Sunday, November 22, 2009

Long a local favorite for his diffusely atmospheric vistas of leafy old New Orleans neighborhoods, Phil Sandusky has of late taken us along a road less traveled--at least, for him. In this city it is not surprising to see a plein air painter working at an easel in front of a French Quarter or Uptown landmark, but to find one daubing away across from a CBD Walgreen's or chain hotel is another matter. Yet this show encompasses all of the above, and there is even a canvas featuring the WATERWORKS, above, on Claiborne Ave., which appears as a bucolic vista recalling the early days of industrialization in the South. While his pre-Katrina work mostly rendered genteel Uptown byways in a gauzily impressionistic style that was often lovely if almost predictably sweet, his work right after the storm rendered its ravages with the unflinching candor of a social realist. Here his flair for wreckage appears in DEMOLITION ON HILLARY ST., a site of mechanized
destruction rendered as if by a modern day Monet. But other intrusions of modernity into otherwise timeless vistas appear in works like FIG AND CARROLLTON, a view of urban desolation redeemed by balmy pastel light. MUSTANG ON PEARL STREET, above right, contrasts the pop contours of a car with the ancient cottage behind it as impressionistic brushwork evokes the humidity on a balmy day when the sun-baked pavement transforms the air into a dense presence with a shape-shifting life of its own. Here Sandusky reveals his flair as a poet of this city’s ambient phenomena that most of us take for granted.

Stylistic evolution appears as well in George Dunbar’s collages at Heriard- Cimino. Less lush but more playful than what we ordinarily expect from Nola’s dean of decorous minimalism, these artfully repetitious forms recall the hypnotic sequencing in some of Philip Glass’s electronic music compositions and reveal a lightness of touch unexpected in this most rigorous of local artists who, at 80-something, is still growing and going strong. ~Eric Bookhardt
Through November
Cole Pratt Gallery, 3800 Magazine St., 891-6789;

 MULTIPLES: New Work by George Dunbar Heriard-Cimino Gallery
Through Dec. 2
Heriard-Cimino Gallery, 440 Julia St., 525-7300;

As seen in Gambit

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sachs/Kretzer "Cone" at Botanical Garden New Orleans Curated and Produced by Life Is Art Foundation

For More Environmental Light Sculptures Click: Life Is Art Foundation Sculpture Exhibition at New Orleans Botanical Garden in City Park

Soth and Colescott at Arthur Roger

                                       Adelyn, Ash Wednesday, by Alec Soth
Robert Colescott died last June at his home in Tucson. He was 83, and highly respected in the art world. The first black American to represent the U.S. in a solo show at the Venice Biennale, his work was in many major collections including the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He had close ties to New Orleans, where his parents were born and raised. After serving in World War II, he made zany paintings that dealt with racial or social issues in a highly satirical manner. His remake of the famous painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware replaced him with the black agricultural chemist, George Washington Carver, at the helm of a boat loaded with minstrels, cooks and maids. Painted in a zany, California Imagist style, the works on view continue in a similar vein.

In SUMMERTIME, right, a white blonde in a sagging bikini reclines under a sky filled with black crows circling an Afro Minnie Mouse with big boobs as a black guy approaches her with his tongue hanging out. Presumably a satire on racial preconceptions, its meaning is up to the viewer. As with much Colescott, we’re not always sure what we’re looking at, but always we know we’re looking at SOMETHING.

The adjacent gallery contains some large color photos by Alec Soth, a 40 year-old Minneapolis photographer who has been making waves with works such as this subtly atmospheric series exploring life along the Mississippi. ADELYN, ASH WEDNESDAY, NEW ORLEANS, above, depicts a tired, tattooed redhead with an ashen cross on her forehead. Asked what she was giving up for Lent, she hit Soth up for a beer, explaining that she wasn’t really Catholic and her cross was made from cigarette ash. JOSHUA, ANGOLA PRISON, depicts an angelic looking inmate who turned out to be serving a sentence for murder. Like a postmodern O. Henry, Soth provides many ironic insights in a highly evocative series where every picture really does tell a story. (Although both shows officially came down on Nov. 14, the work remains available for viewing during the following week.) ~Eric Bookhardt

Robert Colescott: TROUBLED GOODS
Through Nov. 14
Arthur Roger Gallery, 432 Julia St., 522-1999;

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Hot Up Here at the Contemporary Arts Center

     Organized by Contemporary Arts Center Visual Arts Director Dan Cameron, Hot Up Here picks up where the CAC’s Louisiana Open biennial series left off. Although the artists are drawn from galleries all over town, the tone is distinctly St. Claude Avenue, and while the experimental gallery scene there had been fermenting for some time, Cameron’s Prospect.1 was the jolt that brought a lot of the new spaces up to speed at this time last year. Consequently, it's hard to view Karoline Schleh's poetic collages and modified stereopticon images and not feel nostalgic for the superb group show that opened at the Universal building last autumn. Schleh's new work builds on that series. This Is You is a stereopticon view of a little girl whose head turns into a bird in the otherwise identical twin image, effectively transforming it into a 3-D souvenir view of a dreamlike parallel universe.
Generic Art Solutions — Tony Campbell and Matt Vis—are represented by their video screen portraits of themselves as roman emperors, ghostly white marble-like heads seemingly set in stone. But look closely: they blink. (A cautionary metaphor for empire?)  Another Good Children co-conspirator, Stephen Collier, has photo portraits of a biker and a businessman with heads covered with Silly String. Like much postmodernism, this is all about surface effects, “instantaneity” and mass media and, you know, stuff like that. Michelle Levine’s social realist paintings of McDonald’s Golden Arches ravaged by Katrina’s winds make a related point but with a more tragically meaningful twist. But Brad Benischek, of the Antenna gallery, gives us a vast, room-size installation of nasty childlike drawings with oddly Charles Bukowski-esque scrawled texts, above, all of which builds on his visceral Midwestern Expressionist rap sheet with notable verve. Like much of this, David Sullivan’s Sunset Refinery video had been previously shown on St. Claude, but it really does warrant multiple viewings. Not everything does, but if you’ve never seen any of it before, Hot might come as a revelation.  ~Eric Bookhardt
Sunset Refinery (still) by David Sullivan
HOT UP HERE: New Work by New Orleans Artists
Through December
Contemporary Arts Center, 900 Camp St., 528.3805;

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Peretti at Bienvenu through November

    "Intimate, beautiful, disturbing," such are the adjectives applied to the work of Sibylle Peretti, whose visions of children convey a quietly mysterious other world. Like a parallel universe, Peretti-world is part dream and part fairy tale, but it also resonates a certain reality that we sense without knowing exactly what it is, at least not at first. A native of Germany who resides most of the year in New Orleans but keeps an apartment in Cologne, Peretti has long been inspired by children who lived with circumstances that caused them to have to establish their own unique relationships with the world, especially the natural world of the “feral children” who inspired her current body of work. While the idea of children raised by wolves and wild creatures is hardly new, having served as the basis for much traditional mythology, Peretti’s approach is more psychological, invoking perhaps the prehistory of human consciousness, those deeply subconscious dreams or memories of a more mystical union with nature that latently reside within us all.
    The works on view are a mixture of freestanding porcelain sculptures, etched translucent wall panels, and glass raindrop-shaped wall sculptures, all depicting children seemingly in a state of suspended animation if not repose. Otherworldly and dreamlike, their presence is somnambulistic, charismatically quiescent as they relate to each other or to birds, vines and brambles, the flora and fauna of the natural landscape. Like her earlier series of “silent children,” inspired by the haunting expressions seen in photographs of youngsters in antique German medical texts, they explore the hidden side of childhood, a complex, contemplative world of dreams, imaginings and gestures. Of the earlier series, Peretti said "They represent innocence, but also a kind of knowing, yet they cannot really say what they know so they speak their own wordless language." Much the same might be said of these “feral children,” whose silence hints at the delicate relationship between human civilization and the remaining wildness that lingers around us, and within us. ~Eric Bookhardt
THE UNUSUAL KIND: Mixed Media Works by Sibylle Peretti
Through November
Gallery Bienvenu, 518 Julia St., 525-0518;