Mass media, either digital or mechanical, is a theme that has been worked to death by artists in recent decades, so it's noteworthy that the two very different approaches in this CLASSIFIED expo, curated by UNO's Chris Saucedo, still seem fresh. Aaron McNamee subverts the processes of mechanical media by gluing an entire year of Times Picayune newspapers, some 4196 pages, into a 400 pound block of ink and cellulose. More pages of the paper, with print and images smooshed into illegibility, appear as plywood-like panels, or in smaller stacks like tiles. The news and its media are ephemeral, yet here the pages that once held all that was weighty in the world are congealed into dead weight and reduced to inert blocks of abandoned information in a weird ritual of entombment.
The tiny pixels of light, dark and color that comprise digital media are weightless yet still convey the gravity of hopes and fears, dreams and obsessions. Computer screens are electric streets employing the inherently fetishistic nature of photographic imagery, and the women seen in Nina Schwanse's virtual catalog of femmes for hire--bubbly babes, or intellectual, technical, menial, bondage, or even drag queen babes--comprise a taxonomy of attraction encoded in the male and female psyches via movies and mass media idioms, those electronically stimulated concourses of the imagination where fantasies coincide with commerce. Here Schwanse provocatively explores those shadow realms where the individual and mass psyches intersect in the chimerical interplay of allure and its guises.
That ephemeral aspect of how the imagistic mind works is further explored in Jules Hindman's digital projections on gauzy passageways that replicate the movement of the viewer in a kind of interactive hall of mirrors at the UNO Gallery down the street. The effect of the veiled repetitive imagery is, at its best, hypnotic, recalling how waves of impressions accumulate as memories--all of which makes for a neat contrast with Hettie Haudenschield's evocative nature based expressionism in the adjacent chamber. ~Bookhardt CLASSIFIED: New Work by Aaron McNamee and Nina Schwanse, Through March 6, Barrister's Gallery, 2331 St. Claude Ave, 710-2506; www.barristersgallery.com RECENT WORK by Jules Hindman and Hettie Haudenschield, Through March 6, UNO-St. Claude Gallery, 2429 St. Claude Ave, 280-6411; www.finearts.uno.edu/artpage.html
Looking at Carlos Betancourt's work can be like stepping through the looking glass; it all seems familiar yet skewed in unlikely ways. In art as in life, context is everything, and here we are strangers in a strange land of exotic flora and preposterous kitsch where everything makes a bold statement even if that statement has been digitally encrypted as decorously exotic babble. Cynics might say that sounds a bit like Miami, and in fact they would be right. Betancourt was born in Puerto Rico of Cuban parentage but has lived in Miami since 1981, so it should come as no surprise if his work suggests a nexus where Carmen Miranda and Tito Puente meet Jeff Koons and Lady Gaga. Miami is where New York meets the tropics and Betancourt evokes a loopy new strand of aesthetic DNA. Large, kaleidoscopic photomontages like RE-COLLECTIONS, above, mingle flowers, butterflies, starfish and fruit with candy, beads and action figures in explosive cornucopias of pop-cultural delirium. His sculptures are neoclassical columns that might evoke the gravitas of ancient Rome were they not festooned with bananas, pineapples, grapes and bunches of other stuff that looks like leftovers from Carmen Miranda's crazy carioca hats, and in these works Betancourt takes the typically tart conceptual art memes of appropriation and deconstruction to giddy new levels of tropical extravagance.
More kaleidoscopic compositions appear in Jason Leinwand's meticulous paintings at the Front. Based on G. I. Gurdjieff's metaphysics, and psychedelic in tone and content, they also employ pop-cultural references such as UFOs, brains, hearts and skulls in tattoo-like abandon to produce images that are seriously mystical yet also zany, recalling both the Aleister Crowley tarot deck and old Greatful Dead album jackets. The kitsch may conflict with the metaphysics, but Brooklyn-based Leinwand is serious, and the intensity he puts into his work augers well for its future evolution. ~Bookhardt
PORTRAIT OF A GARDEN: Photomontages and Sculopture by Carlos Betancourt, Through March 20th, Heriard-Cimino Gallery, 440 Julia St., 525-7300; www.heriard-cimino.com FAITH, LOVE AND HOPE: Paintings by Jason Leinwand, Through March 6th The Front, 4100 St. Claude Ave., 920-3980; www.nolafront.org
As a big time businessman and art collector, the late Fred Weisman embodied a classic American success story. Born in Minneapolis to Russian immigrant parents, he grew up in Los Angeles and eventually made a fortune in various businesses, amassing a major art collection along the way. In art as in business, his vision became bolder as he aged. These works reflect his interest in nature as well as the influence of imagism (and its international equivalents), an American style that fuses dreamy, psychological imagery into flamboyantly patterned compositions. Imagism evolved in the Chicago area as well as in California and Louisiana, where he often acquired work by local artists, a tradition continued by his widow and curator, Billie Milam Weisman. Few works look more at home here than Nola artist Robert Warrens' THROUGH THE REEDS painting of a scruffy mutt clutching a duck in its humanoid teeth.
Leaping over a pond like an oversized ashtray, the fluffy dog evokes toxic smoke in a petrochemical parody of a traditional hunting scene. Related irony appears in Chicago painter Roger Brown's SAGUARO'S REVENGE, above left, based on the true story of a drunken Arizona man who was shooting at a giant cactus when it fell over and killed him. Torben Giehler's MONT BLANC, top, patterned landscape painting suggests a parti-colored planet in a prismatic solar system in a techno take on the mystical geometry of Mondrian. The patterning in many imagist works signifies energy as we see in Andrew Schoultz' MAYHEM EXPLOSION, below, in which ancient warriors on horses appear in a vortex of arrows that suggests aggression reduced to orbital trajectories. But in Louisa Chase's abstract figurative painting ALL FIRE ALL FLAME, the fiery vortex is all about passion and its power to bind or tear apart, a reminder that creation and destruction involve related energies applied in very different ways. ELEMENTS OF NATURE offers an intriguing alternate route through recent art history while presaging the environmental turmoil facing us today. ~Bookhardt
ELEMENTS OF NATURE: Selections from the Frederick R. Weisman Foundation, Through February
Contemporary Arts Center, 900 Camp St., 528.3805; www.cacno.org
This retrospective at the New Museum spans the range of Lynda Benglis’ career including her early wax paintings, her brightly colored poured latex works, the “Torsos” and “Knots” series from the 1970s, and her recent experiments with plastics, cast glass, paper, and gold leaf. It features a number of rarely exhibited historic works including Phantom (1971), above, a dramatic polyurethane installation consisting of five monumental sculptures that glow in the dark. Originally from Lake Charles, Louisiana, former New Orleanian and Tulane graduate Benglis rose to prominence during the sixties and seventies, a time when her singular practice both intersected with and transcended the categories of post-Minimalism and feminist art. Her sculptures suggest a remarkable range of influences, critically engaging with earlier painters like Jackson Pollock and Helen Frankenthaler. Benglis would gradually expand the range of her sculptural materials to include polyurethane foam, beeswax, plaster, cast aluminum, and bronze, to create objects with palpable ties to the body often described as “frozen gestures.”More>>
"The New Museum is offering a startlingly excellent resurrection of the prescient Post-Minimalist renegade Lynda Benglis and her gaudy, multidexterous and often gender-bending segues among Process, Performance and Body Art. Ms. Benglis is something of a mythic character..." More>>
Over the course of art history, painters, sculptors, poets, and photographers have used their vivid imaginations to bring the kiss to life as a symbol of fresh love, renewed love, and even black-and-blue love. With Valentine's Day in mind, we've selected the 10 best art kisses—More>>
Once upon a time, in the late 1980s, there arose an art movement called the Visionary Imagists. Spawned in a Marigny gallery operated by a charismatic and controversial Ecuadorian expatriate named George Febres, the Visionary Imagists melded American imagism with the Magic Realist tradition of Latin America, reflecting an undercurrent that had actually been just below the surface of local art making for ages. When Febres died in 1996, the artists went their separate ways, and while some moved on to high profile galleries, others like Dona Lief, Ann Hornback and Andrew Bascle remained slightly below the radar. Lief has long been intrigued by the parallels she sees between consumer culture icons and cold blooded creatures like spiders and crabs, and her most recent works seen here continue in this devolutionary vein, with an emphasis on social and environmental issues. Her strongest painting in this show, CRY BABY CRY, top, depicts a bawling infant with a flaming aura topped by a hermit crab like a cap. Hermit crabs were among the species most decimated by the BP oil rig flameout, and here the volatile chemistry of anger and lost innocence is palpable. Similar sentiments appear in Andrew Bascle's found object sculpture WORLD BANK, above left, a spider-like concoction cobbled from a toy hand gun, a miniature globe and false teeth affixed to a wire armature supported by legs made of steak knives--and once again the connection between insects and institutions is emphasized in works that appear predatory yet humorous, robotic yet whimsical. Ann Hornback's no less surreal if a tad more nuanced paintings take us to a realm of nature spirits where a vaguely vampy siren in an alligator mask and evening attire evokes mythic figures like Hecate, the Greco- Roman demoness of the underworld. But this is Louisiana, where boundaries between nature and culture, land and water, dream and reality are even less defined, making Hornback's alligator women evocative spirit guides to an amphibious realm where imagination and the wild world are forever intertwined. ~Bookhardt NEW WORK by Dona Lief, Ann Hornback and Andrew Bascle, Through March, Taylor Bercier Gallery, 233 Chartres St., 527-0072; www.taylorbercier.com
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>>