Monday, May 4, 2009

Ferdinand, Freeman, Tannen and Webb at Studio 527

It looks about as experimental as anything you might see on St. Claude, but this Studio 527 expo involves some very established local art veterans. Bob Tannen, a co-founder of the Contemporary Arts Center, is represented by his Zen-like drawings and improvised sculptures of balls--baseballs, basketballs and the like. For him they are the ad-libbed signifiers of the inner games imposed by the physical world, the evolutionary instinct to adapt and prevail--the basis of the earliest ball games. Executed quickly, they suggest those fleeting gestures on which destiny often hangs.
Rashida Ferdinand's LULLABY is a wall of reproduced pages from a letter her Lower 9th Ward grandmother wrote about the ravages of hurricane flooding--but the year was 1965. A contemporaneous photo of her appears in multiples on an adjacent wall, below. Throw in some of Ferdinand's surreal clay sculptures, like gourds birthing divas, and the result is a shrine-like evocation of fleshly transcendence as well as a reference to a tragedy endured with dignity and forbearance. Clifton Webb, like Tannen, had a role in founding the CAC. His near human-size Afro-futurist sculptures suggest atavistic fertility figures from the birth of the earth that evolved over time into the near-holographic forms seen here, time-traveling totems, in effect.
The Market Street Power Plant, top, a massive 19th century hulk that once burned coal and then natural gas, stands today as ruinous a cathedral of graffiti and rust. Tina Freeman's photographs capture that but also something else, a lingering human presence like a collective aura of the souls who once toiled there amid the coal bins, pictured, that powered the generators that lit the city. There, dark bituminous rocks were transformed into light amid a residue of soot and sweat over time, a residue reminiscent in some ways of Anselm Kiefer's densely layered paintings. These images convey the sedimentary gravitas of a vast steam-gothic burial vault enlivened by whimsical traceries of graffiti. ~D. Eric BookhardtNew Works by Rashida Ferdinand, Tina Freeman, Bob Tannen and Clifton Webb
Through May
Studio 527, 527Julia St., 388-3128
Expanded from Gambit
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