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;
UNO FENCE: Light Sculpture by Ivan Navarro for Prospect.2 through Jan. 29, UNO St. Claude Gallery, 2429 St. Claude Ave., 280-6493;