Sunday, December 25, 2011

New Orleans Art: The Year in Review


It's been a hell of a year. That can be taken in any number of ways, but what stands out is that more changes have occurred in this city's art scene over the past 12 months than would typically take place over many years in more normal times. And if local galleries maintained their usual stable status, 2011 was a mixed bag for arts institutions as directors and curators came and went. Champagne corks popped at some even as others bled red ink. In this we were hardly unique—arts institutions all over the world are still reeling from the global financial meltdown--and if some crises lead to surprise opportunities, not everyone saw a silver lining. More>>

Occupy Wall Street: Carnivalesque as Protest

By Claire Tancons

While some commentators and journalists have dismissed Occupy Wall Street as carnival, lawmakers and police officers did not miss the point. They reached back to a mid-nineteenth century ban on masking to arrest occupiers wearing as little as a folded bandana on the forehead, leaving little doubt about their fear of Carnival as a potent form of political protest. New York Times journalist Ginia Bellafante initially expressed skepticism about “air[ing] societal grievance as carnival,” but just a few days later she warned against “criminalizing costume,” thus changing her condescension to caution as she confirmed the police’s point: masking can be dangerous, Carnival is serious business. More>>
Night Walk by Myrtle von Damitz

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Ambient Video and Mixed Media at the Pearl

It's a 200 year old farm house posing as a nondescript Bywater residence. It has served as a private salon and performance hall for owner Jay Poggi and his friends for over 20 years, and it has long been filled with weird wonders and curiosities. Now functioning as a satellite facility of Prospect.2, it has also become an exhibition space for an eclectic assortment of art works curated by John Otte. Because it was so already densely populated with quaint and improbable objects, most of the new art takes the form of video projections that can be beamed into the rare empty spot, or into existing fixtures like the antique bathtub that is now filled with  Courtney Egan's sublime time-lapse video of night blooming cereus flowers, above left, slowly unfolding in perpetual electronic efflorescence. It would probably be a great piece anywhere, but in that tub in the shadowy gloom it is magical. In similar fashion, the cracked plaster wall where Lee Deigaard's STEADY STAR video animation, top, of a trotting horse is projected gives it the mystical aura of a cave painting or Etruscan fresco come to life. And Adrina Adrina and Elliot Coon's WARRIOR video loop of mustachioed Amazon women in the buff hints at a feminist take on Robinson Crusoe in their darkened corner of the space, while THE CAGE video by Kenyan-German duo Ingrid Mwangi and Robert Hutter would be creepy under any circumstances, but in the dungeon gloom of a disheveled shed structure the ghost of Hitchcock seems to lurk in the shadows. Also lurking in the recesses was Jennifer Odem's curious FLORA PEARLINIOUS plaster sculpture like a baroque inner organ surgically removed from a humanoid extraterrestrial giant, an object of contemplation and wonder. Three years in the making, this exhibition was intended by curator John Otte to integrate contemporary art with something of the baroquely eclectic and eccentric culture of the city, which the Pearl embodies like a Creole bohemian time capsule. ~Bookhardt

Constant Abrasive Irritation Produces the Pearl: Mixed Media and Video Exhibition, Through Jan. 29, The Pearl, 639 Desire St., 404-840-2628

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Fox at Chaisson; Bourghog Guild at 1022 Gallery


When painter Elizabeth Fox lived here years ago, she worked in an office and observed corporate social behavior with the eye of anthropologist. She saw how products are marketed and how sleekly attractive employees become social commodities. Here her edges were softened by Nola's innate baroque funk, but when she landed in Maine after Katrina, her figures inexplicably assumed a kind of California cool, as if Barbie and Ken had grown up to become corporate publicists in Hollywood. This is expressed in 4:30 FRIDAY, above, a visionary mannerist painting of three male success objects exiting an elevator into a reception room occupied by two efficiently sleek female executive-secretary sex objects. Coexisting with memos and flow charts are the manicured primal urges and pertly nuanced gestures that comprise the workaday rituals of our time. In REVOLVING DOOR, similar figures pass in as if in a trance, but the profile portrait LIZ IN THE WIND, right, epitomizes the flawlessness of a 21st century Venus-- the masterpiece of a veritable Botticelli of plastic surgery, as eternal as the tepid sea lapping the listless shore in the background.

All of which stands in stark contrast to the revelations presented in the Bourghog Guild's artifacts from a lost civilization at the 1022 Gallery in Carrollton. Rendered in a post-punk dadaist style of mixed media installations and apocalyptic pronouncements in a style self-described as "a vulgar and baroque spirit... a quasi-psychedelic southern head-trip," these untitled works present us with evidence of a parallel universe that is imploding even as our own familiar world of increasingly robotic global markets becomes an ever more virtual reality made up of inexorably connected electronic gadgets. But somewhere beneath America's anonymous suburban malls the ancient demons are stirring, and this Bourghog presentation, a visual extrapolation of a classic R&B aphorism, is intended as a warning that time may be on their side after all. ~Bookhardt

STAMINA IN THE DREAM HOUSE: Recent Oil paintings and sculpture by Elizabeth Fox, through Jan. 28, Martine Chaisson Gallery, 727 Camp St., 302-7942;
THE VELVET UNDERGROUND RAILROAD: A PSYCHEDELIC SLAVE TRADE: Mixed Media Works by the Bourghog Guild, through Jan. 14, 1022 Gallery, 1022 Lowerline St. 301-0679;

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Kincaid & Chihuly at Roger; Keller at Homespace

Suddenly it is December, and the art scene is brimming with photography at PhotoNOLA's month long multi- venue photo exhibitions, as well as architectural art at the local AIA's annual ten day (Dec. 2—11)  Descours event, in addition to the Prospect.2 Biennial. And it's all a bit much. Among the photography shows, Arthur Roger got a jump start with Ted Kincaid's archaic looking land, sea and sky scenes that resemble 19th century “wet- plate” photographs, a process prized for its poetic imperfections, but Kincaid's work is mostly digital. Here the landscapes are dramatically otherworldly, as if some 19th century romantic artist like Alfred Bierstadt had suffered many darkroom mishaps but still got some occasionally inspired results. Same goes for the maritime scenes with ghostly sailing ships traversing preternaturally foggy seas, some studded with random icebergs, and all somehow imbued with the patina of the ages. OPEN SEA 719 depicts a lost schooner in a pea soup fog, a ghost ship out of Coleridge only here the albatross has already fled as it drifts toward an iceberg. Even hints of dry ice don't mar its musty Victorian charm like something the ancient mariner himself might have dreamed up in a Laudanum trance. I especially liked the moon pictures. LUNAR 4321, top, and LUNAR 624 (upper left sidebar) suggest triumphs of Victorian science, futurist visions from a distant past like those 1902 Georges Milies moon travel movies.

Imbued with the elegant lucidity of a more romantic time, Kincaid's elemental otherworldliness complements Dale Chihuly's extravagant baroque glass concoctions in the adjacent gallery, decorative fantasies of impossible biological or marine life rendered vitreous as if by elfin magicians in faraway places. In an odd twist, Chihuly's twisted baroque confections were seemingly almost echoed in Kourtny Keller's kinetic, mirror- glass found object sculptures at the Home Space Gallery, left, only these glittering, rotating, science fiction structures—like mini-asteroids from a disco ball universe--may have originated in the far reaches of Bywater instead. ~Bookhardt
EVERY DOUBT THAT HOLDS YOU THERE: Mixed Media Photographs by Ted Kincaid
WHITE: Glass Sculpture by Dale Chihuly, Through Dec. 24, Arthur Roger Gallery, 432 Julia St. 522-1999;