By Rodney Carmichael
It's not unusual for an artist to travel around the world before receiving validation from home. But in Eric Mack's case, it's partly what he learned abroad that's earned him his highest honor yet in Atlanta.
Mack, who recently returned to the city after a four-year sabbatical in Germany, learned two weeks ago that the High Museum has added one of his works to its permanent collection. The piece acquired by the High, "SRFC-91," comes from Mack's recent Surfaces + Structures exhibit of mixed-media works with an architectural bent at Whitespace Gallery.
"The works were inspired by my time in Europe and being inspired by a lot of architectural and historical references and how they tie together with my own inspirations as an abstract painter," he says. "When you look at the brickwork and masonry and then you look at the patterns for textiles and carpets, you see how it all ties together over there."
The High Museum's Wieland Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Michael Rooks, who viewed the exhibit at Whitespace and recommended Mack's work to the High's acquisitions committee, noted Mack's ability to "take cues from pivotal modern episodes like Russian Constructivism, the Bauhaus, and Dada collage" and imbue them with "contemporary sensibilities," he told the International Review of African American Art. "Secondly, the acquisition will complement the High's growing number of drawings by artists of color who live and work in Atlanta."
Mack spent four years in Munich, Germany, after receiving a grant through the City of Munich's Bureau of Cultural Affairs shortly after arriving there. The grant is so popular that when he would tell other Munich-based artists he'd applied for it, the typical response was, "'Every other artist in the city did, too. Good luck,'" Mack recalls. Instead of letting that deter him, he paid an unsolicited visit to the bureau and introduced himself to the director Diana Ebster. Though he came to find out that such cold calls are "somewhat of a faux pas" in that culture, Mack says his "American-style" assertiveness garnered him some respect. As one of 40 artists chosen from the original pool of 900 applicants, he was awarded a studio in Munich and a stipend for living expenses.
Although the South Carolina native has enjoyed Atlanta's critical embrace - which has included multiple gallery showings and works purchased by and exhibited in City Hall, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, and Georgia Power since graduating from Atlanta College of Art in 1998 - he credits his time abroad with inspiring him to take his work to the next level.
"I think it helps to open a lot more doors and expose people [to my work] who really weren't familiar with it," Mack says of having his work in the High.
Mack, who still has his studio in Germany, plans to continue traveling between Europe and Atlanta, his next artist residency will be closer to home. He begins a Hambidge fellowship in North Georgia next month.