Sunday, August 30, 2009

Gunning and Gaudet at Arthur Roger

"I paint and draw light," said Simon Gunning, and if that sounds almost Biblical, his new Avery Island landscapes hark to a place so primeval as to evoke the birth of the world. There Gunning became fascinated by the Saline Swamp, a place he calls “lyrical and dangerous” for its “lurid arrangement” between the alligators and the thousands of egrets that nest in trees above the reptile infested waters. He saw that egrets dote on their chicks and was struck by the sense of tragedy that ensues when they sometimes fell from their nests to be instantly devoured by the gators lurking below. But the egrets know what they’re doing: the alligators protect them from the rats and snakes that pose the gravest threats to their young, in a classic case of “my enemy’s enemy is my friend.” Ecology works its wonders in mysterious ways.
Gunning sometimes harks to the 19th century landscape painters in his near-sacramental sense of light and dedication to the protean veracity of oil pigments. Such transcendentalist aspirations appear, if subtly, in works like LEAP #2, above right, where opalescent whites arise from the viridian depths in a visual epiphany of grace. If this seems a stretch, it’s not--no longer merely recreational, swamps are now essential for our survival. If Louisiana ever issues its own currency, each note could honestly be inscribed: “In Wetlands We Trust.”

Mitch Gaudet’s haunting TRINKET expo of rusted steel and cast glass sculptures looks very different yet also explores the ways in which context shapes value. Antiques and religious relics, like trinkets, may have few practical uses yet still seem charged with meaning. In his large sculptural assemblage, BUDDHA, top, a Burmese bodhisattva appears surrounded by cast glass bowling pins, pistols, clown heads, ducks and floral filigree in a study on the contrast between the worldly and the eternal. ANGEL, left, features an armless, wingless angel rescued from a trash pile in front of a church after Katrina. Dangling below it, a cascade of cast glass wings evokes the poignancy of loss in its myriad manifestations, in a meditation on how life is change and nothing stays the same. ~Eric Bookhardt
Click Images for Expanded View

AVERY ISLAND: New Paintings by Simon Gunning
TRINKET: Recent Sculpture by Mitch Gaudet
Through Sept. 19th
Arthur Roger Gallery, 432 Julia St., 522-1999;

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Thank You Sir, May I Have Another: 7 New, New Orleans Artists at Barrister's

One of the more interesting examples of the way post- Katrina New Orleans has reinvented itself is the expansion of the gallery scene on St. Claude Avenue. Among its defining influences--which includes the burgeoning bohemia of the Marigny-Bywater neighborhood for which St. Claude serves as the local Main Street--few can rival the University of New Orleans when it comes to setting a certain, slightly edgy tone. UNO even has its own gallery there, though it sometimes seems almost redundant. Even the current show at the venerable Barrister’s Gallery features seven emerging artists who are all products of the UNO fine arts graduate program. Their work on and off the walls is often quirky, personal, punchy and occasionally entertaining.

Aaron McNamee’s TOOTHFACE , left, features pink ceramic vessels with scalloped ridges that are actually replicas of front teeth. Appearing with a photo of a smiling guy in a suit whose face is covered with protrusions that also turn out to be front tooth replicas, it’s a curiously cringe-inducing foray into postmodern expressionism. The cringe binge continues in Robyn Denny’s convincingly warped drawings of weirdly anxious people yanking on each other in a bizarre psychodramatic reverie. But aversion is inverted in Hollis Hannan’s monumental Saran Wrap and packing tape sculpture, DIALECTIC WITHIN, above, where the multiplicity of limbs belies the fact that there are only two torsos so rapturously engaged in what might be a Hindu deity rendition of a Merce Cunningham moment--or maybe an inner dance of approach-avoidance. The dynamic duo of Sciortino and Rinehart provide a pleasingly vintage take on the postmodern obsessions of text and video in DARKHORSE, but those same concerns receive a latter-day update in Dan Rule’s PALIMPSEST, in which one of those digital picture frames comes to life as a time-lapse billboard with new and old messages appearing and disappearing before our eyes. Curated by UNO’s Chris Saucedo, it’s a curiously cohesive slice of art and life in the St. Claude Gallery District. ~Eric Bookhardt

THANK YOU SIR, MAY I HAVE ANOTHER: 7 New, New Orleans Artists
Through Sept. 5
Barrister's Gallery, 2131 St. Claude Ave., 710-4506;
Click on Images for Expanded View

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Lake at Ferrara, Ludwig at LeMieux

Lately, there has been much consternation regarding Louisiana’s eroding coastline and its implications for the state and its inhabitants. Big chunks of our coast wash away at an alarming rate, and, like many other cataclysms, this resonates in the work of artists no less than scientists or government officials, as we see in two new shows on Julia. Miranda Lake’s encaustic collage -paintings are whimsical and poetic, with surreal imagery that falls somewhere between the paradoxical and the decorous. In THE WAY THE CROW FLIES, a crow hovers over a wrecked fishing boat adrift on a sea of broken eggshells in an image that resonates obliquely, in the metaphoric manner of dreams. As does THE WOLF PARADE OF SUMMER, an oversize vintage postage stamp where wolves are silhouetted by a setting sun as they leap across a bleak landscape. AIRMAIL is cheerier, featuring a bevy of those green tropical parrots we see about town transposed to another oversized vintage postage stamp. Lake’s vision reflects the “new nature,” an unsettled realm of rising tides and climate change where biodiversity sometimes doubles as bio-perversity, and nothing can be taken for granted.

Deedra Ludwig’s more traditional paintings hark to the early abstraction of Symbolists such as Odilon Redon, or Whistler’s delicate “Japonisme” period. Influenced by shifts in landscapes that were altered by hurricanes, she incorporates materials found on site such as pollen, soil and flowers, working them into the fabric of her oil paintings in an eloquent reminder of nature’s resilience and the nascent mini-recoveries that sometimes begin almost immediately after the disaster has struck. ~Eric Bookhardt

RECLAMATION: 360 DEGREES: New Encaustic Paintings by Miranda Lake
Through Aug. 29
Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, 400a Julia St., 522-5471
WILD, CULTIVATED, FRAGILE: New Paintings by Deedra Ludwig
Through Sept. 27
LeMieux Galleries, 332 Julie St., 522-5988;

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Regina Scully at Heriard-Cimino

Cities are mysterious places. Some, like Houston, are utilitarian, while others like New Orleans are more mythic. Both can inspire artists and writers. The Dutch-American artist Mondrian reduced the bright lights of Broadway in New York to colorful abstraction. Italian author Italo Calvino’s novel INVISIBLE CITIES deals with patterns of life in apocryphal places, and American author Christopher Alexander’s essay A PATTERN LANGUAGE describes the rhythms of movement in homes and cities as a kind of symbolic yet poetic language. Regina Scully’s new paintings touch on such things in a strictly visual and intuitive way; you can sense in their intricate and rhythmic flow a broader world of ideas and associations while appreciating them on their visual or sensual merits.
Unlike her earlier, more recognizably architectural paintings, these read as almost pure abstraction while evoking the dynamism of the human hive. EXCAVATION 3 , left, offers the most representational approximation of a built environment even as it recalls vintage sci-fi illustrations of post-apocalyptic apartment towers, or abstract album jackets from early 1960s modern jazz LPs, a realm of Sputnik, Coltrane and Philip Dick. In its intricate maze of loosely articulated forms there is a suggestion of catacombs erupting into an ad hoc Tower of Babel. EXCAVATION 11, top, is quite the opposite, a sleek interweaving of undulating blue and white grid-like shapes, of shimmering silver mazes flowing like the wavy titanium roofs of Frank Gehry’s outrageous museum and hotel buildings, or surreal science fiction fantasies culminating in cascades of shiny reflections, while EXCAVATION 5, below, mediates between them. Scully extrapolates such forms into an oscillating urban environment where no human presence is seen yet the unleashed energy of the human horde is implicit, perhaps a post-cybernetic Shanghai of the future where neurons and synapses crackle into metallic forms and functions. But Scully says these are all extrapolated from the cities of the present, a realm where “objects, spaces and events collide and detach…” The result is an eloquent visual music, a meditation on “fragmentation and unity, devastation and rejuvenation.” ~Eric Bookhardt
EXCAVATIONS: New Paintings by Regina Scully
(Click images for expanded view.)
Through Sept. 2
Heriard-Cimino Gallery, 440 Julia St. 525-7300;

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Sunday, August 2, 2009

St. Claude on Julia at Studio 527

It’s not like any other Julia St. gallery. In fact, it’s really not a gallery at all. Most of Studio 527 is a 6,000 square foot warehouse where art appears floor to ceiling like the contents of a vast curiosity cabinet. Short on the persnickety presentation of other Julia Street art spaces, but long on spontaneity and spectacle, it reflects the conceptual proclivities of its founder, artist/urban planner Robert Tannen, as well as the best efforts of director Morgan Molthrop, whose unenviable task is to impose order and decorum on what is essentially a freewheeling guerilla art project in a perpetual state of flux.

When it first opened in early July, ST. CLAUDE ON JULIA was mostly just that, work by St. Claude Arts District artists, but for White Linen Night new exhibits by photographer Robert Hanant and multimedia artist Terrence Sanders were added in an adjacent warehouse space along with a preview of a modular shotgun house designed by Tannen and noted architect Frank Gehry. But even the original July exhibition strayed slightly off the reservation with work by graffiti artists Anonymous Alex, Anonymous John and Anonymous Bud sharing space with wall-size pieces by St. Claude artists such as Alisoun Meehan’s luridly colorful BIFSTEAK painting of a slab of raw meat (above). Anyone who follows the St. Claude scene closely encountered in this show a mix of familiarity and surprise.

For instance, Julie Pieri’s Betty Crocker cookbook-inspired collages were accompanied at the opening by a Pieri performance, OUCH, in which she stood motionless as a mime artist wearing nothing but bikini briefs and hundreds of Band-aids, which gallery goers were invited to yank off. (See for more images .) Ouch indeed! And discerning aesthetes will recognize in Dan Tague’s spectacular LITE BRITE BIRD sculpture of LED lights and Styrofoam (top) the logo of the Pontiac Firebird, a car long associated with Tague’s native West Bank--one example among many of how this show occasionally transcended theory to cross over into something more mysterious. ~Eric Bookhardt
ST. CLAUDE ON JULIA: New Work by St. Claude Arts District Artists
Through Aug. 25
Studio 527, 527 Julia St., 638-3057