"An Analysis of Jim Hill's Pieces of History and Chad Cole's Travels and Transitions at the Marietta Cobb Museum of Art"
by Hannah Amuka, MCMA Curatorial and Education Intern
From January 11th through March 14th, 2020, the Marietta Cobb Museum of Art was pleased to feature the artwork of Jim Hill and Chad Cole. The two artists explore history through a unique visual language that for Hill, often reflects traumatic periods of human history and for Cole, creates a narrative experience of the vanishing South. Through a blend of traditional artistic techniques with contemporary stylizing by Cole and the “paintings in paper,” or mosaics, produced by Hill, both exhibitions skillfully take the viewer through an inventive and insightful journey through time.
The two exhibitions, though disparate in medium and subject matter, similarly communicate ideas that refer to the impact of history, location, and displacement.
Through the Museum’s downstairs gallery doors, Jim Hill’s Pieces of History exhibition began with several works by the artist that speak predominantly to his ancestral history, the displacement of millions due to the trauma of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, and subsequent effects of the African Diaspora. Each composition made of precisely cut bits of paper glued together to form well-defined details is accompanied by rich descriptions that tell a story of perseverance. The works of art, presented in groupings focused on various geographical locations, such as New York City, Ghana, and the segregated Southern States,all prioritize themes of resilience, hope, and an overarching spiritual presence.
Yet, while Hill’s exhibition examines a sociopolitical history, Chad Cole’s art presented in Travels and Transitions creates an ominous “Southern Gothic” narrative. This focus, inspired by the short stories of Flannery O’Connor and Cormac McCarthy, read alongside Cole’s backdrop of abandoned mills and barns that have been reclaimed by nature. Cole’s oil paintings, which accompanied several watercolors, woodblock prints, and pencil drawings in the artist’s first solo exhibition, nod to the old masters through their technical rendering and approach to painting the environment and human figure. Travels and Transitions explored Chad Cole’s extensive body of work through a narrative impacted by the changing perspectives brought on by his relocation throughout the Deep South and Italy, in addition to developing stylistic innovations.
As a whole, both Chad Cole and Jim Hill’s exhibitions gave the Marietta Cobb Museum of Art’s community a fascinating and thoughtfully composed understanding of their own beautiful, and sometimes bleak, history. Thus, both Pieces of History and Travels and Transitions were two exhibitions that truly opened viewers up to new perspectives – whether through unique aesthetic style and technique or through nuanced ways of looking at historical experiences.