and out as six GB members gather in the downstairs living room to describe the GB way.

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What is the GB house style?

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The same aesthetic bouillabaisse that defines their headquarters, with the thrift store couches leaking their innards and kitschy curios, is also unleashed in the collaborative drawings and installation pieces the group has exhibited around Atlanta since its first show in 2005 at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia.

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Though their individual styles are quite distinct (GB founder Manker has a thing for domesticated animals, and Kvares never met a pustule or pentagram he didn't like), the various styles of the individual GB artists have enmeshed so completely that they even have trouble discerning who did what in their collaborative drawings.

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The GB look is its own organic creation, equal parts fanciful and apocalyptic, Bosch and craft store, head shop psychedelia and heavy metal meet unicorn-decorated adolescent girl bedroom.

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For its tongue-in-cheek survey A Retrospective (Late 2005-Mid 2006) at Marcia Wood Gallery, the group is creating a 12-foot-high soft-sculpture portrait of gallery owner Marcia Wood in gold lamé and various Vegas-y fabrics along with a selection of collaborative drawings, installation and whatever the hell else the group decides to strut.

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Working collaboratively gives GB a more spontaneous bent and a desire to always push the envelope.

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Being part of a team is also a handy way of getting around an onerous and unpleasant task for many shrinking-violent artists — self-promotion. "When I'm talking to other people about the group, I can basically toot our own horn a lot more than I would about my own work," says Kvares.

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"You don't feel arrogant," echoes Crane.

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Working together creates an unbeatable esprit de corps that allows the artists to — instead of getting burned out or hitting a dead end — feed off each other's work.

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One artist draws, and then he or she passes it to a fellow GBer. Where does the collaborative impulse come from? Probably the same place the trend for film collectives and knitting circles and group sex does. The more the merrier.

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"I think it's kind of this band mentality," says Upton, who, like Crane, is also in a band. "I used to want to mastermind everything and put my ego over everything that I made, and you have to give that up. In a group you get pulled, and people fight with you about your ideas. And I think in the end it actually bends them into a better shape."

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Kvares says one of the joys of communal art is that you can be more ambitious, even when you have no budget to work with. And there's a payoff for the audience as well: choice. "You do get a little bit of everything," he says. "It's like going to the store and you can buy pretzels and you can get Chex Mix."



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