Sunday, June 12, 2011

Hansen and Sauer at LeMieux

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Once, not so long ago, in places like Chalmette, Marrero or even parts of Gentilly, local lawns were  miraculous places. There, on expanses of St. Augustine grass guarded by concrete gnomes and lawn jockeys, Virgin Marys routinely appeared amid stoic pink flamingos, colorful mirror balls and fanciful mosaic shrines cobbled from broken crockery. Changing tastes and Katrina's tidal surge swept much of it away, but all is not lost. The quest for kitsch is so deeply ingrained in our DNA that it's only natural for artists to heed the call, and Shannon Landis Hansen has transformed LeMieux into a near-psychedelic cornucopia of tchotchkes taken to the next level. For instance, WITHOUT A NET, above left, is a fully functional reprise of one of those fabulous fifties suburban kitsch lamps taken to diabolical extremes with masked, insanely contorted ballet dancers surrounded by a maze of ceramic shards, creepy clowns and fairytale figures in manic, hallucinatory clusters. Likewise, her RED CHAIR, bottom evokes a freakout at a Chinatown souvenir factory with ceramic mandarins, dragons and the like sprouting from crimson brocade on an actual chair that all but dares you to sit on it. More arts-for-arts-sake is A SHATTERING NOTE, top, as ceramic fragments appear reworked into a wacko wall sculpture that takes iconic kitsch to a Shangri-La level of cosmic irony where Wedgewood meets John Waters. Impressive stuff.

Christine Sauer's rather cellular looking fabric constructions are iconic in their own quiet way, with works in her CLUSTER series suggesting microscopic blowups of overlapping cell structures rendered as intricately stitched tapestries. The colors and needlework recall Central and Eastern European—especially Russian (think decorated Easter eggs)--folk arts, with hints of Native American bead work, but the cellular patterns appear universal, and there is an almost metaphysical sensibility of the micro and the macro, the earthly and the cosmic. Similarly, EMERGE/SUBMERGE (detail, above) transforms patterning that might be merely decorative into a wall hanging so contemplative that it borders on the mystical. The subtly, if intricately, haunting quality of many of these works makes for an auspicious return of Christine Sauer to the Julia Street gallery scene. ~Bookhardt

BREAKING MUSE: Ceramic Assemblages by Shannon Landis Hansen
TEXTILE CONSTRUCTIONS: Fabric Art by Christine Sauer
Through July 30
LeMieux Galleries, 332 Julia St., 522.5988;