Sunday, November 10, 2019

Moments of Being: Photogravures by Josephine Sacabo at A Gallery for Fine Photography

Josephine Sacabo once said: "I believe in Art as a means of transcendence and connection. My images are simply what I’ve made from what I have been given." Such sentiments have permeated all of her previous exhibits, but perhaps none more than this “Moments of Being” expo of photogravures at A Gallery for Fine Photography. Here her imagery appears to bypass the concerns of place seen in her recent work based on French Quarter graffiti and the iconography of old Mexico, and take its cues directly from the near-seamless mix of dreams, art history and poetry that inform her vision. More specifically, what we see reflects what can happen when the imagination meanders through the dusky realms where cultural history and the psyche overlap and reveal veiled insights into the poetics of the feminine and the ever-shifting, sometimes elusive, nature of reality itself. Even the titles allude to this interweaving of nature, culture and our direct personal experiences.
“Half Truths,” top, is emblematic for its visual boldness mingled with its implicit ambiguities. Everything about it seems straightforward at first, from its geometric lines to the directness of the gaze of its subject. But what is that direct gaze conveying? Is it questioning, accusatory or simply relaying a revelatory moment that may go through many iterations of interpretation that continue to evolve over time. Sacabo believes that many people become fixated on first impressions that are compacted into frozen, sometimes accusatory, attitudes that fail to take into account the impossibility or truly knowing what anyone else is ever really thinking, or feeling, or the path that led them to that point. Poetry and visual art become resonant when they convey those other dimensions.

“Vengo A Verte Pasar Todos Los Días” is simply a window framing the elegant profile of a woman. The luminosity of the backlighting of the billowing baroque curtains dominates the image, but that baroque luminosity also reflects the infinite meanderings of the imagination. Visually each image is unique but, like the mind itself, the implications and ramifications go on and on. ~Bookhardt / Moments of Being: Photographs by Josephine Sacabo, Through Jan 4, A Gallery For Fine Photography, 241 Chartres St., 568-1313.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

William Christenberry at the Ogden Museum

Long known as a Deep South bastion of resistance to social and political change, Alabama can seem like a Quixotic caricature of lost causes. The reality is more conflicted in a place where well meaning people have struggled to adapt to changing times. Only a deeply empathetic artist could possibly convey how the region's history of racial strife intermingles with the deep soulfulness of its land and people. The late Tuscaloosa native, William Christenberry, is celebrated for works reflecting those paradoxes. This Ogden Museum retrospective shines a brilliant new light on an artist who devoted his life to exploring Alabama's -- and America's -- conflicting impulses.

With their focus on landscapes and structures that resonate Southern Americana, Christenberry's  photographs, sculptures and paintings reflect a lifelong exploration of a place where time often seemed to stand still, and where some people preferred it that way – as seen in works that embody the perpetual conflict between past and present and the uneasy ties that bind them together. His 1964 Memphis, Tennessee-inspired painting, “Beale Street,” top, melds abstraction, pop art and realism into a visually coherent cacophony where old time Southern hucksterism, creativity and repression is vividly on display. Here depictions of antique, often whimsical, hand painted signs hark to the region's folk art traditions in a composition that might look buoyant if not for the jarringly intrusive presence of figures draped in the iconic white robes and pointed hoods of the KKK. A more meditative minimalism defines “Facade of Warehouse, Newbern Alabama 1981,” above, where a crumbling geometric structure recalls a ghostly repository of memories. Alabama's unique rural minimalism defines works like his “Red Soil and Kudzu” photograph where bands of earthy colors attain a bold level of painterly abstraction. Stark minimalism reaches a crescendo in his stunning sculpture, “Dream Building (Gothic),” right, in which a white steeple-like structure mingles Gothic piety with unsettling hints of a pointed KKK hood in an iconic  reminder of how a society's spiritual aspirations can be undermined by its most misguided traditions. ~Bookhardt / Memory is a Strange Bell: The Art of William Christenberry, Through March 1, 2020, Ogden Museum of Southern Art, 925 Camp St., 539-9600.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Tague, Loney & Hailey at Barristers Gallery; Campbell & Vis at Good Children Gallery

In autumn of 2008, major banks began collapsing, ushering in a period of global economic turmoil. In autumn of 2008, Prospect.1 New Orleans opened as America's largest international art biennial, and ushered in a bevy of new galleries along St. Claude Avenue. Eleven years later, some of the St. Claude galleries' founding members are exhibiting work that reminds us that global turmoil remains the order of the day. That said, even some of the edgier works on view sometimes appear surprisingly pristine. At “The Cocktail Party” expo at Barrister's, for instance, the long canvas strips hanging from multicolored bottles high on the walls in Dan Tague's “Untitled (pink, lemon, aqua)” installation initially conveys an austere warmth, perhaps a hint of meditative Japanese minimalism. The seductive, pale fruit colors of the glass bottles lends a buoyant aura, so it takes a moment to digest that we are really looking at a very orderly and aesthetic display of Molotov cocktails, perhaps a gesture of solidarity with the protesters in Hong Kong. Hanging in mottled baroque counterpoint, Daphne Loney, Heathcliffe Hailey and Dan Tague's messily incendiary tapestry, “Assume the Apocalypse” (detail, below) suggests a deluge of fire and water as a kind of final elemental denouement.

If current international news seems a bit draconian, we can always divert our attention to Generic Art Solution's “The Harder They Fall” expo at Good Children (top) where a meticulously detailed video depicts Tony Campbell and Matt Vis deconstructing the flags of their respective homelands, the UK and the USA. If the tedium of the work is punctuated by our deep unease of seeing the Union Jack and Old Glory so thoroughly dissected, any damage is soon healed by the magic of reverse video projection as the fragments miraculously seem to reassemble themselves into intact flags before our eyes, in an allegory of how our respective democracies are ongoing, eternally evolving, works in progress. ~Bookhardt / The Cocktail Party: New Mixed Media by Dan Tague, Daphne Loney and Generic Art Solutions, Through Nov. 2, Barrister's Gallery, 2331 St. Claude Ave, 710-4506; The Harder They Fall: New Mixed Media by Generic Art Solultions, Through Nov. 3, Good Children Gallery, 4037 St. Claude Ave., 616-7427.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Audra Kohout at Soren Christensen

New Orleans is sometimes described as a city of relics, a place where the past is never past because so much of it lives on in structures and objects, large and small. Old buildings can speak to us when they subtly resonate a sense of their former inhabitants. Lost or orphaned objects have more intimate second lives as they pass through yard sales and thrift stores and then from friend to friend as quirky gifts that live on as talismanic fetishes, symbols embodying what the surrealists saw as as fragments of society's dreams. This offers special opportunities for artists willing to engage with this unusually arcane and personal milieu, a realm in which Audra Kohout's work reflects something of the vividly dreamy and carnivalesque inner life of this city's inhabitants.
Kohout employs old dolls and figurines in theatrical configurations with bits of exotic fabric and antique props often involving mysterious arrangements of birds, animals, gears and machine parts that hark to ancient mythology and the modern female psyche while conveying a sense of how technology entangles our lives in any number of ways. In this “Reliquary” show, old music box mechanisms play a special role as revolving stages on which Kohout's mostly female figures interact almost like puppets or fairytale princesses guided by invisible forces as they play out their mysterious psychological dramas. For instance, “Dissonance,” left, features two tiny warrior princesses swathed in white fabric and wearing metal helmets studded with animal horns. Seductive yet combative in demeanor, they stand atop little circular stages that are music box mechanisms playing competing harmonies as they turn, suggesting a kind of genteel psychodramatic ballet, or maybe a miniature, innuendo charged tableau vivant. Women bound by competing internal and external forces are a recurring theme. “Coronation,” top, detail, is an ornate box sculpture in which a ceramic girl child is framed in a series of baroque ovals as a retinue of girl dolls including half avian mythic figures look on expectantly. Additional surreal pedestal and stand - alone sculptures make “Reliquary” Kohout's most audacious and ambitious exhibition in years. ~Bookhardt / Reliquaries: New Sculpture and Assemblages by Audra Kohout, Through October, Soren Christensen Gallery, 400 Julia St., 569-9501.