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; www.cacno.org
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