"A Man Has Been Here A Long Time (Dilmus Hall)" by Art Rosenbaum at Tif Sigfrids
Downtown’s newest art venue is the home of two distinct galleries—Tif Sigfrids and Howard’s—that share not only a vision for promoting conversations relevant to the contemporary art world, but also a roof. Located above Jittery Joe’s at the corner of Jackson and Broad streets, the multi-roomed floor plan easily lends itself to presenting concurrent exhibitions as desired. Friends and recent Athens returnees Tif Sigfrids and Ridley Howard hope to establish a space for elevating the profiles of locals, while also fostering an exchange with other communities in order to increase dialog and forge connections among regional, national and international artists.
Both Sigfrids and Howard lived in Athens during the ’90s, and recently returned following years of gaining industry experience afar. After serving as the director of Thomas Solomon Gallery in Los Angeles, where she organized a series of unusual but popular exhibitions inside of a desk, Sigfrids opened her eponymous gallery in 2013. Her decision to relocate to Athens with her family was largely motivated by a curiosity to see what her gallery could accomplish in a smaller town with fewer barriers.
“In making the move, I was kind of interested in challenging the cultural hegemony of places like New York and Los Angeles and opening shop in a city that was actually hospitable to artists and emerging galleries,” says Sigfrids. “The cost of living in Los Angeles and New York has created a situation that excludes so many people from being able to pursue careers as artists. Knowing that there was already a vibrant art and music scene in Athens, and being familiar with the area already, we chose to come here.”
Howard spent 17 years living in New York before relocating back to Athens, a town he remembers fondly from his undergraduate studies. Along with his wife Holly Coulis and friend Mitchell Wright, he opened a gallery called 106 Green in 2009, which continues to operate in Brooklyn with the assistance of director Jon Lutz.
“When I moved to Brooklyn after grad school, I wasn’t really planning to stay forever,” says Howard. “I had very romantic ideas about being an artist in New York, and I just wanted to experience the city and be a part of the art community [and] hopefully have a show. The longer I stayed, the more friends I made and the more it felt like home, but it also became increasingly more expensive.”
A pivotal point came a few years ago, as Howard and Coulis faced increasing rent for their apartment and the loss of their studios. Ready to slow down and focus on their work, they made the move down South. Howard eventually reconnected with Sigfrids, whom he had first met several years ago in New York, and the two seized the opportunity to open spaces together.
The first exhibition at Tif Sigfrids, “Art in the South: Art Rosenbaum and Friends,” selects 10 portraits painted by Rosenbaum from the past 30 years and presents them alongside an artwork by each person gracing those canvases. Sigfrids first met the artist, performer and folklorist a year ago when he stopped by her Hollywood gallery in hopes of landing an exhibition on the West Coast. Somewhat fortuitously, Sigfrids was already planning her move to Georgia, and looked him up as soon as she arrived.
“Quickly realizing how important Art is to the local landscape here, I decided a show organized around his work would be the best way to inaugurate the space,” says Sigfrids. “In terms of the show, I was thinking about all of the interesting connections Art has made to Athens and the region since moving here and relating that to my own experience as a newcomer in looking to the future.”
The exhibition exemplifies Rosenbaum’s deep relationships with kindred spirits, as well as his dedication to documenting both musical and visual folk art traditions. In addition to his wife Margo Newmark Rosenbaum and former students Ridley Howard and Samuel Stabler, the show includes pieces by three fellow UGA faculty members: painter and filmmaker Jim Herbert, painter and Vietnam War veteran Richard Olsen and painter Bill Paul. Self-taught artists Howard Finster, Dilmus Hall, Bonnie Loggins and Charlie Rakestraw are also included, with Finster and Loggins being two of the many folk musicians Rosenbaum has recorded over the years.
Running concurrently, Howard’s exhibition presents the work of Los Angeles artist Milano Chow and Jersey City artist Torkwase Dyson. Chow uses pencil drawings and collage to build fictional architectures within ornately framed spaces inhabited by women, who add a mysterious narrative element. Dyson’s work reduces environments to seemingly simple images that invite the viewer to contemplate space and balance. Both artists use drawing to approach larger ideas, and their black-and-white works stand in stark contrast to Rosenbaum’s vivacious paint strokes.
“Really, I just want to show work that I like,” says Howard. “My taste and interest in contemporary art is very broad, so I imagine it will be a pretty diverse mix. In some way, it’s about creating a context for art being made in Athens, but I also believe in the mobility of contemporary artists and ideas. How could you not? So, showing work from New York or Chicago or L.A. is very important in fostering a conversation locally, and I also plan to show artists from Atlanta and Athens, and others from the Southeast.”
Sigfrids plans to continue representing a roster of artists she supported in L.A., and looks forward to upcoming shows by New York-based artist Charles Harlan and Lamar Dodd School of Art alumnus Andy Giannakakis, who now lives in L.A. Artists coming soon to Howard’s include Brooklyn-based painter Eleanor Ray and Atlanta-based artist Yanique Norman, who is currently pursuing an MFA at the Art Institute of Chicago. In addition to their own programming, the duo hope to finish a joint project space called the Guest Room where guest curators will be invited to organize exhibitions.
Current exhibitions will remain on view through Saturday, Aug. 11, and the galleries can be visited Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m.–5 p.m. and by appointment.