Loading...
 

Stream of consciousness

Beep Beep Gallery plays it by ear

Beep Beep Gallery is a tiny, indie-art gallery that hugs a frantic stretch of Ponce de Leon Avenue. That grand artery separates the dealers in oversized white T-shirts on one side of Ponce from the yuppies across the way who might as well occupy another planet, picking up truffle oil at Whole Foods.

??
In keeping with a certain slacker vibe, Beep Beep deftly straddles the border between grime and gentrification. The narrow, storefront Beep Beep space has unkempt windows and affordable art, scuffed walls and the absence of what you might call "ambiance" in a more conventional gallery setting.

??
Things tend to be more stream-of-consciousness than calculated.

??
Like the name "Beep Beep"?

??
"We were just kind of throwing out things. It has absolutely no significance," says James McConnell, 24, who runs Beep Beep along with two friends, Mark Basehore and Steven Rauber. "And then we were like, I guess we kind of like robots. And then we had a robot-themed art show ... ."

??
A lifelong Atlantan, McConnell grew up in Virginia-Highland the son of a home builder and a nurse. Now he lives in the Old Fourth Ward. His battered 10-speed is parked in front of the gallery's front window.

??
McConnell is sitting behind a desk at Beep Beep, reading the 'zine Found, Davy Rothbart's book of trash-picked love letters and mash notes. Tall and pale, McConnell is dressed in a T-shirt with an image of a naturalistic red heart made by local artist Steven Dixey. On the walls surrounding him are vintage photographs reimagined by artists Aubrey Pope and Jenn Brown, almost all of them marked with red "Sold" dots. There's a rack of McConnell and Basehore's 'zine Metatronic, and on a small glass case at the back of the gallery, a painting that's been paid for but remains unclaimed.

??
Beep Beep has that half-entrepreneurial, half-what-the-fuck spirit of other defiantly DIY enterprises like record stores and homemade 'zines and blogs devoted to Serbian pop music or esoteric thrift-store finds.

??
In such places, making money is pretty much an afterthought to obsession. Beep Beep was inspired, McConnell says, by other Atlanta alternative galleries such as Young Blood in Grant Park — another indie space started by former Aurora Coffee employee Kelly Teasley and partner Maggie White. It's the idea, McConnell says, "of being able to create a community around you of people who want to do stuff, and not really worrying about how much money is coming in or out."

??
The crowd tends to be in the "generally about 25 to 35" range, McConnell says, before adding with a laugh, "and then my parents" — who also show up at the openings.

??
When he's not at Beep Beep, McConnell is slinging java behind the counter at Aurora Coffee in Little Five Points. He also curates the art shows for Aurora's Virginia-Highland location. A large percentage of Beep Beep's exhibitions feature Aurora artists.

??
"A lot of them are employees or former employees," McConnell concedes. "They're either in bands, or in art school or they are artists."

??
The gallery, McConnell says, "is certainly an extension of our social group and our social community."

??
But despite the laid-back vibe, the scruffy-cool aesthetic and a concerted effort not to play Charles Saatchi art mogul, Beep Beep has found a niche. Brown's and Pope's collaborative works are flying off the walls, suggesting there just might be a market for work in the $40-$200 range steeped in bittersweet nostalgia.

??
And there may still be a place in Atlanta for artists working in coffee shops, and guys like McConnell who want to give them a venue to show their art.

??
It's possible, McConnell says, for a small, below-the-radar culture to thrive.

??
"As long as your apartment doesn't get torn down for condos," he says with a laugh, "You should be OK."



More By This Writer

Article

Tuesday June 27, 2017 08:52 pm EDT
Sofia Coppola imagines female desire in 'The Beguiled' | more...

Article

Friday April 27, 2012 03:00 pm EDT
Local painter loses her innocence in a dark, abstract solo show | more...

Article

Monday April 23, 2012 05:00 pm EDT
Chastain Arts Center's new exhibit is quiet and contemplative | more...

Article

Friday April 13, 2012 04:00 am EDT
Duo's Beep Beep Gallery collaboration is the best kind of cultural time capsule | more...

Article

Friday March 30, 2012 10:30 am EDT
Solo exhibit transforms Get This! Gallery into dive bar | more...
Search for more by Felicia Feaster

[Admin link: Stream of consciousness]