Sunday, August 7, 2011

Robert Gordy and Tina Girouard at the CAC

Longtime curator and Prospect founder Dan Cameron has a knack for putting art in context, and this  Tina Girouard and Robert Gordy expo at the CAC is right on the money. Both artists helped shape the direction of American art, yet both became somewhat overshadowed. In the late 1960s, Girouard and fellow Louisianians Lynda Benglis, Dickie Landry and Keith Sonnier, helped launch post-minimalism in New York as a way of injecting sinuous, fluid lines into minimalism's stark rigidity. She and Nola native Kendall  Shaw were also seminal influences on the Pattern & Design, or P&D, movement in New York in the early 1970s. But one of the greatest P&D painters of all, Robert Gordy, remained in New Orleans until his untimely death at age 52 in 1986. Blending deco patterning with expressionistic and psychedelic flourishes, Gordy produced some of America's more charismatic paintings and prints of the period, and this show provides a welcome window on his and Girouard's accomplishments. Some of Gordy's best works are not on view here, but what we see at least hints at his scope and flair. In his 1981 NIGHT SCENE, top, the patterning and figures recall Keith Haring's early work of the period, but the craft and polish are more typical of Louisiana and European artists.

His 1971 LARGE STILL LIFE painting, bottom, of iridescent fruit amid concrete blocks suggests a Dutch master on acid, and a 1970 screen print, above, of his zany stylized nudes leaping blank blocks that resemble Donald Judd sculptures, is a sly critique of minimalist pretenses.

Tina Girouard replaced minimalism's hard edges with soft sinewy fabric and symbolic content in works like her CONFLICTING EVIDENCE tapestry, above. A seasoned performance artist, she collaborated with Laurie Anderson, Phillip Glass and many others who were part of her exotically patterned life. Many of her and Gordy's works look timeless and vital today while reminding us of Louisiana's major if often overlooked influence on modern American art history. ~Bookhardt

Patterns and Prototypes: Paintings and Mixed Meida Tina Girouard and Robert Gordy, Through Sept. 25, Contemporary Arts Center, 900 Camp St., 528.3805;