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;
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