By Leia Genis
V Cayse Cheatham: V Cayse Cheatham @ THE END
January 30, 2021 – March 4, 2021
1870 Murphy Avenue SW
Atlanta, GA 30310
The exhibition V Cayse Cheatham is exactly what it seems to be: a solo exhibition by V Cayse Cheatham. Held at THE END Project Space, this exhibition is a slow burn. Initially humdrum, it becomes more emphatic the longer the artworks are allowed to speak.
This exhibition begins unremarkably. The standard height and equal spacing of every artwork makes for a very bland use of the space. The hanging method reminded me of artworks found in waiting rooms, unoffensive and unassuming. The banality of the installation initially turned me away from the exhibition, but the lack of theatricality allowed the quiet drama within these artworks to gradually reveal itself.
Far Away Sign (2019) depicts a dilapidated billboard glowing far away on the horizon underneath a crescent moon and stars. Painted to match the pitch black of night, the hills and trees, which occupy much of the foreground, are barely discernible while the billboard and celestial bodies shimmer brightly. The isolated moments of visibility within the painting made it easy to gloss over initially, at first glance it looked like just a black rectangle, but closer inspection revealed its subtle emotive qualities. Painted in an off-yellow color making it the only warm-colored object in the composition, the crescent moon points down toward the earth with a directionality that mimics a smile. Although it is not an unrealistic depiction of the moon, its likeness to a malevolent grin imbues the painting with an uneasy apprehension.
The distant billboard brings additional drama. Spotlighted so its visual presence was magnified, I looked to it expecting to see some text or other image. All that was visible was a decaying frame, whatever original image had been there was not entirely unrecognizable. Closer examination of the billboard brought neither new knowledge or ease. Its stark deterioration cemented a feeling of despair suggesting that the only thing to look forward to is everything’s eventual atrophy.
Plastic Bag #1 (2016) shows a plastic bag caught mid-air set against a pair of telephone poles and a stormy sky. The plastic bag, suspended upside-down in the air, reads as an existential symbol. A meaningless existence caught in perpetual flux, never finding certainty. Much like Far Away Sign, this seemingly uncomplicated painting reveals a foreboding presence. The cruciform shape of the telephone poles acts initially just as a pictorial element, but set against the plastic bag, the poles become symbols of judgement. Condemned to never-ending flight, the plastic bag will never find rest. The ambivalence of the plastic bag is now understood as a damning sentence. Looking away from this artwork I found myself thinking about the plastic bag I had just used to bring a sandwich to the exhibition. What was to become of it and me?
V. Cayse Cheatham was born in west Texas, but grew up in Dallas. His earliest memories are of drawing and JFK being shot. Cayse received a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute and an MFA from Yale University. He works in the exhibition department at the Zuckerman Museum at Kennesaw State University. Before moving to Atlanta, he lived in New York City where he worked as a preparator and art handler at Pace Wildenstein Gallery. For nine years he worked as a studio assistant and then studio manager for the artist Chuck Close. This is his first solo exhibition.