Sunday, April 3, 2011

Then & Now at the Contemporary Arts Center

Konsa by Keith Sonnier--Click Images to Expand
In the mid-1970s a group of local artists had an idea: why not stage an art show in an underutilized old building and throw a party with live music at the opening? So they did just that and a grand time was had by all. One thing led to another and in 1976 the Contemporary Arts Center was born in a huge old warehouse donated by Sidney Besthoff. Flash forward 35 years and much has changed. Most of the artists are still around, the old warehouse is all spiffed up, and the CAC is part of the establishment. Then and Now, curated by Dan Cameron, explores what remains and what has changed in the art and artists that defined the Center's funky but fertile early years.

CAC co-founder and proto-conceptual artist Robert Tannen's new piece is an electric clothes dryer filled with house-shaped blocks of wood. Turn it on and it roars like a hurricane. An earlier 54 foot long hammock-like concoction made from steel and aluminum panels, above--was more hopeful, a bridge for spanning expanses of the imagination, but his Zen-like modus operandi is much the same.

Similarly, in Douglas Bourgeois' recent work his subjects are as exotic as they were in his funky 1978 Twilight High painting of students in an imaginary Cajun high school yearbook, only now they're rendered in the dazzling style of a renaissance master on mushrooms as we see in Iko Ikon, above. Robert Warrens, Jim Richard and Clifton Webb remain true to imagism, and in the work of Wayne Amedee, Dawn Dedeaux, George Dureau (Ali, below left), Lin Emery, Gene Koss, Martin Payton, and Elizabeth Shannon (Raft of the Medusa in Drydock, below), evolutionary refinement amid continuity prevails.

Lynda Benglis's elegant knots are still elegantly knotty, and Keith Sonnier's 2009 neon sculpture, Konsa, top, may be even more true to his baroque Louisiana roots than his work of the late 1960s was when he and Benglis melted the hard edges off minimalism and launched postminimalism on the world art map. ~Bookhardt

THEN AND NOW: 35th Anniversary Exhibition of Works by 14 Artists, Through June 12
Contemporary Arts Center, 900 Camp St., 528-3805;