Sunday, March 20, 2011

Mhire at Martine Chaisson, Szczesny at Octavia


Herman Mhire had produced over 200 exhibitions by the time he retired from his post as Director of the Art Museum of the University of Louisiana, Lafayette, in 2005. He was a Distinguished Professor of the Visual Arts and a founder of the Festival International de Louisiane, and in 2004 France named him a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters. So one wonders, when viewing his large photographic portraits at Martine Chaisson, how he got so over the top. He did not deny that these portraits of well-known Acadiana artists resembled the art of the insane, but told us he took up Photoshop a few years ago after a series of unsettling events caused him to want to immerse himself in something new. Formerly an exponent of an ethereal photographic classicism, his new approach is like a classical pianist suddenly switching to death metal. So KELLY 2 becomes a horned demon with a goatee; RALPH 3, right, is a human hedgehog with swirling vortexes for facial features, LYNDA 2, left, a Rorschach blot wearing lipstick, and in FRANCIS 3, top, Francis Pavy is a glowing psychedelic avocado. A surprisingly effective outburst of digital Dadaism, this is what can happen when an elegant eye takes a walk on the wild side.

Stefan Szczesny started out in Germany's Junge Wilde or "Wild Youth" movement of the 1970s, which later evolved into Neoexpressionism, but today the Bavaria native lives in St. Tropez after following a wanderlust that took him to the Caribbean and other exotic places. These lush and breezy EARTHLY PARADISE tableaux recall Matisse in Nice or Paul Ninas in Martinique, and can be seductive for the way they capture the curiously feminine allure of those balmy climes where sea breezes caress the senses and even danger is cloaked in a subtly lulling aesthetic. Needless to say, they look right at home in New Orleans. ~Bookhardt        
ALTERED STATES: New Work by Herman Mhire, Through April 23
Martine Chaisson Gallery, 727 Camp St., 304-7942;
AN EARTHLY PARADISE: New Work by Stefan Szczesny, Through March 26
Octavia Art Gallery, 4532 Magazine St., 309-4249;