Sunday, March 1, 2015

"The Horizon Tries:" New Mixed Media by Lana Cmajcanin, Fokus Grupa, Curated by Lala Rascic

Is there "a secret harmony that exists between the earth and humanity" that we ignore at our own  peril? The 19th century French geographer, anarchist and animal rights activist, Elisee Reclus, thought so, and during his over two year sojourn in Louisiana, starting in 1853, he was shocked by the rampant way our  wilderness areas were plundered for their resources. His belief, "Whatever we do to nature, we inevitably do to ourselves," became prophetic in retrospect as our industry-ravaged wetlands increasingly lost their capacity to protect us from hurricanes. Although his presence in this show is most obvious in a reliquary exhibit, top (detail), including books, publications and even a bottle of wine from his family vinyard, his views are often echoed in works by Bosnian and Croatian artists in this exhibition organized by Sarajevo, Zagreb and New Orleans-based artist-curator, Lala Rascic.

Into the Dusk Charged Air, above left, Rascic's reverse painting on glass, depicts all of the rivers cited by John Ashbery in his poem of the same name as a meandering maze of lines--a tangle of tides appearing as a kind of geographical Gordian Knot, above. Rivers often denote borders in regions that can throb with the competing claims of rival national cultures, and Bosnian artist Lana Cmajcanin's Geometry of Time, above, is a vintage map of Europe with every change of national boundaries recorded in a vortex of overlapping lines that collectively all but obscure the Balkan region. The Croatian collective, Fokus Grupa, takes on the old European conundrum of nature and nationalism in a video that intimates how even serene national park scenes can embody underlying geopolitical tensions. This returns us to the realm of Reclus, and on March 7 at 6 pm, his translator, John Clark, presents a lecture, Elisee Reclus & the Apocalyptic Social Geography of New Orleans, followed on March 8 at 4 pm by an artist talk, Abstraction and Landscape, featuring Jessica Bizer and Brian Guidry. ~Bookhardt   

The Horizon Tries: Mixed Media by Lala Rascic, Fokus Grupa and Lana Cmajcanin, Through March 8, Good Children Gallery, 4037 St. Claude Ave., 616-7427.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

First Plantation Slavery Museum In U.S. Opens

"...It was clear, based on the crowd entering the freshly painted gates, that the plantation intended to provide a different experience from those of its neighbors. Roughly half of the visitors were black, for starters, an anomaly on plantation tours in the Deep South. And while there were plenty of genteel New Orleanians eager for a peek at the antiques inside the property’s Creole mansion, they were outnumbered by professors, historians, preservationists, artists, graduate students, gospel singers and men and women from Senegal dressed in traditional West African garb: flowing boubous of intricate embroidery and bright, saturated colors. If opinions on the restoration varied, visitors were in agreement that they had never seen anything quite like it. Built largely in secret and under decidedly unorthodox circumstances, the Whitney had been turned into a museum dedicated to telling the story of slavery — the first of its kind in the United States." More>> 

See Also: Mimi Read's excellent Lawyer Transforms Whitney Plantation into Slavery Museum w. great photos by John McCusker

Sunday, February 22, 2015

"Salutations:" Josephine Sacabo at NOMA

In the French Quarter there have always been spots where you could look out across rooftops that hint at old Paris, and feel transported to another time and place. Josephine Sacabo has lived most of her life in the Quarter, and her mysterious photographs evoke sensations somewhere between a séance and time travel. This Salutations series explores a rich vein of associations where her shadowy subjects appear fragmented, as if encountered in a cubist parallel universe that she captured in her camera. Such images are fragile, so she printed them with an old wet collodion process that preserves their dark nocturnal aura in much the way dreams are nurtured by moonlight.
Essentially an attempt to see around corners, cubism depicted a subject from several different angles at once, yielding geometrically patterned images that some say recall the true nature of reality before it is decoded by the brain. Ascending Torso, top, is a view into a protean kaleidoscopic sea mist, a realm where dreams are born and all things are possible, or at least not constrained. This is the realm of the muse, not the cliche muse of popular culture, but rather the empathic feminine principle behind inspiration but not calculation, the realm cited by poet Robert Graves as the origin of all verse. In Leda and the Swan, the outline of a woman shimmers amid dark shadows. Look again and it's a swan. In the Greek myth, Zeus assumes the form of a swan in order to ravish Leda, but here they are interwoven, transforming duality into unity while playing tricks on our eyes. Sunset takes us back to the rooftops, to the secret garrets of the French Quarter or the slate roofs of Montmartre, to the lost, onion soup and vetiver-scented bohemias of the past. In Sacabo's world, such places are only accessible by a darkly luminous Staircase to an attic filled with memories, or else down to a cellar where lost things are buried; things that haunt us with their absence. ~Bookhardt   Salutations: New Photographs by Josephine Sacabo, Through April 5, New Orleans Museum of Art, City Park, 658-4100.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Mark Steinmetz at the Ogden Museum; "Que Bola Asere" at the New Orleans Photo Alliance Gallery

The one word title of Mark Steinmetz's exhibition--South--serves notice of what we can expect from images so deadpan that they suggest comments like "yep," or "nope," or "maybe." Inspired by great street photographers like Gary Winogrand or Robert Frank, who captured the manic dynamism of 20th century American life, Mark Steinmetz focuses on the poetically pensive moments of ordinary Southerners. In Athens, GA, top, a girl lounges on a car amid the bland nocturnal chaos of a parking lot sometime in the 1990s, seemingly pondering personal mysteries. Her "lost in thought," aura has much in common with a shot of a guy in a t-shirt furtively smoking a cigarette as he clutches a styrofoam cup in a wooded patch in Johnson City, TN, 1995. Like characters in Raymond Carver short stories, or Randy Newman's Good Ole Boys album, they epitomize the folks who populate much of the New South and who probably don't vote, yet whose unanswered questions, and comments left unsaid, sometimes seem to hang in the air like the morning haze on a balmy summer day.

The Que Bola Asere photographs of Cuba are essentially documentary views depicting slices of life in the Caribbean time capsule that is Cuba today. Amid the journalistic images of typical apartments, shops and cityscapes, the more personal poetry of the place comes through in works like 1956 Dodge Royal in Havana by Daniel Kramer, above, where a hulking Detroit cruiser with extravagant, if faded, fins is framed by a line of colorful laundry and a little girl with a far away look in her eyes. Here we sense the inner life of a place where a proud people obviously feel very at home yet are also just hanging on, at the mercy of forces they can't quite control. A place where the familiar patriotic slogan "Viva Cuba Libre!" painted on a crumbling stucco wall (photo by Betsy Gosling) can assume ironic double meanings. ~Bookhardt  South: Photography by Mark Steinmetz, Through May 10, Ogden Museum of Southern Art, 925 Camp St., 539-9600;  Que Bola Asere, Celebrating Cuba: Group Photography Show, Through March 8, New Orleans Photo Alliance Gallery, 1111 St. Mary St., 610-4899.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Goddess Revisited & The Nature of Now

Blink and you might miss it, but look up and you might see a goddess--or many goddesses, at a two story wall sculpture rendered in laser cut aluminum in the CBD. Like a Fellini vision of a multicultural Mount Olympus above the Singha Thai Cafe, this makes sense in the only city where classical deities like Iris and Athena are still widely venerated--every Mardi Gras! Featuring the ancient full figured fertility deity, the Venus of Willendorf, in blue plexiglass flanked by old and new goddesses like Ishtar, Kali, Lady Liberty, Wonder Woman, Frida Kahlo and the voodoo spirit La Sirene, it was organized by gallerist Angela King and created by artists including Katrina Andry, Janet Walker Baus, Elizabeth Conway, Sus Corez, Elizabeth Eckman, Carolina Gallup, Nancy Gonsalves, Elena Reeves, Steph Smith, Diana Souza and Heidi Tullman. Originally a P.3+ project that drew Mayor Mitch Landrieu and voodoo priestess Sallie Ann Glassman to its opening, it remains up through February.

A related approach appeared in the recently departed P.3+ expo, The Nature of Now. According to curator Pamala Bishop, this assortment of sensual and organic mixed media works reflected ideas like "eco-erotic feminism," a term coined by participating artist Shana Robbins to describe her femme-centric form of earth-based shamanism. A parallel sensibility appeared in a magical labyrinth that New York-Norwegian artist Anne Senstad created in a sugarcane field and transposed it to the show, where it was neatly complemented by Heather Hansen's large chandelier elaborately hand crafted from sugar cubes. A mix of visual and performance art set the tone in works like Angel Chen's optical illusionist installation of Siamese fighting fish that symbolized destructive life-destroying egos, and Marion Spencer and Ellery Burton's dance- based nature ruminations, or Brandon Balengee's mixed-media ju-jitsu inversions of BP oil spill propaganda among other environmentally based works. Here nature appears as a vulnerable object of desire pillaged by money-grubbing riffraff out for a quick buck. Under the vaulted ceilings of an old disused theater, these works radiated a sensibility suggesting that human healing will ultimately only occur when we finally manage to heal the earth Herself. ~Bookhardt  The Goddess Revisited: Willendorf to Trucker Mudflaps Collaborative Mural, Through February, 826 Gravier St.; The Nature of Now: Group Exhibition Curated by Pamala Bishop.