Sunday, September 26, 2010

No Dead Artists XIV at Jonathan Ferrara

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Meghan Boody's haunting Fujiflex photograph, Night is Generally My Time for Walking, depicts a young girl wandering nonchalantly across a grassy English landscape, blithely oblivious to a large, rambling and furiously burning manor house in the background. Inspired by 19th century children's books and Virginia Woolf's novel, To The Lighthouse, Boody's images feature dreamy eyed, seemingly lost Victorian era street urchins trying to find their way in an oblivious adult world of wealth and power in which they are all but invisible. More>>

Gina Phillips: The Call of the Alluvial Empire at Delgado; Crime Scene Nola: New Crime Photographs at Antenna

You might call this a high concept show that celebrates the swampy lowlands of South Louisiana. “The Call of the Alluvial Empire” was the title of a pamphlet put out in 1919 to attract labor to the region. In fact, waves of immigrants had already arrived only to deal with the inundating waves of hurricanes as well as the meandering Mississippi and other rivers that until relatively recently had a bad habit of suddenly changing course. Gina Phillips' obsessively stitched fabric paintings make up an impressionistic slice of life in a region where the tides never rest. SALVAGE OPERATION depicts a cutaway view of the Mississippi with docks and bridges above as a deep-sea diver below pokes through a watery graveyard of junk and sunken ships, long lost houses and even the remains of formerly buried British casualties in the War of 1812 who were swept under when the river changed course. Other scenes such as ROGUE WAVE, top, and THE ARROW OF TIME IS A LIE, above left (detail), are more bucolic, but all comprise a series of narrative paintings skillfully cobbled from colored thread in a spate of flamboyant embroidery.

    CRIME SCENE NOLA features documentary images by local photographers Deborah Luster, Amanda Clifford, Jarrid Clinkenbeard, Michelle Kowalski and Jason Prowell. Of particular interest is the work of Deborah Luster, whose eerie, large format, circular photographs of murder sites take up most of the main gallery space. These relatively desolate interiors and exteriors were photographed some time after the stunned neighbors, bereaved relatives and of course the body of the victim, typically riddled with bullets, have all departed, leaving nothing but the mute emptiness that hangs over such places like a pall. A related monograph is forthcoming from Twin Palms Publishers. Proceeds from the sale of these works will benefit the production of the documentary "Murder Through the Eyes of a Child," which examines the violence faced by this city's young people on a daily basis. Scrub Brush Productions teamed up with seven local teens to document their lives and unique perspectives, to show a reality that is not widely known or understood by the general population, and to find ways to stop the violence. For more information contact Scrub Brush Productions at
THE CALL OF THE ALLUVIAL EMPIRE: New Fabric Art by Gina Phillips
Through September
Isaac Delgado Gallery, 615 City Park Ave., 361-6620;
CRIME SCENE NOLA: Photographs Reflecting Social Pathologies
Through October 3
Antenna Gallery, 3161 Burgundy St, 250-7975;

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sailing to Byzantium + New Orleans Mountain Project

William Butler Yeats' SAILING TO BYZANTIUM poem is a whimsical rumination on old age infused with many mythic references. This Good Children expo extrapolates those themes into a meditation on human frailty, tackiness, weird aquariums, beginnings, ends and erratic interludes. MULTIPLE LINES OF IDYLLE COLORS, right, by Bryan Guidry and Philippe Landry is a leaning tower of kitsch, a totem of bric-a-brac shelves bristling with ceramic saints, elves, busts of Elvis, Jesus, you name it, all accompanied by an endless sound loop distilled from a minimal snippet of Wagner's SIEGFRIED IDYLL. The result is a kind of aesthetic mulch, a thrift-store Götterdämmerung. Show curator Adrian Price's mixed media mural extends the "love in the ruins" theme with passionate scenes on the floor of a domestic interior devolving into a mass media afterimage of pop-cultural memory. Minka Stoyanova's FLEE, left, depicts a unicorn-headed majorette bursting through concrete walls, a gesture of mythic renewal in the form of an equine Wonder Woman.  Jeremy Pelt's COOL WATER, below, is a cologne-scented aquarium radiating a deadly golden glow inspired by Yeats' expressed desire to be reincarnated as a hammered gold bauble. Colorfully related works by Jessica Bizer, Rachel Jones and Sophie Lvoff round out this eloquently improbable expo.

     The adjacent NEW ORLEANS MOUNTAIN PROJECT explores what mountains might mean to New Orleans. Curated by Serbo-Croatian Nola resident Srdjan Loncar, it features works such as Icelandic artist Bjarki Bragason's anti-mountain manifesto, a horizontal line bounded by two poems--a notion echoed by local artist Robert Tannen's assertion that mountains should rise horizontally in the linear form of levees, or expansively in the inverted form of lakes and swamps. Baltimore artist Alyssa Dennis proposes a mountain of organic gardens for those who lack access to veggies, while Gordon Matta Clark-inspired Chilean artist Sebastian Preece espouses a "geography of books" composed of ossified tomes such as the one seen in the above print, to elevate the imagination and penetrate the limits of knowledge. Now to get the Army Corps or Engineers to pay for it... ~Bookhardt

SAILING TO BYZANTIUM: Group Show Inspired by William Butler Yeats
NEW ORLEANS MOUNTAIN PROJECT: Group Show Inspired by Mountains
Through Oct. 3
Good Children Gallery, 4037 St. Claude Ave., 616-7427;

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Rachel David at Coup, Mitchell Lonas at Bienvenu

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It's the dog days of summer. Evening lows bottom out at 80 degrees and the sky's the limit for the highs. Most people try to stay air-conditioned. Rachel David heads for her blacksmith forge where metal is heated until it glows red--hotter than Hades--and yields to the persuasion of blunt instruments. A bon vivant workaholic, David is better known than her art, but that should change with her first solo show at Coup, an agglomeration of delicately poetic heavy metal baroque dadaism with the occasional art nouveau flourish. Although there are some useful objects like tables and picture frames (with collaborative photos and woodwork by Jayme Kalal and Jesse Stotzfus), the metal sculptures are the main course here. The title piece, MOUTH ENVIRONMENT, top (detail), is a wall-mounted bas relief with elaborate filigree and surface effects including scallops like eye sockets, mouths, or orifices for unknown biological functions, and the effect is somehow simultaneously medieval, art nouveau and extraterrestrial. Many of the freestanding sculptures such as TETHERED (above right) allude to this city’s pervasively sinewy vines and botanical life. Stylistically they fall somewhere between Belle Epoque Paris and THE INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, but in David’s hands the effect is organic, holistic, and often elegant. And if it’s hard to know exactly what she’s doing, it’s fair to say that she does it thoroughly,  arduously, and with a finely wrought flair. 
    Although he also works in metal, Mitchell Lonas’ WRENCH SERIES is very different indeed. Inspired by swallows’ nests found in the Smoky Mountains, Lonas developed a technique for delicately incising painted metal with abrasives to achieve a similarly gossamer effect in the creation of his own series of nests. Shimmering like fiber optics, they challenge the viewer to provide his or her own answers to what is real and what is illusion, what is nature and what is artifice, what is life and what is art. ~Bookhardt
Through Sept. 25
Coup d' oeil Art Consortium, 2033 Magazine St., 722-0876;
Through Sept. 25
Gallery Bienvenu 518 Julia St., 525-0518;

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Interplay: Alternative Portraiture at the CAC

When photography first got popular over a century and a half ago, its widespread appeal was based on its ability to render a likeness quickly and accurately. But soon all sorts of painted backdrops and optical tricks were used to embellish some things and conceal others, so portrait photography has been both a mirror and a masquerade. INTERPLAY, a photo-portrait show at the CAC, leans toward the latter. For instance, Phyllis Galembo’s images of costumed black folk in Haiti and Africa focus on traditional masking rituals. In LES INDIANS, some Haitian boys appear in carnival-like Indian costumes, yet their approach to body painting harks, unconsciously perhaps, to Africa. In BABY DANCE OF ETIKPE, top, we see an adult couple peering through eye slits in the vivid African fabrics that cover them from head to toe, a totally surreal scene that is actually a traditional ritual from the Cross River region of Nigeria. Like Irving Penn before her, Galembo fuses anthropology with a high fashion aesthetic. A different kind of ritual appears in Sonja Rieger’s backstage photos of transsexual beauty pageant contestants, below right. Situated somewhere between portrait and documentary photography, her large and vividly detailed images crackle with a crisp, if campy, Dionysian electricity.

     If the claim that “photographs don’t lie” was always a stretch, the advent of Photoshop was its coup de grace. What Herman Mhire does with it is radical by any standard, turning portraits of friends into fright masks and transmogrifications like BOB 2, upper left, a visage demonic enough to give the Notre Dame cathedral gargoyles a run for their money. But reality has many shades of meaning, as we see in Kevin Kline’s classic street photos of Bywater folk including a couple of guys sharing a joint and a couple posing with power tools. Then there’s the bedraggled elderly guy in a dress and sunbonnet posed in front of Frady’s corner store on Piety Street, and what can you say? Sometimes truth is stranger than Photoshop. ~Bookhardt

INTERPLAY:  Photographs by Phyllis Galembo, Kevin Kline, Herman Mhire and Sonja Rieger
Through Oct. 24
Contemporary Arts Center, 900 Camp St., 528-3805;