Sunday, July 16, 2017

Paintings by Kevin Brisco and Photographs by Kristina Knipe at Good Children Gallery

It has been said that this city's collective soul is creative to the core, and that it uses time like a tone, or patina, that dissolves the boundaries between dark and light, present and past. This mysterious quality is seen in those many altar-like reliquaries of vintage mementos that abound in Marigny and Bywater, and while some newcomers may not get it, Pennsylvania-born photographer Kristina Knipe  expresses it eloquently in large, dreamy photographs of her colorful friends in their native habitat.

In Backyard, four zoned-out millennials languish amid tangles of vines and baroque accouterments like a Baudelaire poem set in Bywater. In Front Room, a luridly pendulous banana tree bloom affixed to a door coexists with a fallen chandelier resting as unsteadily as an elegant drunk on the floor. That sense of people and things silently sharing psychic secrets is captured in Jenna with Passionflower, top. Here a blindfolded young woman holding an antique magnifying glass over a passionflower epitomizes the long lost practice of “seeing” with other senses. In tarot decks, cards with blindfolded figures often suggest how people can be surrounded by endless possibilities yet fail to see them because their vision is so limited. Knipe's beautifully rendered images reveal a world with many more levels than most of us ever see in our daily lives.

Kevin Brisco's paintings came as a surprise. I knew his performance and installation work was powerful, but his beautifully painted impressions of the people and things that define his world  –  a tricked out '83 Chevy Caprice with Chrome Detailing, dudes in dreads sitting on a stoop, a chandelier in the  Versailles palace, portraits of friends at ease in settings where their inner essence shines through – all convey a sense of how making, and looking, at art can instill rich new levels of awareness the madness of everyday modern life may cause us to overlook. Brisco and Knipe are both quite young yet, as artists, both seem wise beyond their years. ~Bookhardt / (For) What Is(s) Worth: Paintings by Kevin Brisco, Talisman: Photographs by Kristina Knipe, Through Aug. 6, Good Children Gallery, 4037 St. Claude Ave., 616-7427. 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

HERstory at Stella Jones; Keith Duncan at CANO's Myrtle Banks Gallery

Twenty-first century life has offered quick access to information, but most of us have less and less time to make sense of it all. There is also less time for the ordinary rituals that traditionally held lives and families together. Depictions of such everyday rituals, called genre paintings, went out of style ages ago but have recently made a comeback. This HERstory show at Stella Jones features work by blue chip black artists featuring a number of genre scenes where women play a prominent role. Phoebe Beasley's Fine China, top, is an alluringly stylized view of an affluent family around the dinner table. The familiar family trappings are all present, but the cool, yet charged, body language suggests a short story where intrigues and ironies are subtly playing out just below the surface. Wayne Manns' Grandma's Biscuits is vintage view of a family having breakfast. Much earthier in tone, its powerful brushwork would make it look at home in a museum, so it is startling that his regular exhibition space is actually Jackson Square. Works by art stars like John Scott, Elizabeth Catlett, Gordon Parks, Faith Ringgold, Samella Lewis and Barbara Chase-Riboud round out this diverse and eloquent expo.

Keith Duncan's genre scenes at the Creative Alliance of New Orleans gallery feature two series offering differing perspectives. The smaller works are initially reminiscent of clichĂ© Nola postcard scenes right out of a glossy tourist brochure – until you notice the homeless and impoverished people subversively woven so seamlessly into the imagery that you have to look twice to see them. Duncan's major masterpieces are his two almost wall-size paintings, Wedding Reception (above, detail) and Funeral Repass -- complexly ribald works like modern Creole versions of the often hilarious yet quintessentially human interactions immortalized by maestros ranging from Breughel the Elder to Thomas Hart Benton and Archibald Motley. Amazingly evocative, flamboyantly painted stuff. ~ Bookhardt / HERstory: Group Exhibition of Paintings by Diverse Black Artists, Through July 28, Stella Jones Gallery, 201 St. Charles Ave., Suite 132, 568-9050;  New Work: Paintings by Keith Duncan, Through July 31, CANO Creative Space, 1307 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., 218-4807.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Arthur Roger Collection at NOMA

When Arthur Roger launched his gallery in 1978, there were only a handful of others focused on new art. The scene has expanded exponentially since then, but Roger has more than kept abreast of the ever changing art world, as we see in this sprawling new exhibition of works from his personal collection that he recently donated to the New Orleans Museum of Art. This beautifully installed Pride of Place expo also reveals how collecting can be an art form in its own right, a visual conversation in which all of the works have something revealing to say about each other – for instance, the way Douglas Bourgeois' surreal yet ethereal figures resonate with Robert Colescott's raucously carnivalesque scenes like Power for Desire, Desire for Power, top, an exploration of the all too common power trips that people pursue, often without even realizing it. Both artists share a similarly earthy soulfulness, and it helps to know that California-born Colescott's parents were, like Bourgeois, Louisiana natives.

Another vital part of the Arthur Roger overview involves social issues, so David Bates's powerful portraits of Katrina survivors elaborate on Simon Gunning's vivid views of the storm-ravaged Lower 9th Ward even as more meditative works by Jacqueline Bishop, left, Courtney Egan and Lee Deigard, above, suggest how the natural world is being strangely mutated by human activity all around us-- themes further elaborated by Luis Cruz Azaceta, Nicole Charbonnet and Cynthia Scott. A rich diversity of works by Willie Birch, Radcliffe Bailey, Bruce Davenport and John Scott, among others, hark to both the deep pathos that arose from the Atlantic slave trade as well as the buoyant street culture and sheer joie de vivre that define New Orleans as America's quintessential Creole city.

Striking gender studies by artists like Deborah Kass, left, and Robert Mapplethorpe provide provocative counterpoint to a wide variety of classic canvases by earlier and more formalistic, yet profoundly humanistic, New Orleans legends like the late Robert Gordy and Ida Kohlmeyer in a show where all of the work seems very at home with New Orleans' burgeoning 21st century art scene. ~Bookhardt / Pride of Place: The Arthur Roger Art Collection, Through Sept. 23, New Orleans Museum of Art, City Park, 658-4100.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Kaori Maeyama at Staple Goods Gallery; Leslie Friedman at Good Children Gallery

Driving down desolate city streets on a dark, overcast night can be a dreary experience. But there are also times, on misty, rain cooled evenings, when the reflections of random city lights dancing off the walls of shadowy buildings can make those same sights seem oddly alive. Then the rhythmic flow of  glistening city streets seen from a moving car can slip almost hypnotically into a realm reminiscent of dreamy ambient music or lyrical modern jazz riffs. Kaori Maeyama's nocturnal cityscape paintings look starkly abstract at first, but in works like Through a Glass Darkly (pictured), dusky forms and luminous highlights soon suggest office towers, overpasses and traffic rendered with a cinematic sense of motion. In some, the steel trusses of the Huey P. Long bridge are conveyed by luminous slashes in inky patinas that evoke the dense mists over the river. Chocolate City pulsates with the gritty incandescence of a city alive with random mirth, pathos and chaos fused into a single, sprawling organism with a collective life of its own. Inspired by photos taken through car windows, Maeyama's nocturnal cityscapes explore how external perceptions and our inner lives influence each other, in this latest leg of a personal journey that began when she arrived here from Fukuoka, Japan, in 1994. 

The Passenger: Urban Landscapes by Kaori Maeyama, Through July 2, Staple Goods, 1340 St. Roch Ave., 908-7331.

There are few shadows and fewer details left to the imagination in Leslie Friedman's colorfully overt graphics. Sometimes described as “purposely crass and annoying,” her silkscreened nudes emerging from piles of diet soda cans and packets of Splenda, and related works like Tasty, below, are accompanied by a video loop of a masturbating woman in works that capture the nihilism of an age where addictive digital devices propagate titillation and rage even as actual physical addictions like opioids overwhelm an increasingly confounded public forced to live in a world that makes even less sense now than it did in the relatively recent past.

Tastier: Mixed-Media Installation about Western Culture by Leslie Friedman, Through June 25, Good Children Gallery, 4037 St. Claude Ave., 616-7427.