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Art review: There’s group show magic behind scruffy exterior at Eyedrum

Eyedrum is probably the most New York indie art experience you are going to have in Atlanta.

The alternative gallery boasts a scruffy facade you’d be likely to pass by without a second glance; a sometimes scattershot exhibition style managed by a staff of volunteers. And Eyedrum’s location is a challenge, in a difficult-to-access stretch of downtown where parking options are, in a nutshell, complicated. But don’t let the burglar bars and peeling walls dissuade you: Eyedrum will make you feel like a tourist in your own city, discovering buried treasure in unexpected places.

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Like most New York experiences, if you do the work and jump through some hurdles, you’ll be rewarded with an incredible experience, or at least you will be if you check out Eyedrum’s latest, smartly curated group exhibition, “Residual.” It’s a show that touches on topics including domesticity, motherhood, the presidency and, yes, the global golden retriever trade.

And yet, despite those disparate ideas, the show feels complete and satisfying, largely because the work is across-the-board thoughtful, inventive and formally proficient, of a caliber one doesn’t normally see in group shows in Atlanta’s alternative spaces. All of the six participating artists in “Residual” find common currency in modest but important material: the familiar, the things that surround us but go unnoticed. Taking commonplace, ubiquitous materials, through the alchemy of art-making these artists turn them into potent, meaningful objects, whether a little girl’s hair in Althea Murphy-Price’s lovely barrette collage prints or the comical futility of housework in fighting filth. In the collaborative video “Up/Keep,” a woman vacuums the heavy Oriental rugs in a fussy historical home, fighting a one-woman battle against dirt’s guerrilla campaign.

“Residual” is curated by Atlanta-based artist Jessica Brooke Anderson and Urbana, Ill.-based artist Guen Montgomery, who have chosen work that can go granular — homing in on the domestic sphere — but also macro, taking the president’s tweets or factory farming as subject matter.

You could say what unites the works in “Residual” is how many of them deal with the remnants of something, or a representation standing in for something else. Those traces could be an image that will soon disappear, like a “sketch” of a child’s toy created with tarnish remover on a blackened silver plate in Montgomery’s “Lil Tykes.” Several of the pieces in “Residual” are purposefully ephemeral, threatening to disappear over time.

A favorite piece for both its imagination and execution is a series of portraits of the participating artists’ mothers: “Mother 1-6” executed on microfiber bath mats. Similar to an Etch A Sketch, the portraits are created by manipulating the rug’s fabric to create a design. The portraits feel like acknowledgments of how often invisible this subgroup of society can be: beloved but ignored, valorized but erased with the quick swipe of a hand.

Turning again to material close to home, curator Anderson muses on her own mother’s mortality, in “Stage 4 (1-3),” in intimate, painful photographs of her bedridden mother, surrounded by her cats and family, as she battles cancer.

Turning from the domestic to the global, artist Emmy Lingscheit tackles a fascinating international phenomenon. In Turkey, the golden retriever was once a popular pet, but when their moment waned, many were abandoned on Istanbul’s streets. Lingscheit sees in their eventual “rescue” by animal groups for adoption in the U.S. a bitter irony considering the current hostility in some circles to human refugees. As if to convey that idea of a living thing reduced to a global commodity, Lingscheit has carved her golden retrievers out of cardboard shipping boxes, another utilitarian item turned significant in an artist’s hands.

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