Sunday, March 25, 2012

Tony Fitzpatrick and Michael Pajon at Jonathan Ferrara


Tony Fitzpatrick is a very big Chicago Irish guy who makes very small and precise etchings. When he talks, or writes, he conjures up symbolic images like the ones that appear more ambiguously in his prints, but loquaciously discussed with the broadside impact of the heavyweight boxer he once was. The Assassination of Crazy Horse is his tribute to the legendary Sioux warrior, seen here as a horse rearing up and exhaling vapor, body studded with steam gauges, mane like an Indian war bonnet--a visual koan of charged symbols left to viewer interpretation. Fitzpatrick says, “What I most admire about Crazy Horse is that he helped kill Custer, stone cold murderous psychopath. I’d like to have been there when he was introduced to the Oglala nation... When he looked around and realized he was truly f----d.” Chain Gang Dreams of Kryptonite is a pop cultural emanation of the soul of a nation, a vision of forged steel links and molecular chains, secret hobo hand signs, railroads and oil wells rising like mechanical towers of Babel, symbols of the near-slavery that followed the official slavery as “Chinese, Mexicans and freed Africans, Confederate veterans and indentured Irish immigrants... built the Transcontinental Railroad.” Fitzpatrick's America is a place of strange wonders, a beautiful, mysterious and haunted land made fertile by the blood of those who built it.

Michael Pajon's collages are symbolic and steeped in Americana, but his vision reflects a magic realist whimsy that rummages through the everyday detritus of the past to find transcendent precursors of the present. In works like Lies Unfurled Like Cheap Ribbons, above, Victorian dreams of Manifest Destiny are leavened with quirky personal details in a series of gorgeous two dimensional curiosity cabinets, worlds within worlds that are mysterious yet fully realized works by a recent transplant who is very likely the most talented young collage artist working in this city today. A small but great show.~Bookhardt

Nickel History: In the Service of Ghosts: Etchings by Tony Fitzpatrick; They Buried Their Children and Sharpened Their Tools: Collages by Micheal Pajon, Through April 13, Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, 400A Julia St., 522-5471;

Tony Fitzpatrick On New Orleans, Chicago, Etchings, Occupy, Studs Terkel, Art, Hoboes & More...

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Pavy at Arthur Roger, Bedia at Heriard-Cimino


It's long been a truism that New Orleans is “the northernmost city of the Caribbean,” but that may be the only reasonable explanation for much of south Louisiana as well. So it's only appropriate that Lafayette artist Francis Pavy's paintings inspired by 200 years of Louisiana statehood turned up at Arthur Roger right next door to Cuba native Jose Bedia's paintings at Heriard-Cimino. Of them, Pavy's imagery is more outwardly colorful as we see in his exotic Birds of North America painting, below, a reminder of Louisiana's placement as a major flyway for migrating wild fowl. Red Raft, above, is a schematic arrangement of symbolic forms like Captain Shreve's steamboat, swamp grass and dark rain, snakes and sailor's knots amid logs burning as brightly as a Biblical portent, all united by a sense of looming epiphany within a matrix of elemental forms and tropical colors, a milieu far more redolent of the Antilles than of Vicksburg. In Modern Times, a tropical landscape is studded with broken chains and streamlined trains, the sun, the stars and the Huey P. Long bridge arranged like an old time Catholic miracle in the form of an improbable vision of progress. Pavy is good at this.

 A singular aesthetic miracle worker, Jose Bedia cuts to the quick with swashbuckling earth toned paintings that depict a variety of Caribbean spirits and, occasionally, his wife. Raised in the Palo Monte tradition of Afro-Cuban Santeria, Bedia has dedicated his life to the art of shamanic wisdom wherever he may find it. Tata Ngombe depicts a seer who has taken the form of a forest  creature bristling with weird energies. Makishi, below, is like a Central African spirit mask come to life. But Mato Inyan is a stylized rendition of Lakota Indian Chief Rocky Bear as a skull-shaped landscape representing Wounded Knee, the scene of the infamous Indian massacre perpetrated by federal troops too frightened to see they were only seeking safe passage. They passed as spirits arising from carnage, commemorated here in Bedia's stark tribute. ~Bookhardt

Francis Pavy: Paintings Inspired by 200 Years of Louisiana Statehood Through March 31
Arthur Roger Gallery, 432 Julia St. 522-1999;; Jose Bedia: Recent Paintings Through April 3, Heriard-Cimino Gallery, 440 Julia St., 525-7300;

Friday, March 16, 2012

Amy Mackie Resigns as CAC Visual Arts Director

Amy Mackie has resigned from her position as Director of Visual Arts at the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC), New Orleans. Amy will manage the installation of NOLA NOW, Part II: Abstraction In Louisiana (1980 & 2012), which opens on April 5. Her last day on staff at the CAC will be Friday, March 30.

“Amy has done great work with the New Orleans visual arts community in her 14 months at the Center, including launching the NOLA NOW artist database. I look forward to following her bright curatorial career as it evolves,” says CAC Director Jay Weigel. "In the coming weeks, the CAC will announce plans for a search for a new Director of Visual Arts."

No official reason was given for her resignation, but Mackie cited philosophical differences in a recent conversation with Inside Art New Orleans. Whatever the cause, Mackie's abrupt departure following on the heels of the equally abrupt departure of her predecessor, Dan Cameron, can only underscore the very widely held impression that other agendas take precedence over the visual arts at the Contemporary Arts Center. ~Bookhardt

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Spaces: Antenna, Front & Good Children at the CAC


In the months immediately following hurricane Katrina it was not unusual to see New Orleanians with newly minted fleur-de-lis tattoos etched prominently on their persons. Having nothing to do with football, this reflected their militant support for the city and what it stood for, which seemed seriously threatened at that time. Another post-Katrina phenomenon was the rise of artist run co-op galleries along the St. Claude corridor. What both phenomena had in common was a sense that creative and personal freedom are what this city is really all about, and the militant, do-it-yourself spirit of the recovery inspired artists to create their own gallery scene in the city's bohemian epicenter--which this Spaces show at the CAC celebrates, and inferentially documents, with work from three of the leading co-op galleries. True to the spirit of St. Claude, the art was curated by the galleries themselves, giving us a very miscellaneous expo with a mingling of new and old, outstanding and routine work. This too reflects a scene that favors experimentation over sales.

Some of the highlights include Dave Greber's three panel video display of artists affiliated with the Front delivering their own personal, self-parodying and hilarious artist statements. There's also a kind of lounge/library where gallery catalogs  share space with wall posters and a chalkboard time-line history of local co-op galleries. A poster for  Antenna gallery featuring a giant busty female space alien flipping cars on I-10 by the Superdome is a minor masterpiece in its own right. And Monopoly (St. Claude) by Good Children Gallery artists Tony Cambell and Mat Vis is a large Monopoly game with champagne glasses and top hats symbolizing the  “gentrification” of St. Claude Avenue epitomized by a proposed CVS pharmacy on the site of Frankie and Johnnie's furniture store. The real stars of the show are the galleries themselves and what they represent: the only recent artist-run arts district in America, and a vital example of participatory democracy in the service of urban community building. ~Bookhardt

Spaces: Antenna, The Front and Good Children Gallery, Through June 10, Contemporary Arts Center, 900 Camp, 528.3805;

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Thornton Dial at the New Orleans Museum of Art

“I mostly pick up stuff,” says Thornton Dial when asked about his creative process. “Then I look at it and think about life.” At 84 years old, the former Pullman railroad car fabricator has had a lot of time to think, but his sculptural works are not “naive” and his illiteracy has not limited his outlook. And if his complex wall assemblages have parallels with the canvases of Pollock and DeKooning, his vision may ultimately be closer to that weird nexus of pop and expressionism shared by fellow Southerners Robert Rauschenberg and Red Grooms. His convoluted, 10 foot wide Don't Matter How Raggly the Flag, It Still Got To Tie Us Together, below, suggests a fateful encounter of Old Glory and a mulch machine, but its colorful anarchy of mattress springs, chicken wire and fabric is more elegiac than nihilistic, conveying a sense of tattered resilience in the face of the stresses that have long challenged American life.  

High and Wide (Carrying the Rats to the Man) features Mickey Mouse in blackface chained to a boat-like construction amid a melange of goat hides and wire suggesting a slave ship, but beyond the irony is a sharp sense of intrigue that seduces the eye and boggles the mind with its startling evocation of cruel wonder. Victory in Iraq melds mannequin and animal parts, wheels and barbed wire into an eloquent melange, as if the viscera of the world had been ripped out for all to see, but Trophies (Doll Factory), top (detail), is a whimsical take on the feminine persona in pop media made with Barbie Dolls, plastic toys and rope in a visual razzmatazz that gives DeKooning a run for his money. Stand-alone sculptures like Lost Cows, below, a concoction of actual cow bones, mirrors and golf bags, can be extraordinary and, all things considered, the case can be made that Thornton Dial may well be the most forcefully eloquent American sculptor to have emerged in the last quarter century, if not longer. ~Bookhardt     

Hard Truths: The Art of Thornton Dial, Through May 20, New Orleans Museum of Art, City Park, 658-4100;