Sunday, August 21, 2011

UNO's New and Established Artists at Arthur Roger

 

When it comes to energy and influence, the University of New Orleans Art Department is sui generis. Beyond having its own satellite gallery on St. Claude Avenue and influencing many others in the area, UNO is also distinguished by its hyperkinetic cadre of artist alums who are sometimes as influential in New York and other art capitals as they are here. One time New York neo-geo avatar and current Yale painting department director Peter Halley is a case in point, and while unfortunately not represented here, he was a mentor to Nola native and UNO grad Wayne Gonzales, whose work now appears in top tier New York and London galleries. Gonzales is known for paintings of crowds , top, that suggest spectral afterimages of news photos, and in these works we sense the anonymous power of the collective id, as unpredictable and familiar as a summer storm. For his part, Gonzales was a mentor to current UNO graduate student Nina Schwanse when she attended Cooper Union in Manhattan. A Los Angeles native, Schwanse attempts to “restructure” the usual mass media narratives to create “disjunctive portraits that disappoint,” as seen in K-A-T-E (S), below, a video in which she rather brilliantly and entertainingly impersonates several celebrities named Kate (Gosselin, etc.) at their most inanely self-absorbed.

The further mingling of art stars Joseph Ayers, Marlo Pasqual and Megan Whitmarsh with emerging talents Jason Derouin, Sophie Lvoff and Aaron McNamee was intentional. All reflect UNO's typically offbeat approach to conceptual abstraction, with Whitmarsh's colorfully witty fabric sculpture, below, and McNamee's newsprint periodicals ossified into something akin to stone tablets, detail top right, among the especially emblematic examples. But the biggest surprise may be how polished these emerging artists' works look at the city's leading gallery, as opposed to their usual St. Claude Avenue haunts, where they often seem more experimental. Kudos to Arthur Roger and curator Jim Richard for that. It is an ironic truism that the secret to success is to make “art that looks like art,” and here we see some often familiar work presented in an artfully optimal new light. ~Bookhardt

COMMON GROUND: Group Exhibition Curated by Jim Richard, Through Sept. 12, Arthur Roger Gallery, 432 Julia St. 522-1999; www.arthurrogergallery.com