Sunday, May 29, 2011

Barsness and Gunning at Roger; Flisiuk at Barrister's

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James Barsness is an amazing painter, but his artistic vision is so quirky it's almost cryptic. Here the world's myths and religions are intricately woven into convoluted painterly mashups that suggest a psychedelic cartoon version of the Gnostic Gospels --or the Bhagavad Gita in works like HANUMAN'S RESCUE, above, where the Hindu monkey god occupies a compositional mosh pit with elephants and metaphysically suspect characters. If Barsness' bravura way with paint draws you in, his  perverse nihilism may creep you out; WEIGHT LOSS JESUS depicts humanity's savior looking fey and peaked as pervy mutants do weirdo pervy mutant dances on and around his supine form, while in ADAM AND EVE the Garden of Eden looks more like Br'er Rabbit's proverbial briar patch as more pervy mutants and a serpent wearing horn-rim glasses cavort through the thicket like demons on doomsday. Ultimately, all we can really say is that, while it's hard to fathom exactly what Barsness is doing, we can probably  conclude with some certitude that he does it very well.

When it comes to sheer weirdness, the only currently available comparison can be found in Marcel Flisiuk's paintings at Barrister's. They may also creep you out, but at least he doesn't mess with religions, focusing instead on Nola as it appears to his peculiar Polish expat sensibilities. Imagine a Franz Kafka version of the French Quarter populated by golems and gremlins, and you've got the general idea. For instance, JAMMED, left, his vision of Vieux Carre streets clogged with blocky vehicles and zombie drivers, suggests a futurist nightmare by a Creole Stanislaw Lem. And then there's his his hallucinatory CITY OF EDEN painting of a dystopian Nola cityscape, above, a strangely complex work by an artist whose novel vision is more idiosyncratic than most.

Back at Arthur Roger, Simon Gunning's paintings and drawings look picturesque, but they also withstand deeper scrutiny because he has, over time, mastered the rendering of how varieties of light interact with local waters and the life forms they engender. Throw in the massive, sometimes moldering, industries along the river and it's an exotic mix that pushes beyond the limits of literal realism, and indeed it is hard to think of any artists today who display a more lucid way with the dynamics of sea, sun, and occasional incandescence, as they appear in this swampy coastal region. ~Bookhardt
POSTCARDS FROM PLAQUEMINES: Paintings and Drawings by Simon Gunning; PAINTINGS: New Paintings by James Barsness, Through June 25, Arthur Roger Gallery, 432 Julia St. 522-1999;
NEW WORK: New Paintings by Marcel Flisiuk Through June 11, Barrister's Gallery, 2331 St. Claude Ave, 710-4506;