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

Karoline Schleh:  STARE: WHAT WILD NEW WORLD IS THIS?
Through May 1
Barrister's Gallery, 2331 St. Claude Ave, 710-4506; www.barristersgallery.com
Jeff Becker: NEW WORKS
Through April 29
d.o.c.s. gallery, 709 Camp St. 524-3936; www.docsgallery.com