While Dicko’s work is contemporary, SanlÃ© Sory’s black and white photos, taken on the Burkina Faso club stage of the 60s and 70s, resemble an exciting patchwork of past and present. The photographs capture the eternal condition of being young and cool, and the more special historical moment of a country breaking with French colonial rule. Sory photographs teenagers – the mods and plush boys, hipsters and goths of their time – adopting a frame of cool in starched and ironed street clothes, cigarettes hanging from their lips or propeller motorcycles. Sory’s subjects pose in front of backdrops painted in what look like stills from ambitious films – the stories they would love to tell about their lives.
Witness the young woman in “Chasse-Spleen” (which translates to “chasing the blues”) from 1972. Standing in what looks like a white lace bra, an ornately patterned kente skirt and a pair of “Mod Squad” sunglasses, it serves the confidence of Nina Simone. It’s hard not to see it as a sort of collage of Africa and the West in its DIY fashion of the village and the city, of history and of the future.
That same feeling of affection defines the wacky hybrid photos of Atlanta native Gay printed on foil in “The Beautiful Tale of Atlannahland”. Gay’s cut-and-paste little girls dressed in pop culture headdresses and sprouted zebra legs embody an Atlanta of swimmer head collisions. It’s a landscape of “We Buy Houses” signs, the pink pig, peaches, Maynard Jackson, Hot Cheetos, gold chains, hair beads and Trappey’s hot sauce. His crazy quilting characters embrace the present but with blatant references to Africa. It’s a cheerful celebration of the distinctiveness of the place that also makes Sory’s portraits sing.
So it feels like a missed opportunity not to make the striking similarities between Sory and Gay clearer with a closer pairing. Instead, like so many other local artists, Gay’s work was on display in the exhibition hall further away from the gallery. But she deserves more serious, bigger real estate and an opportunity to be measured alongside her peers.
“The Beautiful Tale of Atlannahland”, “Volta Photo” and “The Shadowed People”
Until December 23 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Tuesday to Saturday and by appointment. To free. Jackson Fine Art, 3115 East Shadowlawn Avenue, Atlanta. 404-233-3739, jacksonfineart.com