“Deliverance” at ACAC

This exhibition presents Laura Ginn, Anya Liftig, Jayson Scott Musson, and Clifford Owens, four provocative artists who use performance to create meditations on power, identity, sexuality, and race. Whether acting in front of an audience or the camera, they confront fears and fantasies, construct personas, learn new skills, and put their bodies into challenging situations.

Like many of the figures from the history of art and popular culture that have inspired them, they are adept at shaping the space between the self and others––in gallery and museum contexts, outdoor sites, and the Internet.

Deliverance features documentation of their private or public events in the form of videos, photos, and texts. While in Atlanta, each artist will present a live piece: a workshop on skinning, a collaboration with a dog, a performative interview, and a unique photo shoot.

Motivated by a desire to interact with the world without a filter, Laura Ginn has sought out mentors and acquired knowledge about the skinning of various animals and the tanning of their hides. She has said that “with photography and video I document my continued attempts at this ad-hoc crash course in self-reliance.” Her installation of framed photographs, tools, and pelts reveals the range of her survivalist training and DIY activities.

There is a confessional and therapeutic aspect to Anya Liftig’s work, and like predecessors such as Spalding Gray, Roseanne Barr, and Ana Mendieta, she attempts to understand herself and society by defining and transgressing various boundaries. In performances, Liftig presents her clothed or naked body alongside store-bought items such as chickens and phallic cacti, mimicking their gestures or confronting them in humorous and disturbing ways.

Art Thoughtz are the instructional musings of Jayson Scott Musson, delivered in character as “Hennessy Youngman,” a bling-wearing pundit who combines academic analysis with street-wise candor as he addresses relational aesthetics, success, and mediocrity. Musson’s love of language is also evident in the posters from his Black Like Me series, which address seemingly personal subjects including love, poverty, and Star Wars.

Clifford Owens uses photography, video, and installation to help interpret the relationship between himself and other artists, and with varied audiences. His ongoing Anthology project features instructions for actions that Owens solicited from a multigenerational group of African-American artists, several who have exhibited in recent years at ACAC, including Jennie C. Jones, Glenn Ligon, Dave McKenzie, and William Pope.L. In Photographs with an Audience, Owens works with invited guests and a medium-format camera to craft unique portraits based on questions posed to the group such as “Who is a father?” and “Who thinks ‘performance art’ means someone takes their clothes off?”.

The choice of Deliverance as the title of this exhibition recognizes that for performers, the notion of “delivering” means that they are in tune with their material and their audience. It is also a small tribute to the 1972 John Boorman film which chronicles the harrowing experiences of four Atlanta businessmen on a canoe trip in the North Georgia wilderness. This summer marks the 40th anniversary of the film.

Curated by Stuart Horodner.

Laura Ginn, Anya Liftig, and Clifford Owens will talk about the challenges of performance art on July 14 from 11-noon.

Through Sept. 16.

Atlanta Contemporary Art Center
535 Means Street NW
Atlanta, GA 30318

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