Sunday, April 25, 2010

Keller at UNO St Claude; Projection Bias at Antenna

Art writers don’t usually review graduate student shows, but some recent ones have been so striking that they break the mold and cause us to reconsider. Michelle Basta’s all too brief expo at Tulane’s Carroll Gallery was a case in point, as is Kourtney Keller's LUMENSECITY at UNO’s St. Claude Gallery, a show that takes us on some provocative explorations of the world around us. One video series features trains on which ghostly images of people, either running in place or making faces, were projected as the freight cars slowly creaked through Bywater Railroad officials did not understand what Keller was doing and were so
spooked that they told her to immediately cease and desist. Next to those videos is DRIVE IN EVITABLE MODEL TRAIN SET, an actual model train with a mini-projector flashing those same images on scale model freight cars. But another video, JEWEL SPEW takes us to a science fiction realm where an otherworldly female appears to be barfing diamonds as she sways her head from side to side. BEHIND BARS, right, features a black and white striped female trapped in a kind of bar-code fantasyland from beyond the looking glass. Keller excels at creating elaborate environments where electronic technologies reinterpret mundane realities as multi-layered mythologies.
     More video and mixed media works appear in PROJECTION BIAS at Antenna. Here Courtney Fathom Sell’s EROTIC SYMPHONY melds innocent, everyday images and porn-inspired sequencing in a video diptych reminiscent of early Stan Brakhage. Michael Anderson’s ENDLESS SUMMER, a video loop of flawlessly homogenous females modeling equally generic sportswear to the actual Endless Summer film soundtrack, contrasts neatly with NONETHELESS, Stephen Kwok’s video footage of female runners which highlights sexually ambiguous South African Gold Medalist, Caster Semenya, as some biologists on the soundtrack drone on about gender bending chemicals increasingly found in the environment. Curated by Robin Atkinson, PROJECTION BIAS explores the secret life of commonplace images.

LUMENSECITY: Recent Video and Mixed Media by Kourtney Keller
Through May 1  
UNO St. Claude Gallery, 2429 St. Claude Ave, 940-1109;
PROJECTION BIAS: Video and Optical Works Group Show
Through May 2
Antenna, 3161 Burgundy St., 393-5588;

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Schleh at Barrister's, Becker at d.o.c.s.

In times past, it was often said that “photographs never lie,” but one rarely hears that today in the age of Photoshop and widespread digital manipulation. But even in those “purer” times past, photographs sometimes stretched the truth. For instance, the “cabinet photo cards” of the 19th century featured subjects posing for portraits in their Sunday best, often in imposing or opulent settings that were actually painted backdrops like theater sets, allowing a farmer, baker or butcher to appear on par with dandies, aristocrats or bon vivants. New Orleans printmaker Karoline Schleh extends that theatrical sensibility by embellishing copies of such images with paint, pencil and varnish, transforming what was already somewhat fanciful into full-fledged magic realism. MIZZENMAST depicts a poetic young man in a purple coat wearing a hat that is actually a sailing ship, as large and colorful fish appear to swim in the air around him. Reverse handwriting rounds out the sense of an alternate reality, visions of a young Victorian opium eater, or what have you.

I LOVE MY WIFE, SHE’S A ROBOT is a variation of the commonplace married couple portrait. Here the wife sports a pair of decorous antennae as her well-dressed husband fondly embraces a remote control box in a kind of Jules Verne version of the STEPFORD WIVES. Some pieces appear with prose poems by Marcella Durand, lending an added dimension to the dreamy Dadaism of Schleh’s visual theater, her magical mystery tour of modified vintage photography.              

Theatrical sensibilities also characterize Jeff Becker’s sculptures of ordinary objects arranged in fantastical tableaux at d.o.c.s. These also hark to Dadaism and the mystical tradition of Hispanic retablos, or holy pictures. Here goblets have wings, cockroaches appear as saints in copper triptychs, and fighter jets circle fanciful place settings. A set designer by trade, as well as a sculptor, Becker unites his vocations in these dreamlike dramas enacted by everyday objects and devices.  ~Bookhardt

Through May 1
Barrister's Gallery, 2331 St. Claude Ave, 710-4506;
Jeff Becker: NEW WORKS
Through April 29
d.o.c.s. gallery, 709 Camp St. 524-3936;

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Prospect 1.5: A Talk With Dan Cameron

7:30 pm, Monday, April 12th
Good Children Gallery
4037 St. Claude Avenue
New Orleans

Jock Sturges' Controversial "Naturalism"

Despite his stature as an accomplished art photographer, Jock Sturges is a paradoxical figure. Although based on a sublime representation of nature, youth and beauty, his work can induce discomfiture, at least among Americans. Famous for his photographs of young people, especially girls on the cusp of womanhood, Sturges typically poses his subjects outdoors, often on beaches where the sand and sea set off the soft, sculptural contours of their budding femininity, which would be no problem if they were wearing anything at all, but most of them aren't. And while photo books featuring nudist families with kids were once commonplace, all that ended as the age of Oprah and openness led to the publicized child abuse scandals still ricocheting through mass media today, making any nude images of children a verboten subject—at least in America. Most Europeans take nudity in stride, leaving Americans to squirm confusedly when confronted with beautiful and beautifully photographed youths who happen not to be wearing anything.

A few are partially covered. In FLOSS ET MEGAN-TARA, MONTALIVET, FRANCE, an older and a very young girl appear huddled in a dark shawl or blanket, but Stuges’ typically tawny flesh and sun-bleached hair are present, as are the contemplative expressions. Some are seen over time. EVA, LE PORGE, FRANCE, above left, appears as a mythic nymph floating in a black and white sea in 2003, and then reappears in 2006, below, framed in a sunny window as an older, maternal woman arranges her golden tresses in the shadows behind her. She turns up again, in a spectacular 2009 image, top, as a mature young woman reflected in a mirror-like tidal pool while a very young girl stands as still as a statue nearby. And it’s hard not to think of mythic Greek deities transported to the coast of France in these oddly obsessive visions of stylized, idealized, and mostly very young and blond, French women at play--even as we marvel at how they function as Rorschach tests for whatever Americans project on them.
Through May 28
A Gallery For Fine Photography, 241 Chartres St., 568-1313,

Friday, April 9, 2010

Michele Basta at Carroll Gallery Through April 15

"The story-telling aspects of mythologies, legends and fairy tales are a predominant theme in my art, giving shape to mysterious forms. My works are amalgamated visions of dark and light. They are subversive narratives examining human and animal behaviors through nightmares and fears, coupled with absurdity and satire..." (Left: Sphinx.)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Chism at Ferrara; Estevez at Taylor Bercier

Sandy Chism paints images of roller coasters, bees and beehives, bucolic back yards and the tepid gray waves of lackadaisical seas in this cryptically titled SLIVER show. There is a pervasive shifting of scale, from micro to macro, in these pretty but perplexing juxtapositions of images that suggest visual puzzles, or even private jokes. In RUMBLE, a roller coaster ends abruptly in a slate colored patch of sky as detached banners flap in the breeze and mysterious globe-like orbs hover like gulls in an updraft. There are also polished steel panels featuring a fine scrimshaw of mysterious patterns behind shining silver studs that glimmer like little stars. What does it all mean? And should we be annoyed? In fact, there is a subtle order underlying the chaos in works like TENDING, where close-up views of bees in a honeycomb are joined by images of distant skyscrapers and a chain link fence bounding a funky front yard. Underlying her jarring and dystopian juxtapositions is a recurring pattern of interwoven matter and energy like a subliminal network that has the potential to knit things back together as life as we know it unravels all around us in a fatalistic, almost Walker Percy-ish sense of hope in the ruins.

Cuban-American artist Carlos Estevez explores the human experience through his remarkably inventive humanoid creations rendered in oil pigment and pencil on canvas. As schematic as architectural blueprints, yet as fantastical as visionary Victorian-era inventions, his marionette-like figures blur the boundaries between human role-playing and mechanical or structural engineering. In AMORES PARALELOS, a mechanistic male and female duo appear lost in their own little worlds as they play cellos that are also their torsos. In LA IDENTIDAD, a human head takes the form of archaic machinery and mysterious numerological diagrams in what amounts to an alchemical exploration of the human potential, or perhaps an algorithmic schematic of the imagination. ~Bookhardt

SLIVER:  New Paintings by Sandy Chism
Through April 14
Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, 400a Julia St., 522-5471;
SOLILOQUY:  New Work by Carlos Estevez
Through April 14
Taylor Bercier Fine Art, 233 Chartres St., 527-0072;