Sunday, March 28, 2010

Saints & Sinners: Haitian Vodou Art at the CAC

Much has been made of the historic connections between Haiti and New Orleans, links ranging from Creole cuisine and voodoo to politically prominent names such as Barthelemy and Boissiere among others. Even prominent local jewelry designer Mignon Faget as well as famous 19th century New Orleans figures such as the composer, Louis Moreau Gottschalk, and international chess champion, Paul Morphy, hail from Haitian family origins. And the kinship between the suits worn by Mardi Gras Indians and the sequin and bead work in this SAINTS & SPIRITS show of Haitian voodoo flags, ritual objects and costumes at the Contemporary Arts Center, should be obvious to anyone who cares to look closely. Both traditions reflect a centuries old mingling of African, Native American and European influences, as does voodoo--or more properly, “vodou”--in what amounts to an exotic form of Christianity in which saints and spirits comprise a varied pantheon of divinities. The connection between Christian martyrs and vodou spirits, or “loas,” is sometimes, but not always, evident, in these works assembled by Louisiana artist and Haitian art aficionado Tin Girouard, but they are all extremely colorful and beautifully crafted, regardless.

Vodou flags are based on the stylized images of spirits or saints, or else their abstract designs, called “veves,” as we see in the veve for Simbi, bottom, serpent of the waters above and below. Master artist Jean Louis Edgar employs pristine beadwork in tapestries such as ST. ROSE-ERZULIE, in which Erzulie, the voodoo spirit of compassion and femininity appears as St. Rose, a Catholic saint of compassion. In a corner of the gallery, a large altar covered with sequined and beaded objects as well as banners adorned with sacred or talismanic images recalls an unusually exotic St. Joseph’s Day altar. And indeed, those objects are there to symbolically feed the saints and spirits. Some tapestries hark more closely to the loas’s origins as nature spirits.  Master sequin artist Antoine Oleyant’s BOSOU AND DAMBALA, top, portrays the protector spirit Bosou with Dambala, the wise serpent of peace and prosperity. We can only hope its ideal of peace, prosperity and protection comes to pass. ~Bookhardt

 SAINTS & SPIRITS: The Art of Haiti
Through June 6
Contemporary Arts Center, 900 Camp St., 528-3800;

Friday, March 26, 2010

Roberta Smith on the UnDeath of Painting

FEW modern myths about art have been as persistent or as annoying as the so-called death of painting. Unless, of course, it is the belief that abstract and representational painting are oil and water, never to meet as one. More>>

Monday, March 22, 2010

Indianapolis Museum Settles Bet with NOMA

TurnerIMA.jpg The Indianapolis Museum of Art is set to pay off the Super Bowl bet director Max Anderson made with New Orleans Museum of Art director E. John Bullard. JMW Turner's The Fifth Plague of Egypt will go up at NOMA on Thursday morning. The painting will stay three months.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Elizabeth Fox at d.o.c.s.

Elizabeth Fox lived in New Orleans for 18 years before relocating to Maine after Katrina. For 12 of those years, the Florida native worked as a receptionist at a local law firm, an environment that may have inspired this PAPER DOLL series of canvases exploring the glossy surfaces of life in the workaday world of executives and secretaries, as well as the shadowy nuances that underlie those pastel and earth tone facades. True to the title, her figures appear in role-playing scenarios based on everyday interactions rendered meticulously in a dreamlike style charged with psychic undercurrents. If the daydreams of secretaries and receptionists had an independent life of their own, this is what they might look like. For instance, PIN THE TAIL ON THE SECRETARY depicts a kind of stenographic Cosmo girl in pastel colors and heels. She clutches a notepad and her blank expression matches the bland walls of the office. This painting features a sidebar that contains a variety of tails ranging from flowers to animal appendages that might be metaphorically attached to the secretary’s posterior, suggesting any number of possible roles that could extend well beyond the office itself. In other words, there is a kind of Cosmo girl existentialism at work here.
     Secretary fantasies abound in canvases such as IN FOR THE KILL, where an icy blond princess nonchalantly touches up her makeup as a couple of guys duke it out, while GIRL WITH THE GOLD-LINED HOOD, top, and TOLL BOOTH, left are cinematic explorations of the dichotomy of intimacy and anonymity. Her domestic interiors such as INTENTIONS OF A SHADOW take us to a psychically fraught realm of Hitchcockian surrealism as a woman in a gauzy nightgown enters a bedroom, casting a long shadow over a man’s sleeping form. Her vibe is clearly transgressive, possibly sexual if not sinister. What’s going on? In these works, Fox explores a classic Middle American vein of repression offset by fantasy in a style that amounts to latter day Mannerism, that late renaissance modus known for elongated forms, precariously balanced poses and a collapsed perspective--only hers is a psychological Pop Mannerism that explores the weirdness inherent in the all too familiar workaday world around us. ~Bookhardt
SECRET LIFE OF A PAPER DOLL: Paintings by Elizabeth Fox.
Through March
d.o.c.s., 709 Camp St., 524-3936,

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Breaking News: Dan Cameron Returns to CAC in New Role

2:30 PM: It's now official: The CAC announced today that "Dan Cameron, founder of Prospect New Orleans, will continue to work on the CAC's visual arts program through March 2011. Cameron’s new contract with CAC includes acting as curator for three exhibitions during its 2011 season, and overseeing installation of other visual art projects initiated during the past year. Cameron’s three forthcoming exhibitions include "Interplay," "Patterns and Prototypes" and "New Orleans Artists: Past and Present." The latter will be the first exhibition in the CAC's 35th Birthday Season. Cameron's extended role at CAC coincides with the Center's search for a full time Director of Visual Arts, a process that will begin in May, led by a Search Committee selected by CAC Executive Director Jay Weigel. Read More>>

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Whitfield Lovell at Arthur Roger; Visionary Art at Octavia

Whitfield Lovell collects old photographs of African Americans, often decked out in their finery and posed formally before the camera. Displaying deft draftsmanship, he recreates their images on old wooden planks and then incorporates antique symbolic objects in his eloquent sculptural assemblages. DEUCE, below right, is emblematic, a black couple from a century ago posed with a Victorian chair. Extending from the front of the sepia wooden planks is a tabletop covered in antique lace and vintage silverware. The vintage objects and eerily photographic images (click to enlarge) contribute to a resonant sense of “presence” that allows us entry into another time and place, one different from our own yet so
familiar that we can readily relate. Here we sense their uniqueness as well as something common to us all, and common to our own ancestors, regardless of time, place or ethnicity. In LENOX we see a nattily dressed dude looking dignified in a homburg and zoot suit atop a totem of vintage radios, and it’s easy to imagine a personal story for this possible jazz musician.  More unsettling is CUT, above right, a view of a black lady rendered on planks and framed by antique hatchets and old wallpaper. Lovell lets our imaginations wander in these skillfully crafted time capsules whose residents graciously invite us in without entirely obscuring their all too human undercurrents.
     Meanwhile, the Octavia Gallery features the work of outsider artists such as the late Reverend Howard Finster, who once saw a human face in his fingerprint that told him to make sacred art. Juanita Rogers was compelled by other spirits to make sculpture from mud and moss, bones and graveyard dirt, while Nola’s own Willie White saw visions of fantastic prehistoric birds, dragons and flying horses over Central City. Clearly mysticism is alive and well, and these artists, among others in this expo, are apparently happy to share it with us. ~Bookhardt

RECENT WORK: Mixed Media Assemblages by Whitfield Lovell
Through April 17
Arthur Roger Gallery, 432 Julia St., 522-1999,
VISIONS FROM THE SOUTH: An Exhibition of Outsider Artists
Through April 24
Octavia Art Gallery, 4532 Magazine Street, 309-4249;

The Brooklyn Rail Strikes Again: A Manifesto

Manifestos are rare in an age when critical theory serves as a trojan horse for marketing campaigns--but the Brooklyn Rail just took on the NY art establishment in an extraordinary (for NY) broadside. The essence of their argument:

Making something “out of intense personal necessity, often by hand” has repeatedly been denounced as old-fashioned, backward-looking, and, worst of all, romantic. Whether aligned with Plato, Kant, Marx, Freud, Benjamin, Saussure, Barthes or some combination of theoretically orthodox DNA, these zealots believe that anything made by hand is inferior to a product of the mind. This is the ghetto into which painting, drawing and sculpture, along with certain kinds of film and photography, have been driven, the door locked and the key thrown away...

It is by now routine for artists to make a name for themselves by carefully defining a practice affiliated with an established theory, albeit one diluted for easy consumption. Such a theory is often based on simplified assertions under the guise of semiotics: the delimitation of art’s purpose to an approved-of institutional critique and the assertion that art making must be deskilled. To put it plainly, making art by hand is forbidden. Read More>>

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Parallel Universe: Quintron & Miss Pussycat at NOMA

     Ever since the Dadaists burst upon the scene in the early 20th century, some artists have created works that were more like events than art objects, thereby challenging the viewer’s assumptions about what art is—or isn’t. Over the years, this approach made its way into the hallowed halls of museums, which helps to explain what multifaceted Nola artist-musicians Quintron and Miss Pussycat happen to be doing at the New Orleans Museum of Art. In the case of Panacea Theriac, aka Miss Pussycat, it is her puppets and videos that we see, but anyone who goes there during regular visitor hours may actually encounter the mysterious Mr. Quintron himself, surrounded by recording gear and many muses in the form of paintings from NOMA’s collection. He’s recording an album on location and has assembled an installation of his trademark Drum Buddy devices, which suggest how synthesizers might have looked had they been invented by Edison or Tesla with help from Joseph Cornell. In the midst of all this is an assortment of the late Mike Frolich’s vividly Dionysian Dadaist paintings such as JUDAS, below, from the collection of the Saturn Bar--in short, all the ingredients to create a euphonic Quintronic composition over the next few weeks, a slow motion performance in its own right. Will Quintron and his Drum Buddys become museum pieces or will the museum become a vast Moog synthesizer? Stay tuned.

     Over the years when Mr. Quintron was summoning the spirits of Edison, Tesla and Dr. Moog, Miss Pussycat was making puppets that turned out to have their own ideas about who was pulling whose strings. Their stories appear in the videos seen here, and if their fuzzy forms and bright colors seem surprising at NOMA, think again. In art, context is everything and Miss Pussycat’s puppets comprise a kind of Bywater equivalent of the Disney DREAMS COME TRUE expo downstairs—only here swamp critters and the Saturn Bar are the Magic Kingdom for the perennial children of the 9th Ward. ~Bookhardt
PARALLEL UNIVERSE: An Exhibition by Quintron and Miss Pussycat
Through April
New Orleans Museum of Art, City Park, 658-4100;

Mysteries of the Saturn Bar Revealed

O'Neil Broyard and former Saturn Bar resident artist Mike Frolich

by D. Eric Bookhardt
Dateline: Sometime in the 1980s

No doubt about it — something was happening in the back room of the Saturn Bar. While bursts of hammering did not disrupt the clubhouse atmosphere of the legendary 9th Ward repository of exotica, curiosity seekers did occasionally stroll back to see what owner O'Neil Broyard was up to.

"Whatcha doin', Neil? Installin' insulation?" asked a red-faced man in white overalls.

"Nah," replied the owner from atop a homemade scaffold. "This is gonna be a mezzanine art gallery. That's why I got extra help at the bar. I been tryin' to work on this art gallery all afternoon." Read More>>

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Action Alert: Severe State Arts Funding Cuts Proposed

Urge House Appropriations Committee to Reinstate Arts Grants Funding!

Please take three minutes to contact Committee Members NOW. Just go to Insert your Zip Code in the box under Take Action: Write Your Legislators.  Click "GO" and you will be taken to the ALERT page. Under State of Louisiana, click Take Action. You'll see the action alert at the top of the page and as you scroll down, you will see the MESSAGE to the members of the House Appropriations Committee. Scroll down to the Sender Information, If you have never sent a CapWiz message, you will need to complete the information requested. Once this is done, just hit "send message" and you're done! Don't forget to forward this message on to all your friends and other arts advocates. Remember, with your help we were able to have the arts funding reinstated last year. We NEED everyone's help again this year to do it again! Below is a detailed explanation of the current situation. Read More »

Cameron Rumors Confirmed

The rumors that had been churning since last weekend were confirmed this morning: Prospect.1 founder Dan Cameron leaving CAC

Haiti Artists Benefit Sat, March 6th-Barrister's 6-9pm

 Click to enlarge

Monday, March 1, 2010

Breaking News: Dan Cameron Leaving CAC???

Is Dan Cameron leaving the Contemporary Arts Center? His Facebook Wall asks: "Would New Orleans artists care much if I was no longer at CAC?"

 Facebook users click image for more