The sea swept the sandcastles away.
(To wake up in Atlanta!)
Curated by Daniel Fuller

Jan 11–Feb 24, 2024

MARCH is pleased to present The sea swept the sandcastles away., an exploration of the contemporary Atlanta landscape through the works of nine artists. Curated by Daniel Fuller, the exhibition includes works by Antonio Darden, FRKO, Lonnie Holley, Y. Malik Jalal, Wihro Kim, María Korol, Jiha Moon, Erin Jane Nelson, Yanique Norman, Curtis Patterson, Hasani Sahlehe, and Dianna Settles.

In May 1980, at the grand unveiling of the new Atlanta Central Library, then-Mayor Maynard Jackson professed the downtown building as “the standard bearer for cultural interests of Atlanta.” After seven years of planning and three years under construction, the Brutalist building designed by famed architect Marcel Breuer was at last complete. Polarized responses poured immediately. Fans of the Bauhaus aesthetic raved over the stern façade. At the same time, Fulton County Commissioner Robb Pitts said it appeared “more like a jail than an “iconic” library that will attract tourists and conventioneers.”…  read more

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Atlanta Marriott Marquis, designed by architect John C. Portman Jr. Image courtesy of Marriott.

You know there is always the threat of the city letting its history be washed away in a tide of development. When that day comes, all you can do is allow yourself to go weightless, look back at that imaginary horizon, remember what this once was, and imagine the ecstasy of touching back down in a distant land. And then to make something that will last beyond the end.

–Daniel Fuller

Atlanta, c. 1919. Courtesy Library of Congress, G3924.A8A3 1919 .F6.

Installation view by Cary Whittier.

Press Release

The sea swept the sandcastles away.
(To wake up in Atlanta!)
Curated by Daniel Fuller

Jan 11–Feb 24, 2024

 

In May 1980, at the grand unveiling of the new Atlanta Central Library, then-Mayor Maynard Jackson professed the downtown building as “the standard bearer for cultural interests of Atlanta.” After seven years of planning and three years under construction, the Brutalist building designed by famed architect Marcel Breuer was at last complete. Polarized responses poured in immediately. Fans of the Bauhaus aesthetic raved over the stern façade. At the same time, Fulton County Commissioner Robb Pitts said it appeared “more like a jail than an “iconic” library that will attract tourists and conventioneers.”

This city has always twisted itself for the convivence of conventioneers. The Breuer Library is a hop, skip, and short jump from the tangled web of hotels, merchandise malls, and offices dubbed Portman World, or Portmanlandia, as they were all designed by the mega architect-developer John Portman. Portman was primarily known for what he called ‘Jesus moments’- when those visiting his properties – sixteen in total in Atlanta – would stop, look up, and call out ‘Jesus!’ He was terrified of his hometown becoming a “donut city” where the central core was hollowed out after white flight to the suburbs. So he built. And he built in nearly every direction, but primarily up. In an attempt to return to the center, he built islands. Upon its completion, he fancied Atlanta as a new Venice, with the skyscrapers and sky-bridges above as the infrastructure, the canals, and floating cars replacing the pesky gondolas.

And yet, despite his wishes for a thriving city center, all that glitzy mirrored glass served more as armor for an inward-turning white-collar class. Two things can often be true: he saw the buildings as works of art, but we wound up with bunkers for visiting furniture merchandisers afraid to interact with the city for a long conference weekend. Portman himself referred to the twelve pedestrian sky-bridges as a “peaceful passage” that floated high above the civil unrest of the Sixties. Why improve things when you can build a new city in the clouds? “My idea was that I just couldn’t see abandoning the cities to the poor,” Portman said. “I want to bring the middle class back.”

Now I’ve done all this talking about architecture in Atlanta without mentioning Rem Koolhaas. What does he think? “Atlanta is not a city; it is a landscape. Atlanta was the launching pad of the distributed downtown; downtown had exploded. Once atomized, its autonomous particles could go anywhere, opportunistically towards points of freedom, cheapness, easy access, diminished contextual nuisance.” And this is where we find Atlanta, where we find ourselves today.

By now, I’m certain I’ve sounded more negative than this has meant to be. On the contrary, what Koolhaas describes is this city’s greatest asset. Many cities hold this burden of a specific look, a feel, a sound, but with so much here living on the fringes of the Perimeter, there is no defining aesthetic. What is left is freedom. An openness to make, to move, to be weird as hell. We are experts in slowness and acceleration. There is no continuity here. You know there is always the threat of the city letting its history be washed away in a tide of development. When that day comes, all you can do is allow yourself to go weightless, look back at that imaginary horizon, remember what this once was, and imagine the ecstasy of touching back down in a distant land. And then to make something that will last beyond the end.

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