Sunday, August 24, 2014

Chakaia Booker and Katherine Taylor at Newcomb


For city dwellers, nothing is more ordinary than automobile tires. But if new tires suggest a smooth ride into the future, the abandoned tires that litter distressed neighborhoods symbolize blight, and nobody wants them--except Chakaia Booker, who makes them into mysterious artworks. Evoking tribal African sculpture and the twisted viscera of modern industrial devices, they hint at both art history and science fiction. Mixed Messages, left, is a mass of inky, tangled treads and tire walls topped with a bulbous head-like form looming over serpentine tentacles slithering down the pedestal on which it rests, and it resembles the sort of sea monster Jules Verne might have dreamed up in a prescient nightmare about the BP oil disaster. In Privilege of Eating, swirls of shredded tires coagulate like barnacles with junk and shovels protruding from within, suggesting strange forces that must be propitiated. Color of Hope (detail above)--her massive 14 foot wide wall sculpture of wildly looping, sliced and diced tires--is both monumental and baroque and evokes the evolution of an industry that began quite innocently as sap oozing from rubber trees in the jungle only to be transformed by the double-edged demon of technology into all the insidious things that both serve and enslave us. In Booker's hands, their animistic qualities are expressed as contemporary spirit fetishes, forces available for good or evil but which, in any case, must never be taken for granted.

 
Katherine Taylor's modestly scaled porcelain sculptures initially look quite innocent and domestic. Look again and her series of ambiguous black and white ovoids seem to relate symbiotically--not just to each other but also to Booker's Afro-futurist works in the next room. Like ceramic blobs inscribed with spirals and grids, their animistic forms seem to writhe and wrestle with each other as if the moves of the Pilobolus dance troupe had somehow been rendered in porcelain. Organized by Tulane's Jeremy Jernegan, the two  shows, viewed together, are wonderfully surprising and provocative. ~Bookhardt

Eradication: A Form of Obsession: Sculptures by Chakaia Booker
One and Together: Sculptures by Katherine Taylor
Through Sept. 28, Newcomb Art Gallery, Tulane University, 865-5328.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Saucedo at Good Children; Scott at Octavia


Beyond airplanes and atom bombs, few things symbolize 20th century America more than comic book superheroes.  Just as ancient Rome believed in all-powerful deities like Apollo and Minerva, kids in midcentury America --often called a "new Roman empire"--believed in Superman and Wonder Woman. Their appeal knew no borders, and the vintage examples found by artist Christopher Saucedo on his travels were often boundlessly surreal, so he began to subtly modify them to enhance their idiosyncratic qualities and make them his own. Their multicultural appeal is seen in a poster-size blowup of a 1954 "Superhombre" comic book cover, upper left, with Superman, Batman and Robin grinning luridly. Here their Mexican wrestler - style facial features indicate that early globalism produced its share of forgeries, but even the official editions yielded some pretty bizarre cultural hybrids. Saucedo's modifications often employ minimal and strategic touches like his sometimes embroidered compass symbols of the sort used to indicate north on maps, emphasizing how disorienting these globalized superheroes can be. In a 1978 Hispanic version of Wonderwoman, La Mujer  Maravilla, left, the Twin Towers loom over a New York City apocalypse scene long before 911, and while this entire series is entertainingly surreal, it obviously doesn't hurt to start with such super-bizarre source materials.

In Ayo Scott’s Octavia Gallery solo, mythic beings and modern technology populate a dramatic array of collages and digital drawings. His most cogent collages include Study of a West Bank Smile, a Mona Lisa with an African spirit-mask for a head posed pensively by the river amid wisps of cigarette smoke. In Study of the Miseducation of Cupid, above, two renaissance odalisques with east Asian devil masks indulge in cigarettes and booze while doing something devious on a laptop amid the ruins of a classical Greek temple in a example of how he samples times and styles to reframe the present moment in a more insightful context. His more rollicking digital drawings feature related carnivalesque mash-ups like  pixelated riffs on Robert Collescott, but the whole show represents an eloquently cohesive evolution of Scott's rather complex vision, another step in his self-described ruminations on this city's "syncretic tensions" as well as "consumerism and technology's interaction with the transcendent." ~Bookhardt   Comic Book Diplomacy: New Work by Christopher Saucedo, Through Sept. 7, Good Children Gallery, 4037 St. Claude Ave., 616-7427; The Lies We Believe: New Work by Ayo Scott, Through Sept. 6, Octavia Art Gallery, 454 Julia Street St., 309-4249.    

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Mark of the Feminine at the CAC



Even by the standards of large institutional survey shows, the CAC's Mark of the Feminine expo of works by local women artists covers a wide range of styles and visions. The sheer diversity may seem daunting at first as we are confronted with artworks ranging from meticulously linear concoctions like Monica Zeringue's large graphite She Wolf self - portrait, top, and Gabrielle Gaspard's intimate intaglio print of female hands impossibly bound with delicately thin thread, to raucously outrageous works like Sarah Sole's satiric paintings of Hillary Clinton acting out in unlikely situations and Vanessa Centeno's large, surreal soft sculpture Get it Up, below, which suggests a very lurid looking sea anemone from outer space during mating season. Curated by Regine Basha, the works in this show are united by their psychological aura and suggestive ambiguity, though exactly what they suggest depends entirely on you. More broadly, it's like a travelogue exploration of the far corners of the female psyche, local garden variety, as interpreted by local lady artists.
    


While some, like Zeringue, are well known, the show features an especially rich assortment by less familiar and emerging artists. Emblematic works include Kristin Meyers spookily spectacular Annoint sculpture, left, which suggests a synthesis of an African spirit fetish and hoodoo bottle tree, and resonates a feral tribal vitality. A related sensibility appears in Armina Mussa's Ana-Beaucoup, bottom, mixed media photo-collage of a dusky woman shrouded in a crown of flowers and mounted in a sackcloth frame. Similarly vibrant, if more familiar, textures appear in Cherice Harrison-Nelson's Rise Up Queen Suit, her shamanistic Mardi Gras Indian-suit rumination on impermanence, continuity and traditions that transcend time. Wry commentaries on modern lifestyles appear in Susan Ireland's vivid canvases of offbeat social encounters in colorfully painted barrooms, and in Ronna Harris's realistic Marital Bliss painting of elegant bedroom ennui. Here Basha's fecund mash-up--her meandering psychic estuary of a show--proves that, around here at least, more is sometimes actually more. ~Bookhardt


Mark of the Feminine: Mixed Media Group Exhibition by New Orleans female Artists, Through Oct. 4, Contemporary Arts Center, 900 Camp St.; 528-3805.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Talton at The Foundation; Wright et al at La Madama



Sometimes art seems to meander. Or so we may infer from recent developments along LoRo, as lower Royal Street is now known. Just as the French Quarter's Dirty Linen Night started out as a spoof on Julia Street's White Linen Night, LoRo is said to have begun as a synapse in the mind of Chris Antieau, whose eponymous gallery (927 Royal) sets an unusual tone. Soon like minded others--most recently La Madama Bazarre and the Foundation Gallery, formerly of Julia Street--began to cluster in our newest cohesive gallery zone, an area where Lowbrow Art meets Neo-Folk and Pop Surrealism. Foundation's LoRo show features Jane Talton, whose work falls into the latter category. Her Odalisque Plastique (top), inspired by Manet's Olympia but now starring Barbie is a classic of the genre. Her most recent work is often characterized by renaissance figures with expressive animal heads. Madame Bulldog, whose proudly rumpled features recall my old third grade teacher, was inspired by Lucas Cranach the Elder, and a svelte lizard-headed nude, The Gecko Courtesan, was inspired by a painting by Raphael. Here Talton neatly inverts Craig Tracy's body paintings of ladies whose anatomies resemble wild animals as seen at his nearby Painted Alive Gallery (827 Royal), below.


La Madama Bazarre, formerly of the Lower Garden District, features a stable of artists who were  longtime Magazine Street fixtures. Clay sculptor Lateefah Wright's heads inspired by voodoo and Storyville are especially resonant. Erzulie Dantor, below, the fierce voodoo spirit protector of women, is startling to behold, as is the gallery's namesake, La Madama, left, a female wisdom spirit who appears in both Hispanic Santeria and north America's Spiritual Church pantheon. She traditionally resembles Aunt Jemima, but Wright's version has a sleeker yet wilder cinematic quality. Throw in the equally colorful work of  Molly McGuire, Christy Kane and Sean Yseult among others, and this show suggests a gathering of longtime Lower Garden District friends reunited on Royal Street. And if these expos may lack the more obvious sturm und drang or portentous themes associated with some other local gallery districts and museums, much that defines the early 21st century human condition is really all there just below these works' seductively colorful surfaces. ~Bookhardt


Beastly Delights: Paintings by Jane Talton, Through Aug. 31, The Foundation Gallery, 1109 Royal St., 568-0955; La Madama: Recent Work by Lateefah Wright, Molly McGuire, Christy Kane, Sean Yseult & Others; La Madama Bazarre, 910 Royal St., 236-5076.