Sunday, July 26, 2009

Americana at the Front


“So I looked at the scenery, she read her magazine
And the moon rose over an open field...
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They've all gone to look for America”

Paul Simon’s haunting ballad AMERICA premiered over 40 years ago, yet it’s just as haunting today, perhaps because it captures something of the mystery of life on this vast continent. People go about their everyday lives, yet the interaction of different kinds of people is more dynamic here than anywhere on earth, a kaleidoscope of cultures that seems to constantly shift and change. Simon’s song came to mind when viewing the AMERICANA show at the Front, a selection of quirky and ironic new works that touch on the innate surrealism of life in the USA.

Of them, few are more quirky or ironic than Corey Drieth’s installation, BIG FAT, a wall-size curtain big enough to imply a stage. Made of Spandex that shimmers in metallic rainbow colors, BIG exudes gaudy excitement in a nod, perhaps, to the razzle-dazzle of the land that invented jazz, rock and big-screen color movies. In fact, Lydia Moyer’s video projection REVERSE CIMARRON touches on both Hollywood glitz and old frontier days with loops of vintage movie footage of manic Westward-Ho pioneers chasing the setting sun as placid buffaloes chew their cud on a second screen, in a kind of capsule history of the American Dream. By contrast, Mark Bradley-Shoup’s oil on paper VACANT CARWASH is a starkly painted evocation of the eerie emptiness that takes hold of the urban landscape when nobody’s around, in yet another oddly poetic offering from one of the most energetic and consistent of the new St. Claude Ave. galleries.
AMERICANA: New Work by Eleven American Artists
Through August 1
The Front, 4100 St. Claude Ave. www.nolafront.org
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