One Fine Show: ‘Truth Told Slant’ at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art

The age of Instagram has left a portion of the population hypersensitive to the language of photography—and this show asks what the art might become.

A black and white portrait of a woman with dark hair in front of a dark backdrop
Kristine Potter, ‘Knoxville Girl,’ 2016, gelatin silver print, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, purchased with funds from Wanda Hopkins, 2022.52. © Kristine Potter

A 2013 essay by Hilary Mantel in the London Review of Books averred that it is every Briton’s right to speculate about the mysteries surrounding the woman formerly known as Kate Middleton. There’s been a lot of that going around lately, and not just by the British. I like that all of it stemmed from nothing more than a subpar Photoshop job. The age of Instagram seems to have left a portion of the population hypersensitive to the language of photography and vaguely confident that gossip must be mentioned somewhere in the Declaration of Independence.

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Into this arena steps “Truth Told Slant,” a new show at the High Museum of Art that showcases the work of Rose Marie Cromwell, Jill Frank, Tommy Kha, Zora J Murff and Kristine Potter, five emerging artists who ask what photography might become in our stupid times. The show, with its title from a poem by Emily Dickinson, includes more than seventy images. “By weaving between documentary and narrative modes and embracing their own subjectivity, these artists enthusiastically affirm Walker Evans’ notion of the ‘lyric documentary,’” curator Gregory Harris says in the press release.

The teenagers photographed by Frank (b.1978) illustrate this concept well. One wears Converse sneakers and another a Nirvana t-shirt. Despite having been captured in the forest, their adolescence carries weighty cultural signifiers plus the viewer’s baggage. What would this age even look like in its natural state? She explores, too, the most unnatural of inventions: the high school dance. Cotillion, Boy in Yellow Chair (2022) has a young man dressed like an old man, boasting even the retiree’s Apple Watch. His eyes are puffy with tears: allergies or assault?

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Potter (b.1977) probably has the best photo in the show in Knoxville Girl (2016), who glowers at the viewer as she dries her hair in a radiant black and white. You’ve caught her in an awkward moment but she still has the upper hand. In her landscapes and elsewhere, Potter takes the South to new levels of gothic. There’s even a photo of a vintage car by the side of the road titled A Good Man is Hard to Find (2016).

Kha (b.1988) and Cromwell (b.1983) mostly explore their hometowns of Memphis and Miami, respectively. Kha’s South is portrayed as a melting pot where the rituals have so blended together that an outsider could never hope to understand them, as in The Small Guardian (Isle of Misfit Toys), The Shoals, Alabama (2018), where various totems sit before a waterfall. Buddhist, Christian or kitsch—it’s hard to say where they originate. In Miami, a woman suns herself next to a dumpster. Cacti are bound as if to prevent their escape.

The “American Mother, American Father” series by Murff (b.1987) reimagines the family in a way that likens the father to a fire hose and asks if there might not be an almost genetic connection in handing someone $20 while smoking a cigarette. An absurd notion of lineage, perhaps, but still less silly than the Windsors.

Truth Told Slant” is on view at The High Museum of Art through August 11.

One Fine Show: ‘Truth Told Slant’ at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art