Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How Wall Street Stole the Soul of American Art


Ever wonder how the vapid hacks and madcap manipulators who cornered the New York and London art markets got to the top and and stayed there for decades? Mark Taylor in Bloomberg offers this incisive autopsy: 

"Neither Jeff Koons nor his art gives any hint of the irony and parody that lend Warhol’s art its edge. While Warhol’s work unsettles, Koons’s art is crafted to reassure. Unapologetically embracing banality and freely admitting his ignorance of art history, Koons sounds more like Joel Osteen than Marcel Duchamp: “I realized you don’t have to know anything and I think my work always lets the viewer know that,” he once told a reporter. 'I just try to do work that makes people feel good about themselves, their history, and their potential.' What is surprising is how many seemingly intelligent and sophisticated people have been taken in by this erstwhile stockbroker." More>>

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Raw at Homespace + Four at the Front

There were times in the past when the mostly co-op galleries of the St. Claude Arts District resembled graduate school  exhibitions connected to a neighborhood instead of a university. The latest evidence that times have changed can be seen in this salon style show at Homespace organized by New York/Nola art veterans Luis Cruz Azaceta and Sharon Jacques. Here works by 34 established and emerging artists reflect the pointedly humanistic perspective of the curators. The title, Raw, sets the tone as imagery like Angela Davis, left, by master of maniacal social commentary Peter Saul, shares space with the no less maniacal if less known Raw Heads  sculptures by Nola artist Gary Oaks (also at Barristers), while Deborah Luster's conceptual crime scene photos provide biting counterpoint. But subtlety is also evident in Monica Zeringue's mysteriously kinky silk, hair and crystal sculpture, Desire, and in Kevin Kline's altar of votive candles that feature photo portraits of local characters instead of saints, bottom. Their faces reveal no dearth of pathos, suggesting that martyrdom and redemption may be profoundly personal matters, questions of perspective shared by saint and sinner alike.

The four exhibitions at the Front also feature emerging and accomplished artists, only here they are one and the same. In the years since its founding in the wake of hurricane Katrina, the member artists of this co-op gallery have produced ever more polished and eloquent presentations, as we see in Rachel Jones' elegiac paintings of flora and fauna, the living and the dead displayed in altar-like arrangements. Stephanie Patton and Rachel Avena Brown's enigmatic efforts invite and confound our expectations in typically  provocative ways, even as Dave Greber and Angela Ferguson's psychedelic video and soft sculpture installation, above, is as flamboyant as we might expect while reminding us that accomplishment need not necessarily entail any diminution of surprise. ~Bookhardt

RAW: A Salon Exhibition of 34 Artists, Saturdays and Sundays Through Feb. 5, Homespace Gallery, 1128 St. Roch Ave., 917-584-9867; www.scadnola.com
New Work by Rachel Jones, Rachel Avena Brown, Stephanie Patton, Dave Greber, Andrea Ferguson, Saturdays & Sundays Through Feb. 5, The Front, 4100 St. Claude Ave., 920-3980; www.nolafront.org 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Crtic Notices Postmodernism is Dead; Blames Occupy

This Sherrie Levine piece by the Village Voice's Martha Schwendener finally said something about postmodernism that should have been said a long time ago. She blames Occupy, having apparently never noticed that most big name pomo art had been pretty sterile all along:    

Sherrie Levine's "Mayhem" (through January 29) at the Whitney Museum, might have read differently a year ago. The nihilism of her postmodern ethos was appropriate in a world where the economy had crashed, and there was nothing you could do about it. What has happened since is a massive shift in consciousness, prompted by the worldwide Occupy movement. Now, almost any time of day, you can walk into Deutsche Bank's atrium at 60 Wall Street and see half a dozen groups using the General Assembly model to discuss how to change society one microcosm at a time. More>>

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Azaceta at Arthur Roger; Navarro at UNO St. Claude

Change happens. That's nothing new, but lately the pace seems to be picking up in often perplexing ways. Such is the proposition that propels Luis Cruz Azaceta in this Shifting States expo at Arthur Roger. The Havana-born painter was a child when he and his family escaped Cuba in 1960. Ensconced in Uptown New Orleans for the past 20 years, his lifelong themes of displacement and alienation are as relevant now as ever. Shifting States is an apt title in an age when revolutions are launched with cell phones and enemies are stalked and assassinated by remote controlled drones. Blood Line, above right, suggests a Rorschach blot studded with the oddly similar forms of mosques, minarets, radar and microwave towers in a bristling nimbus of potential mayhem. Surveillance, below, is a maze of circuits attached by electronic umbilicals to lethal looking pods in improbable candy colors. All sprout ominous appendages and the effect is unsettling, as if economic, religious and military conflicts had assumed an autonomous life of their own in which mere individuals are all but powerless.

If life in the 21st century is often at the mercy of unseen forces, clearer boundaries might sound like a good idea. Yet when Ivan Navarro's Fence sculpture, a full size fence rendered in pale neon, first appeared in an exhibition in New York, it provoked a mixed reception. But that was exactly what the Chilean artist intended. Reborn as the UNO Fence, top, it provokes similar responses here. Fragile yet intimidating, it blocks access to the rest of the gallery. This can be taken in various ways, but to me it suggests a metaphor for how something as intangible as an idea, concept or culture can, in the right context, constrain human action. Comprised of little more than light and thin glass tubes, it dares us to transgress its otherwise delicate boundaries. ~Bookhardt

SHIFTING STATES: Paintings and Drawings by Luis Cruz Azaceta through Feb. 18, Arthur Roger Gallery, 434 Julia St. 522-1999; www.arthurrogergallery.com
UNO FENCE: Light Sculpture by Ivan Navarro for Prospect.2 through Jan. 29, UNO St. Claude Gallery, 2429 St. Claude Ave., 280-6493; www.finearts.uno.edu/artpage.html

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Estevez at Taylor-Bercier; Geum at Bienvenu

Artists are inspired by perception, but perceptions are open to interpretation. The human form first appeared as stick figures in caves before becoming idealized by the classical Greeks. Now Havana-born Miami artist Carlos Estevez reduces them to schematics once again, in works that recall 19th century paper dolls or the mechanical automata of visionary Victorian inventors. But who controls them? In Lucid Dreaming, top, a headless figure sits astride a strange mechanism, part bicycle, part beast. With the figure's head atop its serpentine neck, propellers and gears convey it toward destinations unknown. In Secret Learning a headless ballerina does a jig as her head, suspended by pulleys,  stares back at us from a pedestal on the floor. In Apophenia a schematic mystic meditates in a half lotus posture, and he alone appears conscious of his condition yet it's not clear that he can do anything about it. Despite all the existential speculation, Estevez's real gift is for creating a fully formed parallel world that comments on our own. Archaic yet futuristic, his figures suggest that we are the automata, the mechanical beings whose condition they mimic with such bizarre elegance.

Korean artist Key-Sook Geum's sculptures are no less figurative, but the figures themselves are  absent. Instead we see empty evening dresses floating in space like charismatic specters making grand entrances at invisible cocktail parties. Their intricate wire mesh filigrees outline the curves of high fashion movie starlets yet they actually contain only empty space and subtle energy, what East Asians call “chi.” In this they are the reverse of Denyce Celentano's very fleshly painted nudes at Cole Pratt, where they grapple passionately with each other and with their own imperfections as they embody a chaos of the senses. Geum's wiry lace concoctions are more like a haute couture of the spirit, if such a thing is possible. Geum suggests, at least obliquely, that it is. ~Bookhardt

APOPHENIA: Recent Paintings by Carlos Estevez, Through Jan. 31, Taylor Bercier Gallery, 233 Chartres St., 527-0072; www.taylorbercier.com; MOVING IN COLORS: Sculpture by Key-Sook Geum, Through Jan. 26, Gallery Bienvenu, 518 Julia St., 525-0518; www.gallerybienvenu.com

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Avis Khebrehzadeh at Loyola; Lafcadio's Revenge at Dauphine and Press Street in Marigny

Avish Khebrehzadeh, and her whimsical animated drawings, reflect the global nature of contemporary art today. The Iranian-born artist lives in Washington DC but was educated in Italy and won the Venice Biennale's Young Italian Award in 2003. If her exotic credentials predispose us to expect a  trendy sensibility, such is not entirely the case; she uses digital video as a vehicle for her sketchily drawn animations that move like ghostly figures in a dream, spectral reminders of ancient allegories whose original meanings are no longer clear. Here fish swim through the air as her figures seem to sleepwalk through enigmatic scenarios. Their subtitled dialogue conveys paradoxical pronouncements like, “A child of the sea is bad luck.” Mythic or Magic Realist narratives work best in the hands of Asian or Latin story tellers--in the hands of a John Updike they fall flat, but Khebrehzadeh's video vignettes recall something of the mythic somnambulism of Salman Rushdie's Enchantress of Florence minus the grandiosity. Simply and whimsically executed, her intrigues, at their best, tap into those mysterious attic rooms of the mind where genetic memories of far away places and long ago times are sequestered like sleeping genies awaiting certain charged images or events to awaken us to things once more familiar, but now as distant as dreams vaguely recalled from childhood.

A somewhat related dreamlike quality of past times and otherworldly sensibilities appears in Lafcadio's Revenge, an eloquent hearse-like sculpture (at 800 Press Street) intended as a “mobile museum” of New Orleans' “forgotten histories.” The result of a collaboration between Tessa Farmer, Nina Nichols and Dana Sherwood, this independent Prospect.2 satellite production was created as an homage to the great 19th century journalist Lafcadio Hearn, who was the first to convey, via his dispatches to Harper's Weekly, the deeper mysteries of New Orleans to a wider audience in the English speaking world. Like Hearn, these artists seek to provide “a view into the secret life of the city; a cacophony of culture and magic...”

Animated Drawing: Mixed Media works by Avish Khebrehzadeh, Through Jan. 29, Collins C. Diboll Gallery, Loyola University, 861-5456; www.loyno.edu/dibollgallery; Lafcadio's Revenge: Mixed Media Sculpture Installation, through Jan. 29, 800 Press Street, corner Dauphine in Marigny

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Fresh Produce and Tintypes on St. Roch


In a recent interview, Prospect New Orleans founder Dan Cameron opined that New Orleans doesn't do enough “to support its local visual artists, yet... the St. Claude district now constitutes the critical mass of artist-run spaces for the entire country.” While his opinions are open to debate, his comment about St. Claude being a national epicenter for artist-run co-op galleries is hard to dispute; in no other city are there so many in such concentration. The newest is Staple Goods, a former corner grocery on St. Roch at Villere Street. Its current Fresh Produce show features work by its member artists, and it's surprisingly cohesive despite the diversity.  Cynthia Scott's Chandeleur series of sculptures transform everyday manufactured items  into airy, chandelier-like mobiles with a Zen-like delicacy that belies their prosaic origins while complementing Daniel Kelley's grid drawings in which loosely rendered lines and marks suggest a ghostly sort of architectural space, as if modernism had evolved directly from stone age cave paintings. A notable exception to the prevailing abstraction is Thomasina Bartlett's Hot Mamas photo series of women in archaic Storyville attire lounging languidly in a steamy summer torpor in a visual meditation on “the brutality of fashion and style” in a tropical environment.

More Storyville-esque imagery turns up down the street at Homespace, another co-op, in tintype photographic portraits by Bruce Schultz. In fact, the entire gallery is given over to the archaic 19th century tintype process with additional works by Euphus Ruth, below, and Jenny Sampson as well as abstractions by S. Gayle Stevens. Beyond novelty, these works take us to a parallel universe where technique is a ritual and where the expressions of the sitters, extended over long exposure times, become windows into their souls. ~Bookhardt

FRESH PRODUCE: Works by Thomasine Bartlett, Aaron Collier, Robyn Denny, William DePauw, Daniel Kelly, Anne Nelson, Laura Richens and Cynthia Scott; Weekends Through Jan. 8; Staple Goods, 1340 St. Roch Ave., 908-7331; www.postmedium.org/staplegoods
TINTYPE: Photographs by Euphus Ruth, Jenny Sampson, S. Gayle Stevens and Bruce Schultz; Weekends through Jan. 8; Homespace Gallery, 1128 St. Roch Ave., 917-584-9867