With its pristine white walls, large windows inviting in natural light, polished concrete floors, and generous track lighting, the Gallery@Hotel Indigo is a standout among Athens’ art viewing spaces. Add to that the unique vision of curator Didi Dunphy, and you’ve got a must-visit gallery space.
The opening on Thursday for “Chain Reaction” testified to this. The space was crammed with young and old, artists and art appreciators alike. The adjacent lobby and nearby bar graciously accommodated the overflow. The music playing in the background went unheard until the end of the evening because of the din of conversation. Oh, did I mention the parties?
Much of the lively conversation that night was generated by the show’s unique approach; Dunphy invited seven artists to show one work and invite another artist to do the same. The second artist then invited a third. Displayed in clusters of three, the show provides a stimulating way to view and think about the work, as you are naturally led to ponder the relationships between the trios of artists. There are interesting commonalities, often in theme or style.
Spence Townsend, a graduate student at the Lamar Dodd School of Art at UGA, was one of the original seven invited by Dunphy. Much of Townsend’s work is figural and narrative with a humorous element. About his paintings he said, “I think of them as being different short stories in a larger book.” His painting of a cheerleading squad against a background of shamrocks is based on a photo from the '50s that he found in a diner in Mississippi.
Townsend invited his wife Julia, who in turn invited conceptual artist Vivienne Varay, who typically works in metal. The media evolves, but by the third piece elements of the human figure, like eyes, are re-introduced as elements on strangely pretty, stuffed and stitched pillow-like forms that are linked together.
But the show’s emphasis is on painting. “I had a lot of fun because I don’t have a particular painting thrust with my agenda," said Dunphy. "I thought I would step out and invite core painters because my painting program has not been robust. These seven invited an artist who in turn invited another.”
Like many of Dunphy’s approaches to curation, the exhibit has a playfulness about it. “For me, as a curator, it was crazy because I had to give up a lot of control, but it was a game I wanted to play.” She described the arrow graphics used on the walls to indicate who the original, second and third artists are within the trios of works as being “like those on a game board.”
The show is up through Friday, Apr. 1, and I will be going back to view it again. But I also can’t wait to see what Dunphy has in store for us next. She makes looking at art, well, fun.
"Chain Reaction" is currently on view at the Gallery@Hotel Indigo, a 24-hour gallery. For more information, go to indigoathens.com.