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; www.cacno.org