Autumnal breezes on the East-West platform at Edgewood-Candler Park ~ before this, I’d strolled the neighborhood named for the park, after a brief stretch of the park itself, after Historic Druid Hills. Lovely, underrated urbane city to walk, Atlanta. The MARTA train arriving now to whoosh me away through buildings and trees, through the urban forest to its core.
I’m revved to sneak a peak at the first solo art exhibition by William Floyd aka KingPop, at House of Adrene in Historic Castleberry Hill, and it coincides with FLUX. Though I helped pre-organize the event and have spent time in Royal Flush Studios, where studio co-owner Mr. Floyd creates in a huge warehouse in West End, I come with eyes wide open.
The enclave of Castleberry Hill is the official arts district of Atlanta, and FLUX night is the big annual art event in the loft-filled neighborhood. First formed in the mid-1800s, Castleberry Hill was initially a collection of saloons and brothels called “Snake Nation.” Now, it’s where many of the South’s topnotch artists live, work and play.
House of Adrene, a Castleberry fashion boutique in normalcy – which also happens to sell Mr. Floyd’s clothing line, Pop Culture Clothing – has been transformed into a gallery space for Mr. Floyd to display diverse skills, primarily those of his as a fine art and pop painter. Though the clothes remain on display and for sale throughout the space, the transformation into art viewing gallery mostly works for me.
Yours truly originally agreed to curate the show, but also brought in Jeff Prisant, the general manager of an excellent Stone Mountain Village gallery called Butterfly House Studio, to assistant curate and in all practicality manage the show-time operations. Exciting for me to still be a small part of FLUX night, while maintaining a level of once-removed journalistic integrity.
Mr. Prisant, an artist himself, says of becoming a gallerist and art curator, “I was tired of being on the sidelines and wanted to get more involved in the action, helping other artists and getting great art out to the public. Being of service to an emerging talent like William, being down here on FLUX night, it’s pretty special.”
On FLUX, the idea for this type of whole area projection and light show originated in Paris, France, where it is known as Le Flash. Atlanta initially borrowed the name, and Le Flash grew to substantial recognition in America’s southern capital. A few years back, the event organizers renamed it FLUX – a much more original title, obviously. Though the event suffered a noticeable dip in attendance the first year after the rebrand, it rebounded nicely and has steadily risen in popularity since.
The rich red wine I quaffed pairs nicely with this weather, I’m thinking, as I reach Garnett Station, after changing trains at Five Points, which is Atlanta’s little version of Grand Central. And, I’m quickly up the block and walking into Castleberry Hill under a clear blue sky.
Time to preview some art before the crush of the crowds. The first bit of good art I notice upon entering the boutique is store employee Taprice Martin, the type of gorgeous Atlantan who’d stand out in any crowd.
She introduces me to Alphonzo Cross, the president of MATCH, the Castleberry Hill Merchants Association. He proclaims, “Castleberry Hill is creative, full of potential and occupied by caring residents and vibrant businesses.”
I recognize I’ve always felt a humming buzz of artistic vitality upon my visits to FLUX (and Le Flash). The potential has been what was most evident to me on my other infrequent trips to the area, when it was quieter and less crowded but still alive with good activity. I vow to return often.
Tonight Floyd’s work will be teamed with beats by popular Atlanta DJ crew Watch The Duck, their big single “Poppin’ Off” an unofficial theme for KingPop’s big coming out party. I find that KingPop excels most when he inhales urban or jazzy moods, hip-hop beats or big city grooves. Like many before him working in a pop medium, he paints for the masses. Every icon of music you’d expect or hope to see in a pop piece is colorized and displayed here, amidst majestic architectural paintings.
My second favorite piece displayed features a MARTA train veritably Soul Training through a skyline looking as if touched by van Gogh. Nice to see some of Mr. Floyd’s pop predecessors represented: a painting of Keith Haring, of Andy Warhol, several of the striking Jean-Michel Basquiat.
I first met KingPop at an artists’ market on my anniversary trip to Serenbe and was immediately drawn to his magnetic personality and charm. Soon after, he was one of a dozen artists in my ART BOX pARTy group show at dooGallery. And of course my favorite work hung here is the poetry book cover I commissioned him to paint, ATL’s finest rocket ship buildings blasting off and burning under a blazing Deep South sunshine…
Nepotism. Fairness. Is he this good or is my judgment gone, clouded by closeness? I exit the side door to clear my head and briefly peruse an attached new hair studio with the stylist-proprietors, their fun space reminding me of Warhol’s Factory in its shininess. I decide to have a beer across the street, to enter into another realm in a funky restaurant space.
Back in the boutique cum-gallery briefly after, I decide to leave while still asking myself what it is I’ve seen. How can I fairly tackle KingPop’s talent?
My judgment finally un-clouds in front of the loud college football sounds of my TV, and I send as critic my trusted sister Anna and her nice new beau to Castleberry in my stead. Her first night ever at the sprawl of FLUX is an overwhelming every venue visit, and I’m suddenly feeling a bit nervous to hear her reaction, late night, as I reach her by phone.
She confirms, “KingPop was one of the more standout artists of the entire show: phenomenal graphic work.” We’d both label him an artist to watch.