Sunday, November 28, 2010

Like a Prayer: Post-Feminist Art at Barrister's


Feminism ain't what it used to be. This show, originally intended as a survey of recent feminist art, quickly morphed into something else once the artist submissions started coming in. Consequently, curators Martina Batan and Andy Antippas decided to work with what they had in hand, which Antippas generalized as "women coping," citing the example of "a married woman's portrait of her former lesbian lover, or a woman with a chained up refrigerator preparing a meal of pills." Even as 1970s feminist art sells for increasingly higher prices, yesterday's ambitions seem to have subsided into the unsteady shuffle that is the 21st century so far, as agendas appear increasingly convoluted. Take Berlin-based Bob Tooke's painting I WAS HITLER'S BITCH, top. Here a bemused Fuhrer sits surrounded by four crudely painted babes named Gaga, Paris, Britney and Lindsay, and while they all look like airheads, none resembles their namesake. Are airhead babes just a cover for a fascist plot? Tooke's partner, Silke, offers few clues in THANK GOD WE NEVER MET, a painting of a woman pouring booze on her dog as space mutants crawl out from under her dress, which seems to be made of bricks.

But if meanings are elusive, there is no shortage of attitude in works like Nikki Crook's VENUS IN FURS portrait, above, of an elegant bohemian lady with a twisted expression. Likewise, Lilian Butter's RETRIBUTION painting of a goth gal with green skin, pink hair and blue nails carrying a bloody crowbar, is chilling. The same might be said for Raven Creature's painting of a nude pink zombie. But Chalmette -based Evelyn Cade's CONFUSION ON I-10 painting, left, of a woman wading in floodwater as she flashes her tits --as if for beads--as trapped storm survivors huddle forlornly on an I-10 up ramp, is a perfect metaphor for a decade when media circuses passed for news and flood victims were left to fend for themselves. For this, Cade must surely qualify as St. Bernard Parish's expressionist in residence par excellence. ~Bookhardt
LIKE A PRAYER: Reflections on the 21st Century Feminine, Through Dec. 31, Barrister's Gallery, 2331 St. Claude Ave, New Orleans, 504-710-2506;

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Multispecies Salon 3: Swarm

Of late, the St. Claude Avenue gallery openings have attained a kind of critical mass, with too much to see and too little time. And then, some events are in a constant state of flux, such as SWARM at Kawliga and the Iron Works (in conjunction with the American Anthropological Association convention), which explores relations between humans and other creatures. The most scientific stuff appears at Kawliga Studios. The absence of explanatory labels is puzzling, but the curators insinuate they did this to emphasize the evolutionary ephemerality of the work. Take the ANTI-RABBIT ART installation, a pop-surreal painting paired with a rabbit in a glass box. The painting incorporates blood used in the production of an anti-elephantiasis drug derived from the interaction of microbes, worms and rabbits with the aid of lasers, genetic engineering and the like. “Anti-rabbit” is geek code for a counteragent, and you have to feel for the bunny, who’d clearly rather be in a briar patch, but it’s all for a good cause. Elsewhere on a wall is a list of diseases and the code names of transgenic rats created with human DNA to produce drugs to fight deadly pathogens. Below the list are the cremated remains of the rats in beaded glass globes reliquaries. Then there are things that glow in petri dishes... well as works with related themes that look more like traditional art, but
you get the picture: you’re in over your head. Even so, it’s not a bad way to be disoriented. The more traditional surreal weirdo-art appears at the wondrous voodoo-science warehouse that is the Ironworks. Here we have whole new species such as David Hardegree’s multi-eyed flying demon fish, top left, hovering near an amazing Creole architectural mutant environment by Angela Eve Freese, top. Local artists including Miss Pussycat, Michel Varisco, Alan Gerson, Daphne Loney, Hannah Chalew and David Sullivan mix well with the international krewe of science-art spelunkers. A great show for anyone with an interest in mutants, artistic or otherwise. ~Bookhardt
Multispecies Salon 3: SWARM: Curated by Myrtle von Damitz, 
Marnia Johnston,  Nina Nichols,  Amy Jenkins and Eben Kirksey
Through Dec. 5
Kawliga Studios, 3331 St. Claude Ave & The Ironworks, 612 Piety St. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Swoon's Musical House

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 Musical Architecture for the Bywater by SWOON, Taylor 
Shepherd, Jayme Kalal, James K, Patrick Murray-Nellis
This  model represents a landmark, interactive, public sculpture by the artist Swoon. Swoon’s design is inspired by local architecture and New Orleans musical heritage. To that end, the building itself will become a musical instrument. Swoon’s local collaborators are mechanical artists who will build musical devices into the structure of the building that engage its resonance and form. Levers, pulleys, buttons and pedals will allow visitors to “play” the house.

Swoon is a celebrated street and installation artist known for intricate handmade boats that have floated the Mississippi, the Hudson River and most recently the Adriatic Sea and the canals of Venice during the 2009 Biennale.  As with the boats, the focus for our musical house is on salvaged materials, artistic and community collaboration, functional environments and interaction that involves sound and performance. The house will reside on Piety Street in Bywater, where we intend to present an ongoing series of annual block parties that host local and national musicians for orchestrated works that will be performed using the musical architecture of the house. The building will also be used as a unique artist residency space for artists participating in Airlift projects. The ground floor will function as a multi-use space for exhibitions, performances, and lectures that serve the wider community. A series of Swoon prints on found wood are available for sale with proceeds going towards the project. For more information on print sales or volunteer opportunities, contact info@neworleansairlift

The New Orleans Airlift would like to thank the following individuals and institutions for their ongoing support:  Wayne Troyer Architects,  Miranda Lash, Contemporary Curator, NOMA, The Old City Building Center, Tulane University, The New Orleans Arts Council, The Louisiana Decentralized Fund and the Black Rock Arts Foundation.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Shannon and Dary at Heriard-Cimino

Elizabeth Shannon is back. Not that she ever went anywhere, but her early reputation was based on Zen-like environmental installations of found objects that radiated the surreal “rightness” of the happy accident. Forays into conceptual postmodernism yielded fewer gems, but here she returns to what she does best. My favorites are the simplest. CIRCLE WITH HORN is a precisely constructed wooden circle, an antique “form” from which a metal machine part was long ago cast at one of the foundries that once dotted the riverfront. Within it, a steer horn reclines as comfortably as a cat on a windowsill, and there’s really nothing to it. Yet the old “form” and antique steer horn radiate the hyper-reality that only objects imbued with the unspoken weight of the ages can possess, and their union, like a found-object koan, evokes a sense of serendipitous predestination. In FLOW, an old wooden form like a cleaved aqueduct bearing a stream of rounded pebbles evokes the elemental tension between the age of steam and the natural forces of the river and the rocks it carries downstream. Some other pieces are fussier or more baroque, but there are more iconic “Shannons” in this rather meandering show than we have seen in some time. On the walls, some deeply hued photographs created via the cyanotype process suggest a promising new direction for her archaic-surreal aesthetic.
Beth Dary’s delicately crafted porcelain barnacles clustered along the walls are small and subtle even as they strikingly resonate the essence of barnacle-ness. They are also amazingly detailed, with a precision matched by her black and white encaustic and egg tempera drawing series of dots—like coral formations or meticulously calcified sea creatures—on paper. Both the drawings and installation are based on the way New Orleans and New York were shaped by the river and harbor in this ingenious expo of unlikely elemental elegance. ~Bookhardt

RIVER CULTURE: Sculpture and Photographs by Elizabeth Shannon
SURFACE TENSIONS: Porcelain Wall Sculpture and Drawings by Beth Dary
Through Nov. 30
Heriard-Cimino Gallery, 440 Julia St., 525-7300;

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Deja Vu All Over Again: Campbell and Vis at NOMA

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It's really just the two of them. Performance and multimedia artists Tony Campbell and Matt Vis have long appeared under their Generic Art Solutions (G.A.S.) imprimatur, but only in recent times have they seemingly multiplied in number. For instance, they once cast themselves in a photomontage rather like a local post-Katrina version of Leonardo’s LAST SUPPER, with beer-chugging disciples at a spread of boiled seafood next to a trailer. In BORDER PATROL, bottom, they portray illegal aliens confronted by rifle-pointing troops (also themselves) in a remake of Manet’s EXECUTION OF EMPORER MAXIMILLIAN. But their most spectacular effort is THE RAFT, top, a 16-foot long photomontage version of Gericault’s RAFT OF THE MEDUSA printed billboard paper. Inspired by the BP oil disaster and the workers killed or set adrift in the Gulf, it’s a lot like the 19th century original peopled by modern offshore oil rig workers—themselves again—thanks to Campbell’s persuasive way with Photoshop. Surrounding it in the gallery are photographs of empty sea and sky, and here their stark minimalism provides counterpoint to the overwrought scene on the raft. Nearby is their photographic remake of Francis Bacon’s painting based on Velasquez’ portrait of Pope Innocent X, only theirs is closer to the original, with a convict, below, in an electric chair in place of Pope Innocent on his throne.

    Other pieces employing alternative media include DOUBLE AGENTS, above, a silkscreen on stainless steel with Vis and Campbell as M-16 wielding paramilitaries rather like Blackwater mercenaries, or escapees from a James Bond thriller. A video of Campbell as a fashionable diner served by Vis as a nihilist waiter recalls classical European art cinema gone slapstick: as Vis hands him the bill, he yanks the tablecloth from under the dishes, sending them crashing. This too is a comment on careless corporations and the messes they make in the pursuit of profits, damage for which they appear increasingly confident that they will never really have to pay in full. ~Bookhardt

 DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN: Mixed Media Works by Tony Campbell and Matt Vis
Through Feb. 13.
New Orleans Museum of Art, City Park, 658-4100;

Tony Fitzpatrick on Art, New Orleans, Creativity and the Meaning of Community

November Moth--Click to Enlarge
"...Two years ago I made several moth pieces for my installation in Prospect.1 New Orleans, the inaugural New Orleans Biennial. It was an experience that fairly changed my life--kind of a Road to Damascus revelation. I like to think that I reclaimed my purpose as an artist there--the opening night of the installation for Prospect.1 was the best night of my life as an artist. My exhibition was hung in a defunct (or so we thought) funeral home in the Treme..." More>>