Sunday, October 16, 2011

Wayne Gonzales at the New Orleans Museum of Art

 

Wayne Gonzales is one of the more interesting artists working in New York today. Although his reputation has steadily grown over years of exhibitions at the Paula Cooper Gallery in Manhattan,  where his work also appears in the Whitney, Guggenheim and Hirschhorn museum collections, his current NOMA expo is his first museum solo in the U.S. Why here? Although he has been more of a presence in the New York and London art scenes, Gonzales is a Nola native who grew up in the 9th Ward and Arabi and graduated from UNO. Born in 1957, his early years were affected by the assassination of president Kennedy and the subsequent investigation by then D.A. Jim Garrison, in part because his extended family overlapped with some of its colorful cast of characters. News coverage from the period inspired some earlier paintings such as PEACH OSWALD, bottom, but today he is better known for his monochromatic canvases of crowd scenes that evoke grainy and vastly enlarged blowups of news photographs.

Gonzales has used computers to shape his imagery since the early 1990s, and in emblematic works like SEATED CROWD, top, and CHEERING CROWD, above right, the shadowy forms of the spectators evoke those low res digital images that devolve into muddy contours when enlarged. Seen from a distance, their abstract blurs come together to radiate the eerie unpredictability for which crowds have been known since the gladiators of ancient Rome. Here we sense the muted, potentially explosive, emotions of the public spectacle as experienced at football games and political rallies, in images as ambiguous Rorschach blots and just as open to interpretation. RIGOLETS, above, is a coastal scene in yellow and green with vastly enlarged newspaper halftone dots, and it may elicit memories of happy days in fishing camps or, alternatively,  Jayne Mansfield's gruesome death on that same stretch of road. Gonzales is a virtuoso visual poet who employs mass media imagery to personalize the hopes, fears and eerie uncertainties that characterize American life in the early 21st century. ~Bookhardt



Wayne Gonzales: LIGHT TO DARK/DARK TO LIGHT, Through February 26, New Orleans Museum of Art, City Park, 658-4100; www.noma.org