Sunday, June 28, 2009

Campbell, Vis, Nichols and Gilmore at Good Children

The Generic Art Solutions guys are at it again. Famous for their Art Cops tours of the Prospect.1 biennial, during which they wore cop uniforms and gave guided tours of the P.1 sights in a vintage police cruiser, Matt Vis and Tony Campbell have returned to what, for them, passes for normal: spelunking the meaning of life, and death, with a variety of visual aids. Specifically, their mixed media works allude to art history and pop culture and various combinations thereof.
Here their large, elaborately staged photographs of themselves as MARAT and OPHELIA in extremis take cues from masterworks by David and Millais respectively, but things get trickier when they portray marble busts of Caesar and Caligula, Roman emperors who died violent deaths. These are weird, in part because they blink. Look closely, and the images are actually endless loop videos on LCD monitors where they appear almost, but not totally, motionless. Their MOTEL SUITE is like a series of movie stills in which not much is happening, just two guys in a motel doing stuff like eating potato chips, brushing their teeth and cleaning their guns. Like mercenaries at rest, they appear to be getting ready for a hit, but we don't know who or why, reflecting the ambiguous anonymity of so much modern violence--yet it is that precisely that ambiguity that gives this otherwise deadpan series its intrigue. In the back gallery, Drew Gilmore's stark, black-on-black silkscreen portraits of jazz greats who died tragic deaths sets a somber tone, providing an eloquently elegiac counterpoint to the rest of this generally quirky and thought provoking expo.
~D. Eric Bookhardt
STILL LIFE AND TRAGIC ENDINGS: New Work by Generic Art Solutions, Drew Gilmore and Natalie Nichols
Through July 4
Good Children Gallery, 4037 St. Claude Ave., 975-1557;
www.goodchildrengallery.com

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Barnes at LeMieux

It's an unusual name for an art show. Eschatology is a branch of religious study that deals with endings in general and the Last Judgment in particular. Local artist John Barnes felt it was an appropriate term to use for his current crop of wooden sculptures inspired by old shotgun houses that endured Katrina-related flooding often described as "Biblical." Thanks to the work of numerous visual artists, the classic, dilapidated New Orleans shotgun house has emerged as an enduring icon of local African American life, and Barnes' compact yet intense assemblages further elaborate this legacy.
Abstract in form yet realistic in detail, his wood and mixed media sculptures are curved and vertical, suggesting upended wooden boats as well as ghostly two story structures. It is a form that also evokes the enchanted huts of folk tales as well as the hoods worn by "gangstas" trying to at least partially conceal their identities. Weathered and distressed, they seem haunted by both personal memories and impersonal forces seemingly beyond anyone's control. INEQUITY LOFT TOWERS, pictured, is a gauntly rakish hulk of overlapping shingles and distressed paint. Like most abandoned houses, the interior chambers seem to sag under the weight of accumulated personal histories, the ghosts of former occupants. Barnes' HOODED LILLIPUTIAN GANGSTER series is comprised of similar, but smaller, pieces. Distressed and partially torched, they bear gang graffiti, as well as the "X" marks of houses slated for demolition, like crude tattoos. The drawings suggest detailed schematics for the construction of blight, which is really what these works are all about: the beauty and blight of a city where poetry and tragedy, community and chaos, so often coexist in such close proximity.
ESCHATOLOGY: Recent Sculpture and Drawings by John Barnes Jr.
Through July 25
Lemieux Galleries, 332 Julia St., 522-5988; www.lemieuxgalleries.com

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Lockwood at Soren Christensen

“I listen to the radio a lot, especially the oldies stations," said Lory Lockwood, explaining how Marilyn Monroe and the pop culture of the fifties influenced her most recent work. What that really refers to is the American Dream that materialized half a century ago with Marilyn, Elvis and Harley Davidsons, as well as Hollywood movies and muscle cars—the vehicles that inspired so many of Lockwood's canvases over the past decade. But the glossy, pop-realist paintings in this show depict shop windows where flashily dressed manikins extend the Marilyn era "girly girl" fantasy into the present while reflecting odd bits of the “real world” on the streets outside.
The resulting images are kaleidoscopic, as the alluring American myth of eternal youth and glamour contrasts with plastic artificiality and the gritty reality of daily life. Trading the glossy chrome of high octane cars and motorcycles for the flash and dazzle of the Marilyn legacy as it appears in shop windows about town leaves one constant in place: Lockwood's flair for shiny reflective surfaces. It is a fascination that she reduced to a realm of almost pure abstraction in her most recent car canvases, but which in this show becomes more expansive and lighthearted. That reflective proclivity is seen in GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES, above, an oil painting of a display window where posters of Marilyn peer through a glass display case with little statuettes and beauty products. In others, French Quarter or Magazine Street scenes are reflected in shop windows containing Marilyn memorabilia displayed like pop reliquaries of saintly remains. The kaleidoscopic perspective is dreamlike, which is only appropriate for a pop-saint, an American icon of eternal youth and flashy extravagance. ~D. Eric BookhardtMARILYN AND THE DREAMGIRLS: New Work by Lory Lockwood
Through June
Soren Christensen Gallery, 400 Julia St., 569-9501; www.sorenchristensen.com
Expanded from Gambit
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Sunday, June 7, 2009

"Portrait" at Loyola's Diboll Gallery

Inspiration is mysterious; no one really knows where it comes from. Artists rely on it, but so do the curators who assemble art shows. Loyola’s Diboll Gallery curator Karoline Schleh said the inspiration for the current PORTRAIT expo came unexpectedly while visiting Graffiti Graphics on Oak Street. There she encountered an assemblage created from old United Way employee photo-ID badges hanging from a neon “vacancy” sign found on Airline Highway after Katrina. For Schleh it symbolized “all the missing New Orleanians who evacuated and left shells of workplaces and homes behind.”
VACANCY, by Henry Holzenthal, the piece noted above, is memorable for seeming to have serendipitously fallen into place, as if by the invisible hand of fate rather than the corporeal hand of Holzenthal. But it also reflects of the diversity of a show that spans everything from traditional oil paintings to abstract or conceptual renditions of a wide array of subjects. The results are not always predictable. Gina Phillips' HAIR VS. FACE is vaguely alarming as what initially suggests a sewn fabric rendition of the artist’s visage morphs into a nebulous mass on close inspection, like a photograph marinated in floodwaters. This contrasts with Adrian Deckbar's STUDY IN LIGHT AND DARK portrait of a woman, and Alexander Stolin's PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST'S SON, both classic examples of why sensitively rendered oil paintings never seem to lose their appeal.
Other works such as David Fithian's QUESTION MAN, left, a pop portrait of a dude whose hair suggests a question mark, or Myrtle von Damitz's hauntingly weird self-portrait, STRICKEN, evoke unsettled states of mind that may also correlate with broader social or cultural upheavals.
In that sense, a selection of dreamlike portraits by Louisiana Imagists Jacqueline Bishop, Douglas Bourgeois and Elizabeth Fox convey the uncanny charisma of subjects such as Bishop's CHICO MENDES, right, who rose from humble origins to embody the dreams and aspirations of a generation.
~D. Eric Bookhardt

PORTRAIT: Group Exhibition of Portraits in Various Media by 28 Artists
Through August
Collins Diboll Gallery, Loyola U., 6363 St. Charles Ave., 865-2186;
www.loyno.edu/dibollgallery
Expanded from Gambit
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Recommended Venice Biennale Coverage:

In the Daily Beast:
http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsmaker/art-and-photography?cid=hp:blogunit1

and The London Guardian:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/venice-biennale

And now the New York Times' Michael Kimmelman gives us a more acerbic view:
Small World Crammed on Biennale’s Grand Stage
By MICHAEL KIMMELMAN

The 53rd Venice Biennale is tidy, disciplined, cautious and unremarkable, suggesting a somewhat dull, deflated contemporary art world, professionalized to a fault, in search of a fresh consensus.