The wrecked pickup truck first appeared inexplicably inside an empty storefront on St. Claude Avenue, just beyond a door that was far too small to accommodate any vehicle. Closer inspection revealed that it was a full size replica carefully crafted from cardboard, but it remained a mystery until it suddenly reemerged at the Carroll Gallery. Its creator, Bob Snead, was inspired by an actual pickup truck that a drunk driver had wrecked outside his St. Claude studio. Now part of this CONSCIENCE expo, it complements David Grunfeld's eloquent photographs documenting the travails of working folk such as oystermen in the wake of the BP oil spill, among others that capture the visual poetry of life and labor in south Louisiana. Similarly, John Barnes' stark shotgun house sculptures, and Keith Perelli's lyrically surreal portraits based on police mug shots, meld gritty urban chaos with an incipient visionary aura that hints at the possibility of transcendence.
James Goedert's MACHINES ON PAPER show at Antenna features, among other things, a 1970s-era Ford Granada with Nebraska plates. Also too large for the gallery door, this is a real car that was taken apart and reassembled inside--with modifications. The seats now surround the relocated steering wheel, which when turned activates some engine parts reconfigured into a mechanism that sketches an abstract drawing of a car, as if the Granada had taken up art in its old age.
On the wall is a landscape painting like an expanse of green grass on paper; beneath it on the floor rests the weedeater that created it with colored markers tied to its plastic trim cords. Other everyday devices appear with their equally unlikely creations, and here Goedert reveals how old machines can be reconfigured to make art while incidentally providing a sense of what surrealism might have looked like had it originated in Middle America instead of Paris. ~Bookhardt
CONSCIENCE: Work by John Barnes, David Grunfeld, Keith Perelli and Bob Snead, Through Feb. 11, Carroll Gallery, Tulane University, 314-2228; http://carrollgallery.tulane.edu/
MACHINES ON PAPER: New Work by James Goedert, Through Feb. 5
Antenna, 3161 Burgundy Street, 250-7975; http://www.press-street.com/
Bare Hands is a non-profit alternative space for the exhibition of contemporary works in all media, unique in its focus on Birmingham and Alabama area artists. Founded in 1996, the local gallery was committed to providing a positive and professional venue for local contemporary visual artists. In 2004, Bare Hands was incorporated as a non-profit arts organization and continues its mission to present work by emerging and established Birmingham artists, as well as regional artists. It also strives to educate the public about the cultural importance of contemporary art and artists in Alabama through exhibitions and gallery talks, support for arts education, and community outreach. More>>
Identity is a recurring, yet often challenging, theme of conceptual art. At Good Children, New Haven-based Mississippi native Tameka Norris expresses her identification with the coastal folks who got flooded by hurricane Katrina in videos and collages depicting her image superimposed on destroyed homes, or nearly drowning in floodwater, and the net effect can be dramatic if didactic. But Stephen Collier's digital collages meld portraiture with mythic symbols that scramble our usual notions of identity in works that reflect the more enigmatic side of a genre that often seems to veer between preachy and opaque. At Barrister's Gallery, Serbo-Croatian New Orleans artist Rajko Radovanovic's digital prints reflect the didactic side of the equation. Back in 2008 he created a text mural in New Marigny that read: "A PRECONDITION TO DOING VIOLENCE TO ANY GROUP OF PEOPLE IS TO MAKE THEM LESS THAN HUMAN." A maxim used to explain the psychological basis for ethnic cleansing of the sort that took place in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda and elsewhere, this looked profound if a little incongruous on a scruffy 8th Ward street corner, and perhaps a tad simplistic. His digital self-portraits at Barrister's are all curiously similar in appearance and each bears a slogan like, "This is the only IMMIGRANT you can trust," with terms such as HOMOSEXUAL or MUSLIM substituted for IMMIGRANT in each iteration, illustrating the point that beneath the superficial labels we are all much the same. They seemed too simplistic and repetitious, but then the shooting rampage in Tucson suddenly underscored his message. In recent years, increased threats and actual acts of violence have been directed at people because of their beliefs or identity, as demagogues tried to characterize anyone who disagreed with them as subhuman aliens out to destroy America. In a media environment saturated with crosshairs and incendiary rhetoric, violence should come as no surprise. Radovanovic's graphics at Barrister's still strike me as too repetitious, but in light of recent events even simplistic messages about the danger of dehumanizing people can assume new relevance. ~Bookhardt
Rajko Radovanovic: THE FUTILITY OF IDENTITY, Through Feb. 5
Barrister's Gallery, 2331 St. Claude Ave, 710-2506; www.barristersgallery.com
Prospect.1.5: Tameka Norris and Stephen Collier: RECENT WORK, Through Feb. 6, Good Children Gallery, 4037 St. Claude Ave., 616-7427; www.goodchildrengallery.com
“Noel Rockmore was a fascinating, oddball, homegrown American surrealist,” says Dan Cameron, a curator of contemporary art best known for his work as artistic director of U.S. Biennial, the organization that produces Prospect New Orleans. “In the last year or so I’ve participated in some interesting discussions with friends and colleagues in New Orleans whom I respect, and there’s no denying what they think about him. These are people who don’t use the word genius very often, but they all use it when discussing Rockmore.”
The artist, it turns out, had often called on Shirley Marvin when he needed money over the course of their thirty-three-year friendship, and Rockmore, who died in 1995 at age sixty-six, seemed to always need money. The bulging contents in the storage unit were testament to his brilliance, but they also revealed Shirley’s devotion to an artist who produced some fifteen thousand works of art in his lifetime and who might have become America’s Picasso if not for crushing battles with alcoholism and bipolar disorder that, by the end of his days, had reduced him to a bona fide lunatic and a virtual pariah in the art world. More>>(From Garden & Gun)
There is a longstanding, if sometimes artificial, separation between visual art and music. This RESOUNDING show, curated by former musician and Prospect Biennial founding director Dan Cameron, explores the hazy frontier where art and music meet. While music is pervasive here, the work is mostly silent though not without resonance. Describing the dramatic silence in the immediate aftermath of a performance, Cameron says, "With the sudden absence, other senses rush to fill the void." That silence, the musical equivalent of the visual artist's "negative space," is eloquently embodied in Rhona Bittner's large color photographs of empty performance spaces. In NEWPORT MUSIC HALL, top, the glow of stage lights is reflected off the contours of a vast baroque ceiling medallion, but in the absence of an audience the silence is deafening--as it is in the gaudy intimacy of RED'S LOUNGE, in Clarksdale, MS, where Robert Johnson's ghost would surely feel at home.
Los Angeles artist Sean Duffy, above left (detail), adds time and technology in the mix, in modified LP album jackets arranged in op art patterns that express nostalgia for the music technologies of the past. Nearby, a vintage DJ turntable with no tone arm stands as a monument to the sounds of silence. Old records also appear in the work of New Yorker Ted Riederer, in an installation of vinyl LPs molded into skulls wearing their labels like skullcaps. Guarded by ST. ANTIPODE, a Darth Vaderish sculpture also molded from old LPs, they evoke the sensibilities of the "death metal" genre. Vancouver artist Tim Lee remixes the 1970s works of Neil Young and Steve Martin in a fictitious, if understated, LP double album, while in the back room a video by Turkish artist Fikret Akay employs the sounds and images of religious students pacing the floor as they chant scripture in what amounts to an ambulatory Tower of Babel. This inverts the approach of the other artists, whose silent objects and images convey the inner music of the visual imagination. ~Bookhardt
RESOUNDING: Prospect.1.5 Group Exhibition of Art about Music, Through January, Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, 400A Julia St., 522-5471; www.jonathanferraragallery.com
"Set against the de facto idealism of "theory-crit" (reducing art to pure theoretical machinations), the appeal of simply reporting on the art scene would seem to be partly that it yanks art back down to earth. (Yet) there's a tremendous hunger for serious art criticism out there — it just has to be criticism that actually engages with the contemporary reality of art. After all, without an interesting perspective on what makes visual art distinctive, all you have left is the art world as a crappy arm of pop culture or a place for high-end gambling." More>>
On Friday NOMA is presenting David Wojinarowicz’ A Fire in My Belly, a little known film that recently gained notoriety when the Smithsonian removed it from their Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture show at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. after complaints from the Catholic League and Representative John Boehner, ostensibly for its depiction of ants crawling over a crucifix. The meaning of this obscure bit of symbolism is left up to the viewer, but some groups such as the Catholic League (which has no formal ties to the Roman Catholic Church) apparently viewed it darkly, and with the aid of the Boehner and House Whip Eric Cantor, successfully lobbied for its removal. Described as a "leading artist of the 1980s," Wojnarowicz (1954–1992) was deeply influenced by his dystopic childhood in New York and his battle with AIDS, which took his life at age 37. Other Friday NOMA events include:
Walk-through: Modern and Contemporary Art at NOMA. New Orleans Museum of Art, 1 Collins Diboll Circle, 658.4100. FREE with museum admission.12 p, Fri.
NOMA Book Club. This month’s reading “Dancing for Degas.” New Orleans Museum of Art, 1 Collins Diboll Circle, 658.4100. Meets upstairs 6-7 p, Fri.
Exhibition Walk-through: Great Collectors/Great Donors. This will be the final walk-though of the opening centennial exhibition by Director Emeritus, E. John Bullard. New Orleans Museum of Art, 1 Collins Diboll Circle, 658.4100. FREE with museum admission. 6 p, Fri.
Music: vocalist Ruby Moon and piano man John Autin will play New Orleans jazz and blues standards in the Great Hall. New Orleans Museum of Art, 1 Collins Diboll Circle, 5:30 p to 8:30 p. Fri.
The one clear thing about Sebastiao Salgado is that he is absolutely one of the greatest documentary photographers in the world today. Beyond that, he eludes most attempts to define him. The 66 year-old Brazilian economist-turned-photographer's most famous images convey a sense of epic forces unfolding before our eyes, yet most were made with a diminutive 35mm Leica rangefinder camera. And while most photojournalists zero in on a detail or expression that symbolizes a larger theme, Salgado depicts vast impersonal spectacles rendered in the portentous light of a renaissance, romantic or expressionist landscape. His epic sensibility has raised questions: is he a photojournalist or an artist? In fact, he is both, an artist with a journalist's eye for the unfolding story, typically on a mythic scale. In cinematic terms, he combines the starkness of Ingmar Bergman with the scope of Cecil B. Demille. His MIGRATIONS series focused on mass movements of people to or from the sources of their hopes or fears, for instance, the exodus of the rural poor into big cities, or refugees escaping the ravages of war.
What initially suggests columns of ants scaling a steep slope is actually an army of gold miners clambering up the sides of a muddy open pit mine in Brazil. In another photograph, a sprawling sea of humanity in a Rwandan refugee camp spreads across a starkly ragged landscape of makeshift encampments extending into the haze of the horizon. In a widely published image, masses of commuters disembarking a train in Bombay seem to froth like sea foam in a tidal blur. If the travails of the hardscrabble human herd can sometimes seem bleak, Salgado has lately focused on his GENESIS series depicting some the planet's last remaining primal dramas, in images of proud tribal shamans and Sudanese cattle herders as well as vast landscapes of penguins and icebergs in Antarctica. We sense their fragility, yet these images provide immutable evidence of the lingering majesty of those wild remote places not yet parceled off to highest bidder. ~Bookhardt Sebastiao Salgado: PHOTOGRAPHS, Through January, A Gallery For Fine Photography, 241 Chartres St., 568-1313; www.agallery.com
Prairie Family Plain and Tall by Michael Pajon Click Images to Expand
If there was ever any question about how much the New Orleans art scene has grown in recent years, December witnessed an art community in overdrive as major spectacles like PhotoNOLA, DesCours and Prospect.1.5 overlapped in a hyperactive cluster of events. PhotoNOLA alone had shows at over 50 venues, some extending into this month, so even a big deal like the Prospect.1.5 Biennial had to compete for attention. More low-key than its stellar predecessor, P.1.5 incorporates many local as well as big city artists in an ambitious experiment in aesthetic cross-fertilization. At LeMieux, the combo of local painter Alan Gerson and Los Angeles photographer Brice Bischoff, left, was inspired, as was the pairing of New York artist Margaret Evangeline and Baton Rouge sculptor Loren Schwerd at Heriard-Cimino. Ditto New Orleans-born, New Haven painter Max Toth and Bosnia-born New Orleans artist Lala Rascic, below, at Good Children.
The EVERYDAY HYBRID expo at the Delgado Gallery is something of an oddity. The local and New York artists--Brad Benischek, Sesthasak Boonchai, Jennifer Odem, Alex Podesta, Regina Scully, Brian St.Cyr and Panacea Theriac--are all quite accomplished and stimulating, yet so visually incongruous as a group that it can be hard to leave with a clear impression of what you saw. In FRESH OFF THE TURNIP TRUCK at Madame John's legacy, Michael Pajon's cosmically kitschy, ethno-historical collages such as PRAIRIE FAMILY PLAIN AND TALL, top, are so precise as to make many of the other artists' works look almost incongruously laissez faire despite being broadly interesting. But everything comes together cohesively in THE MACHINE IN THE GARDEN expo at Octavia, as Brian Borrello, Ralph Bourque (below), Daphne Loney, Michel Varisco and Christy Speakman all provide poetic explorations of the dark side of Louisiana's carbon-based economy in contrast with the creative spirit of its people, the incandescence of the sun, moon and stars. ~Bookhardt
EVERYDAY HYBRID: Prospect.1.5 Group Exhibition, Through Jan. 27, Isaac Delgado Gallery, 3rd Floor, 615 City Park Ave., www.dcc.edu
FRESH OFF THE TURNIP TRUCK: Prospect.1.5 Group Exhibition, Through Jan 20, Madame John's Legacy, 632 Dumaine St., 568- 6968; lsm.crt.state.la.us/madam.htm THE MACHINE IN THE GARDEN: Prospect.1.5 Group Exhibition, Through Jan. 8, Octavia Art Gallery, 4532 Magazine Street, 309-4249; www.octaviaartgallery.com
View Slideshow Still from Dave Greber’s The Fool, The Hierophant, The Devil and the Wheel, 2010, four-channel video installation. Courtesy the artist.; Kourtney M. Keller: DRIVE IN EVITABLE, 2009-10, digital video, 16-minute loop. Courtesy the artist.
I came back to New York in 1998 after having lived in New Orleans, with some interregnums, for a long time. (“20 to life” I used to say, reflecting how long it took me to embrace the city, but not acknowledging all that it had given me in return.) I’ve revisited NOLA just twice, and these trips inevitably have come to be thought of as the post-Katrina visit and, last November, the post-BP-spill visit. The residual anguish of the oil spill is largely invisible in the city, confined to the devastated shrimping and fishing communities of the coast and waterways. In town, the vulturish impulses of disaster tourism are in decline: the Lower Ninth Ward, still scarred by hundreds of desolate lots, shows a defiant if too-small number of rebuilt houses plus some 50 new residences sponsored by Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation—all clean lines and swooping roofs, the palette a touch too Seaside, the 8-foot pilings on which they perch a mix of right- thinking preparedness and heartbreaking optimism. Grocery chains have yet to show any interest in serving the neighborhood, but there’s now a weekly farmers market on St. Claude Avenue, which has become the boulevard of upstart galleries that showcase—and are often run by—local artists. At one, The Front, I was given a little catalogue celebrating the scrappy space’s first 15 months. Far from presumptuous, it may have been a wise move to not delay a commemorative publication until the 10th anniversary, or even the 5th, things being what they are in New Orleans.
My November visit did not coincide with the Prospect.2 Biennial, the scheduled follow-up to 2008’s much-publicized show, which was organized by Dan Cameron and energized by a roster of prominent international artists eager to help a city brought to its knees. Lingering debt and the defection of disenchanted funders led to the second edition’s postponement. Determined to make low-cost lemonade, Cameron devised Prospect.1.5, a roughly four-month season [through Feb. 19] of events and exhibitions. For me, the name instantly conjured not the generational nomenclature of smart phones and computer programs but the Mertin Flemmer Building’s floor 7½ in the film Being John Malkovich—a bit absurd and cramped, but also furnished with a portal to some extraordinary things. And so I found Prospect.1.5 to be. With its focus on local talent, the program also feels a bit like a “correction” aimed at area artists who felt slighted when attention was showered on the guest celebrities of Prospect.1. The celebrity factor was not entirely absent from Prospect.1.5, though: New York resident/New Orleans native Rashaad Newsome showed a version of his “Shade Compositions,” the sharpest videos in the 2010 Whitney Biennial, at Good Children Gallery on St. Claude. More>>
In Akira Kurosawa’s film Rashomon, a samurai has been murdered, but it’s not clear why or by whom. Various characters involved tell their versions of the events, but their accounts contradict one another. You can’t help wondering: Which story is true? More>>