For Art’s Sake - Bustin’ out

Changing of the guard at Jackson Fine Art

Jane Jackson, who’s operated her Buckhead photography gallery for more than 12 years, will begin a new career this March as a full-time personal curator for Elton John. She has sold Jackson Fine Art, which will retain its name during a transitional period, to current Gallery Director Anna Walker Skillman, 33, and an unnamed partner. Jackson, who was 29 when she opened the gallery in 1990, has already worked closely with John. She’s advised him on building his collection of more than 3,000 works, placed bids for him at auctions and helped select works for the November 2000 Chorus of Light show at the High Museum.

In her long career on the local scene, Jackson has seen Atlanta’s response to photography grow, the collecting base for photography expand and collectors’ tastes become more adventurous. All this translates into more people willing to buy local artists’ work. There’s been a remarkable shift since her start in the business when, says Jackson, “people would walk into the gallery and say, ‘Tell me why photography is art.’”

Walker Skillman, who’s worked with Jackson for five years, plans to maintain the same stable of Jackson Fine Art artists, but she hopes to bring even more contemporary work into the gallery. As an example of the kind of work she’s interested in, she points to Scott Peterman, whose images of ice fishing houses will be on display at Jackson in May.

The gallery is currently featuring a stunning selection of works from Andrew Moore’s Havana series, also featured in Chronicle Books’ recently published Inside Havana. Taking architecture as their starting point, Moore’s images examine how the soaring, opulent architecture of Havana’s glamorous past is an uncanny, cruel juxtaposition to the impoverished, trapped human occupants of Cuba’s contemporary landscape of crumbling apartments and decaying buildings.

In Moore’s hands the grime-streaked structures, their ceilings beginning to rot, become a metaphor for history. “The conceptual aspect of the book is dealing with time,” says New York-based Moore, who was recently in Atlanta for a book signing and gallery talk. “A poet friend of mine compared them to things stuck in amber, and I thought that was a really good analogy.”

Lost in time, the Cuban people drift among these relics of ’50s cars and Soviet televisions in a nearly post-apocalyptic landscape. The images, Moore says, are particular to a certain moment in time in the mid-’90s when the Soviet Union collapsed and Cuba stopped getting subsidies and oil from that country, which sent the island into a steep decline. “Even though Cuba always had a patina of decay and decadence, this is a very extreme moment. It’s not going to look like this in five years.”

Moore recently added another distinction to his growing resume, as producer and cinematographer of the fascinating documentary How to Draw A Bunny. An avant-garde biography of little-known artist Ray Johnson, who committed suicide in 1995, the film has garnered critical praise since it screened at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival.

Curator David Mendoza has parted ways with The Forum art gallery at Defoors Center. Mendoza tendered his resignation effective Feb. 22 after he and the center’s owner, Debby Eason (former publisher of Creative Loafing), were unable to agree on the terms of his new contract. But on Jan. 29, Mendoza says Eason asked him to vacate the premises. Eason was unavailable for comment. Mendoza was curator for nine months, during which time he launched 13 shows, including the current one, Miradas del Arte Mexicano, sponsored by the Consulate General of Mexico. The show closes Feb. 14.

Georgia State, Atlanta College of Art and the University of Georgia have higher-profile art programs anchored by significant exhibition spaces, but Emory’s 400-student strong Studio Arts program has turned out its share of notable local and national artists. The work of a number of Emory Studio Arts program graduates is featured in a varied group show through Feb. 19 at the Visual Arts Gallery (404-727-6315). The show coincides with the school-wide arts celebration centered on the opening of the newly constructed Schwartz Center for Performing Arts.

Chris Verene contributes two photographs that continue his incisive, tender view of American life, while Sigrira Perret-Gentil offers a doggie portrait that wavers between a conceptual response to portraiture and calendar art puppy porn. With just a hint of violence in the skewed Venetian blinds and canted family portraits, Joy Drury Cox’s pared-down, almost clinical photographs skewer the faux-cozy comforts of home. Featuring machine-stitched “embroidered” pillows and country chic grapevine wreathes, these “homey” touches give the domestic sphere all the warmth of an IBM conference room.

One of the smarter conceptual works in the show is philosophy major Alexander Budnitz’s brain-swimming commentary on governmental bureaucracy in which the artist has replicated the elaborate, detailed forms for immigrant naturalization and, maddeningly, shrunken them down to micro size.