Be Here Now" challenges spatial awareness

Artists use gallery space as installation canvas

As technology grows exponentially, making our lives more connected and digitally disoriented, we forget to pay attention to the details of our everyday surroundings. That's the concept behind Be Here Now, the new site-specific exhibition at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center featuring German-born Sandra Erbacher and local sculptors Mike Black and Andrew Boatright. Each artist takes advantage of the large spaces at the gallery and focuses on situational awareness and invasion.

"I feel like there's a lot of beauty, a lot of potential that's in front of everybody's face, but everyone is so busy," Black says. "It just takes a second to look up and see what's going on."

Black approaches his installation from a structural standpoint, incorporating fake HVAC ducts with the real versions from the gallery, painting them gray with bright pink insulation peeking from the side. Boatright brought the concept to life in textured sculptures arranged in awkward yet endearing poses, as well as his first motorized installation. With a focus on perspective and contradictions, Erbacher uses common materials but twists them somehow — a screw inserted into a wall just below eye level, or a bright pink exit sign hidden inside a vent.

The artists spoke to Creative Loafing about paying more attention to the environment around us and surprising the viewer.

Tell me about incorporating the concept into your work and the gallery.

Mike Black: This is part of a series that I've been working on for the past two years called Disregard, and it's all based on common materials that we come by, all the time. In this piece I pulled from the HVAC system, and that's the whole idea behind the series, going into different spaces and pulling from what's already there. I used this space as a jump-off point for my work.

How do you want people to perceive this installation?

MB: What I want is to surprise people, have little moments where you turn a corner and see something that shouldn't be there, but it's there. Hopefully that little moment, when you turn the corner, affects your day in a positive way.

Andrew, were some of these pieces from your past show (TRANSMOGRIFICATION)? They look familiar.

Andrew Boatright: They are a continuation of my last show. ... similar color, but for this show I experimented with finishing. I used bleach on the surface [of the sculptures], and then I dusted them a bit with spray paint to highlight some of the texture. The spray paint didn't stick where the bleach was so you get these spots that appear to be diseased flesh.

Tell me about your sculptures. What materials did you use this time around?

AB: Most of the sculptures have nylon stockings as sort of the skin that goes over the armatures. As I stuff the stockings, it creates the gesture that I solidify with the adhesive that I brush on to the surface. It's very much about a bodily gesture — gestures of futility. The sculptures are really damaged, close to tipping over. I really do find that my sculptures come full circle when I'm able to share them.

Sandra, how does perspective play into your sculptures?

Sandra Erbacher: I love playing with architectural elements of institutions such as a museum. I flipped the exit sign over and put it in a fake vent. It is a slightly disorienting thing. I wanted to question the position of the viewer so you don't really know whether the audience is inside or outside. All of my positioning is slightly off. Taking these kinds of institutional elements that people don't notice normally, and playing around with them — it's all about composition.

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