The objects on view are all too familiar, though not necessarily reassuring. Wrecking balls, ladders and water, lots of water, have no end of troubling associations and not just for us. Those same symbols also resonate in the wake of the recent horrific flooding in Japan, but in this UNSEEN expo, they attain an eerie quality of detachment. A wrecking ball hanging from a huge chain evokes an oracular omen of sorts, while some ghostly ladders crafted from clear Lucite suggest platonic or even semi-celestial forms. The severed links of some anchor chains lying on, or rising from, the floor are also tipped with clear Lucite in an intimation of dense matter suddenly transformed into something more like light. This near metaphysical mixing of metaphors is especially evident in some glass cylinders with photographic portraits—headshots—seemingly fused into the glass. Filled with water, which functions like a distortion lens, they have an eerily undulating quality, yet their slightly bewildered expressions dispel the more obvious associations of drowning in favor of something more otherworldly. Like the other works, they intimate mortality while touching on mystery, as if beyond the turmoil of the unspeakable there lies the possibility of wonder, or perhaps even grace.
In the art world, product labels are ordinarily the realm of pop art, which at its best provides wry social commentary while making banality seem like fun. In the hands of Acadiana artist Troy Dugas, however, they morph into strange tapestries and marvelous mandalas that come across as ethereal if not mystical. FLAME #2, below, evokes the sacred pyres of the Zoroastrians, and only up close does it become clear that it was cobbled from shredded labels. Others recall the intricate sacred arabesques of the Sufis, Hindus, or even the symbolism of the Kabala, in a graphical iteration of the medieval alchemists attempts to transform lead into gold, only here banality is transmuted into beauty, and beyond. ~Bookhardt
UNSEEN: Sculpture and Photography by Dawn Dedeaux, RECENT WORK: Mixed Media Collages by Troy Dugas Through April 16, Arthur Roger Gallery, 432 Julia St., 522-1999, www.arthurrogergallery.com
Herman Mhire had produced over 200 exhibitions by the time he retired from his post as Director of the Art Museum of the University of Louisiana, Lafayette, in 2005. He was a Distinguished Professor of the Visual Arts and a founder of the Festival International de Louisiane, and in 2004 France named him a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters. So one wonders, when viewing his large photographic portraits at Martine Chaisson, how he got so over the top. He did not deny that these portraits of well-known Acadiana artists resembled the art of the insane, but told us he took up Photoshop a few years ago after a series of unsettling events caused him to want to immerse himself in something new. Formerly an exponent of an ethereal photographic classicism, his new approach is like a classical pianist suddenly switching to death metal. So KELLY 2 becomes a horned demon with a goatee; RALPH 3, right, is a human hedgehog with swirling vortexes for facial features, LYNDA 2, left, a Rorschach blot wearing lipstick, and in FRANCIS 3, top, Francis Pavy is a glowing psychedelic avocado. A surprisingly effective outburst of digital Dadaism, this is what can happen when an elegant eye takes a walk on the wild side.
Stefan Szczesny started out in Germany's Junge Wilde or "Wild Youth" movement of the 1970s, which later evolved into Neoexpressionism, but today the Bavaria native lives in St. Tropez after following a wanderlust that took him to the Caribbean and other exotic places. These lush and breezy EARTHLY PARADISE tableaux recall Matisse in Nice or Paul Ninas in Martinique, and can be seductive for the way they capture the curiously feminine allure of those balmy climes where sea breezes caress the senses and even danger is cloaked in a subtly lulling aesthetic. Needless to say, they look right at home in New Orleans. ~Bookhardt ALTERED STATES: New Work by Herman Mhire, Through April 23
Martine Chaisson Gallery, 727 Camp St., 304-7942; www.martinechaissongallery.com
AN EARTHLY PARADISE: New Work by Stefan Szczesny, Through March 26
Octavia Art Gallery, 4532 Magazine St., 309-4249; www.octaviaartgallery.com
David Borgerding's finely crafted metal sculptures may resonate differently with different viewers. To some, they may look cellular. Living creatures are made up of cells, after all, including us. Borgerding's just happen to be several feet long and as finely made as aircraft components, leapfrogging our evolution from primal ooze to the space shuttle. But the cells and armatures of works like AELU, SUPO or ADAWA can also appear mantis-like, as if sleekly elegant insects had evolved on metallic asteroids somewhere in the depths of outer space. Like the surrealist Joan Miro before him, Borgerding can return the mind of the viewer to the shadowy depths of inner space.
Paulina Sierra's sculptures deal with space and form in ways that are familiar yet spooky. In one, a bit of florid lace stocking conforms to the shape of a delicate female foot but is empty of flesh, and the effect is about as ornately ghostly as a recently shed snakeskin. That sense of emptiness within presence also appears in a life-size table set with a cup and saucer. There is also a chair, but like the cup and saucer and even the table itself, this is a gauzy lace concoction crystallized into a chair through a space-age hardening agent. An old claw foot bathtub, accompanied by a bottle and wine glasses, offers warmth, relaxation and solace. Sagging under the weight of its gossamer filaments, it occupies a world of tangible auras where absence is suggested by presence in much the way that the scent of perfume on a pillow lingers like an afterimage. Ghostly too are Emily Ferranto's paintings in the adjacent chamber. Some are more fully realized than others, but in one a swimming pool shimmers with a quality of light that is as warm and inviting as it is elusive. Here the rays of a distant sun come to rest in a pleasantly diffuse and lightly chlorinated evocation of the infinite. ~Bookhardt
RECENT SCULPTURE: Bronzes and Stainless Steel Works by David Borgerding, Through March 28
Gallery Bienvenu 518 Julia St., 525-0518; www.gallerybienvenu.com
INTIMATE TOPOGRAPHIES: Sculpture by Paulina Sierra; SLOWNESS: Paintings by Emily Farranto, Through March 19; Coup d' Oeil Art Gallery, 2033 Magazine St., 722-0876; www.coupdoeilartconsortium.com
Design for Proteus Parade Float, 1906, by Bror Anders Wikstrom
Mardi Gras has long existed as a multi-dimensional phenomenon that somehow incorporated both the street and the elite, the mainstream and the esoteric, dark and light, Apollonian and Dionysian--though, with Mardi Gras as with all carnival celebrations, the Dionysian has always held a distinct advantage. Forever skirting the margins between the officially celebrated and the outré or forbidden, it has always been propelled by a spirit of creative anarchy that harks to its origins in the myths and mysteries of pre-Christian antiquity.More>>
Carnival Colorplate, March 1, 1892 Picayune Newspaper More>>
Ah, the news-the blood, gore, libel and larceny--who could live without it? On a global scale such things are called "history." Locally they strike a more personal chord, as we see in Harold Baquet's photographs. For over 30 years, Baquet has recorded it all, but excels at a kind of portraiture of juxtaposition, so we see the first Mayor Morial feeding cake to Fats Domino on his birthday, a somber Miles Davis handing off a trumpet to a youthful Wynton Marsalis, and Earl Turbinton with a literally smoking soprano sax. There are also contextual portraits of Allen Toussaint at his piano and Tootie Montana in full Indian regalia, but of special interest are the barbershops, those nerve centers of neighborhood life where philosophical exchanges occur in a contemplative setting. Such small, telling moments share wall space with epochal events like Dutch Morial's funeral, a portrait of collective grief etched into the expressions of an extraordinary Creole family. All of this is familiar with the sweetness and poignancy of a family album, but this is an album of America's Creole city, and Baquet was there to record it all for posterity.
Much of the news today is more a matter of spin and posturing as mercenary cartels and noisy infotainment nonentities try to persuade a weary public to appreciate them. In this context, Lafayette photographer Colin Miller finds many targets of opportunity in his rogues' gallery of mass mediated dysfunctions, in images of himself as a snarky talking head looking glib as the Twin Towers collapse behind him, and the like. In HEARING, he locks eyeballs with a pelican on the witness stand as dour politicos dredge through the painful oversights that allowed global corporations to despoil our waters while holding us hostage to their money, in a wry new take on a sad old story. ~Bookhardt IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE: A Photography Retrospective by Harold Baquet, Through March 24
Collins Diboll Gallery, Loyola, 6363 St. Charles Ave.; www.loyno.edu/dibollgallery
NEWSWORTHY: Recent Photographs by Colin Miller, Through March 31
The Darkroom, 1927 Sophie Wright Place, 522-3211; www.neworleansdarkroom.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>>