Friday, December 31, 2010

MOMA No Longer Dead--But What Is It???

by Roberta Smith

WHEN I walk through the Museum of Modern Art these days, it sometimes feels as if the place has come back from the dead — even if I’m not always so crazy about the life it happens to be leading. There’s often a confusing, disjunctive quality to it, especially where contemporary art is concerned, as the museum’s programming lurches from crowd-drawing, performance-art spectacles in the atrium to relatively dry and didactic exhibitions in its galleries. But at least there’s a pulse. The museum feels much, much more animated than it did back in 2005 and ’06, when it — and we — were first adjusting to its slick new home on West 53rd Street... Like many museumgoers I can feel deeply ambivalent about what goes on in the atrium — variously vexed, seduced, pandered to, alienated and moved. Still, I think its transformation counts as progress. At least now, instead of worrying about the Modern’s vital signs, we can worry once more about what it is and isn’t doing, about the new life it has taken on. More>>

Sunday, December 26, 2010

2010 The Year That Was: Changes at the Top


The New Orleans art scene has long appeared so stable and cohesive as to seem nearly immune to the wild ups and downs of major art capitals like New York--until this year. But 2010 has been a doozy in any number of ways, especially at the institutional level, where there were many changes at the top, some very sudden. As far as local artists and galleries were concerned, the situation was more normal as the scene continued to expand, in some ways exponentially, as three major art events, Prospect.1.5, Des Cours and PhotoNOLA all overlapped in December, with PhotoNOLA alone staging over 50 exhibitions such as Priya Kambli's COLOR FALLS DOWN expo, above, at Antenna. As in years past, especially since Katrina, many young artists continued to move here, and new art spaces, including the deluxe Martine Chaisson Gallery in the Arts District, popped up. And our best-known galleries all survived another year despite a bad national economy that was locally exacerbated by a major environmental catastrophe. Chalk it up to New Orleans exceptionalism, the intangibles of a culture based more on love than money.  
     One of the earlier transitions this year was the resignation of Joy Glidden from her post as director of Louisiana Artworks, the big multipurpose art facility on Lee Circle. Credited with successfully overseeing its emergence as a force in the local art world, Glidden is now the director of the public television series Art Index TV. Current Louisiana Artworks' acting director Ariel Brumley wants people to know, "We are open, but most of our resources are going toward completing construction on the upper floors that had been delayed, after which we will conduct a search for a full time director. We have PhotoNOLA's PICTURES OF THE YEAR INTERNATIONAL photography show in the gallery, and the Community Printshop under the direction of Meg Turner maintains its full schedule of activities."  
     When it comes to making news, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art has long been a leader. Late last year its longtime director, Richard Gruber, resigned amid rumors that the Ogden was in financial trouble, and in fact a state audit confirmed that it was. The audit, released last month, dated from 2009, and last year the Ogden hired Lisa McCaffety as chief operations officer to bring some order to finances that had suffered since hurricane Katrina. When the audit went public last month, board chairman Julia Reed was able to quickly announce that its findings were old news and that the museum had balanced its books and restructured its debt. Then on December 10, Reed announced that longtime curator David Houston, who with McCaffety had been appointed co-director just last January, had resigned. She offered no specifics, saying she did not want to speak for him, but McCaffety stated that it was not related to museum finances. Houston, who declined to comment, was known for his comprehensive curatorial insight into how old and new, modern and traditional Southern art fit together, as well as for his ability to stage high quality shows on a shoestring budget, so art lovers were left scratching their heads and wondering if finding a curator as well suited to the Ogden's unique needs might be easier said than done. Reed told us that former director Rick Gruber would be working with acting curator Bradley Sumrall, and that we would be seeing more exhibitions featuring the paintings of Ogden board member William Dunlap, which seemed to occur all the time back when Gruber was in charge, among other new shows planned for 2011. Continued: Click for More>>

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Along the PhotoNOLA Trail, Uptown

Click Images to Expand
The 5th annual PHOTONOLA may be officially over, but most of its over 50 exhibitions continue on. The diversity is mind boggling, but many of the Uptown venues share a related theme in the form of the Southern landscape and its people. LOUISIANA AND TREES at Sibley Gallery features work in various media, but the photographs by Wanda Boudreaux, left, Joshua Pailet, Richard Sexton and Michel Varisco are thoughtful evocations of trees as the poetic inflection points of the region's geopsychic terrain. Those images are serendipitously complemented by Natasha Sanchez's evanescent lumen prints of local flora at the Julie Neil Gallery, while, in a very different vein, Stacy Kranitz' photos of fighting cocks and their owners, below, at the Big Top, provide a psychically complex yet oddly engaging look at Louisiana's once emblematic, now outlawed, blood sport. At Cole Pratt, Leslie Addison and George Yerger's sepia prints of old weathered buildings, top, and ghostly vistas convey the timeless elemental qualities of the region and its landscape. Yet, while the ambrotype photographs by Euphus Ruth at the Kevin Gillentine Gallery are related in theme, his uniquely woozy, wet-plate collodion images of the Mississippi Delta, below left, suggest surreal flashbacks into the psyche of the place, while hinting at what a Clarence John Laughlin-William Faulkner collaboration might have looked like. At Du Mois, Kathleen Robbins' straight color documentary images of the Delta provide a yang counterpoint to Ruth's yin. But when it comes to inexplicably dreamy imagery, it's hard to top the Katrina doll x-ray photographs by Lisette de Boisblanc at Coup d'Oeil. Her aunt's antique dolls drowned in the floodwater, but an acquaintance just happened to have an old x-ray machine that gave them a haunting new life. Striking works by Grissel Guiliano, Angela Berry, Maggie Covert and Terry DeRoche round out the show. Striking too are the SOUTHERN ISOLATION images by Eric Paul Julien, below, and Anna Hrnjak at Poet's Gallery, Jennifer Shaw's HURRICANE STORY at Guthrie Contemporary and Colin Miller's faux news photos at the Darkroom--but this only scratches the surface of PHOTONOLA's latest imagistic tsunami. ~Bookhardt
PHOTONOLA 2010: Selected Uptown Venues, Closing Dates Variable
For Venue Information See:    

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Charbonnet at Arthur Roger; Cundin at Bienvenu

Jose Maria Cundin is elusive, chimerical; he has exhibited here since the 1960s but is rarely seen. A one time resident of Broadmoor who now lives in Folsom, he spent a number of years in Miami in between. His work is also slippery, and his TWELVE ANTI-PORTRAITS show is aptly titled because the images are totally abstract, depicting no one's actual appearance. But Cundin is a master colorist, and color is a quality of light, and light is what people radiate. While no one's visage is actually visible, Cundin gives us the colors of his subjects' personalities instead, like a collection of so many painterly mood rings. So CHAVEZ, WHY DON'T YOU SHUT UP?, top, is an uneasy agglomeration of red, green and tangerine blobs shifting disconsolately and radiating the kind of unholy crimson glow that we might expect from Venezuela's caffeinated loose cannon president.  But in CARLOS GARDEL SINGING "MUNECA BRAVA," left, the articulated blobs seem to almost gyrate in harmony with the music of the legendary Argentine tango singer-songwriter. And RUBEN DARIO OBSERVING HIS OWN BRAIN is complex, as introspection often is, even for the esteemed Nicaraguan founder of Latino literary modernism. Here Cundin gives us a non-objective new form of biographical history painting that relies solely on a visual lexicon of cellular forms and irradiated colors to convey the essential character of his subjects. And once again the canny Basque expatriate escapes any further attempt to define him. 

      Nicole Charbonnet is concerned with images not so much for what they represent as what they symbolize. Her images are iconic, or rather they reflect what is left of iconic forms after time, the elements and erosion--both elemental and mental--have taken their toll. Some things remain but some things are lost as yesterday's symbolic forms erode into today's artifacts in the cultural slurry of images that have outlived their original purpose but linger on to haunt the visual milieu all around us. Here she focuses on flowers. ERASED PICASSO is a play on Robert Rauschenberg's once scandalous gesture of erasing a DeKooning drawing that he then exhibited as a kind of nihilist homage to the ab/ex master. Picasso's iconic pair of hands holding flowers comprises the rare example of his work that comes across as a universal gesture, an image visited and revisited by millions of transient eyes. While the act of looking does not in itself erode images, mass viewing repeated over time affects the way we perceive them, making them slowly fade in consciousness. Here the palimpsestic surfaces and abraded boundaries allow space for a more personal interpretation, so forms that might have become too familiar may be recognized as unique and mysterious once again. ~Bookhardt
FLOWERS: Mixed Media Paintings by Nicole Charbonnet, Through Dec. 24
Arthur Roger Gallery, 432 Julia St. 522-1999;
TWELVE ANTI-PORTRAITS: New Paintings by Jose-Maria Cundin, Through Jan. 29 

Gallery Bienvenu 518 Julia St., 525-0518;

Interview: Postmodern Photo Pioneer Bernard Faucon

by D. Eric Bookhardt

When Bernard Faucon first appeared on the photography scene in the late 1970s, he was considered a paradoxical figure. Working in a medium that was long associated with "truth," he was a master of stagecraft and a certain flamboyant artifice. In a medium known for humanism, his subjects were mostly mannequins... The popularity of his work quickly soared in Europe and Asia--especially in Japan, where his photographs inspired a TV series featuring a family of mannequins, "the Faucons." More>>

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Brown-Green & Saratoga Collections at the Ogden

The Michael Brown and Linda Green Collection, one of the first major donations to the Ogden Museum after its inception, captures much of the spirit of New Orleans art from the sixties through the nineties. Many top artists were emerging when tech entrepreneur Michael Brown and his spouse, Linda Green, discovered them, and this expo offers a glimpse into their slow brew process of connoisseurship. It's also nostalgic. Few artists epitomize the wacky visionary side of Nola art more than the late Noel Rockmore, and the small sample here complements his haunting PRESERVATION HALL PORTRAITS mini-expo in the adjacent gallery. Then there is Peter Dean, whose carnivalesque expressionism was better received here than back home in New York. Also evident is the pervasive influence of Louisiana Imagist painters like Robert Warrens, whose I CRIED A RIVER OVER YOU manic-aquatic interior seascape, above right, compares with anything produced by the Chicago Imagists. Similarly, Fred Trenchard's quirky 1970s Imagist paintings neatly encapsulate the tenor of the times. While there is much interesting work on view, it was especially nostalgic to once again peruse the New American Scene paintings of Justin Forbes, who after a post-Katrina week in the Superdome landed in Denton, Texas, where he remains. His 1990s Nola hipster canvases like ROAD TRIP, pictured, are lushly executed evocations of the period, like a latter day Jack Kerouac worldview on canvas.

     The Saratoga Collection, curated by Terrence Sanders for Marcel Wisznia's Saratoga Building project, focuses on edgy and urbane imagery. The 41 mostly emerging artists are mostly associated with the St. Claude arts district and comprise a surprisingly cohesive mix ranging from Rex Dingler's red splattered "Somewhere in the City this Blood is Real" stenciled sign-painting to Generic Art Solutions' fluorescent "OK" wall sculpture. There are also a number of photographs, videos and some more painterly mixed media pieces and canvases such as Robin Durand's pop-baroque Tide piece above, but most works convey a graphic edge that is as passionately opinionated as the city that inspired them. ~Bookhardt 
Click Here for Interview: Michael Brown on Collecting 
The Michael Brown and Linda Green Collection, Through Jan. 2
The Saragoga Collection of 41 New Orleans Artists, Through Dec. 15
Ogden Museum of Southern Art, 925 Camp St., 539-9600,

Friday, December 3, 2010

New Goth Louisiana Flag Harks to Templars, Masons

The newly revamped, and notably more Gothic, Louisiana state flag, featuring an angular pelican tearing its bleeding breast to feed its young, was unveiled during the swearing-in ceremonies of Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne on November 22. The design is somewhat akin to the 1912  flag currently in use, only now the state bird is more like the European pelican of the Knights Templars above the entrance to their Chapel of the Holy Blood in Bruges, Belgium. Built in the 12th century, the chapel houses magico-religious relics brought by the "heretical" Templars from Jerusalem. More>>