Sunday, February 26, 2012

Monu_MENTAL at Antenna through March 4


History isn't what it used to be. Once, historical figures were summed up in a few choice words. Andrew Jackson was the hero of the Battle of New Orleans. Robert E. Lee was the courtly Southerner who opposed secession but commanded the Confederate army anyway. In retrospect, those views seem simplistic so it's no surprise that artists might try to revise some of the more prominent historical monuments about town. Ron Bechet's proposal for A More Accurate Jackson Monument features bedraggled Indians in front of his equestrian statue in the square that bears his name, a reminder that Jackson was “instrumental in removing over 70,000 Native Americans from their lands.”

Then there's the towering Robert E. Lee monument at Lee Circle, where the old general symbolically faces north. Maybe he was just trying to get his bearings, because the more we learn about Lee, the more conflicted he seems. Zakcq Lockrem addresses those identity issues with a distinctive graphical reordering of the site with additional complementary statues of Harper Lee, Stan Lee, Bruce Lee and Spike Lee, below, persuasively noting that the city of Mostar, Bosnia, erected a statue of Bruce Lee as its symbol of its fight against ethnic divisions in the wake of the Bosnian War. Unlike Robert E. Lee, Confederate president Jefferson Davis was consistent to a fault--actually, many faults--so Max Cafard and Stephen Duplantier's proposal to replace his Mid City statue with an Angela Davis Monument, top, on a renamed "Angela Davis Parkway," can be seen as a timely rotation of revolutionaries, substituting a Black Panther for a Confederate in the city's monuments to lost causes. In a related if surprisingly practical flight of fancy, John Kleinschmidt and Andy Sternad's Dead Weight proposal calls for utilizing the hefty Jefferson Davis and nearby General Beauregard statues as counterweights for a pair of new drawbridges crossing an expanded Bayou St. John. Even before the Confederacy, this city was where Benito Juarez launched the revolution that enabled him to become Mexico's first Native American president, as Paulina Sierra's complex mixed media piece reminds us, and it is gratifying that at least one former New Orleanian led a revolution widely acknowledged to have changed the course of history, and mostly for the better. ~Bookhardt


Monu_MENTAL: Revised Local Monuments, Saturdays & Sundays through March 4, Antenna Gallery, 3161 Burgundy St, 250-7975; www.press-street.com