Sunday, April 29, 2012

Mysterious Disappearances Stun Art Community



In Mikhail Bulgakov's great novel, The Master and Margarita, the devil and his big black cat arrive in Moscow during Joseph Stalin's reign of terror. The diabolical duo are shape shifting tricksters who wreak havoc among Moscow's elite--at a time when Stalin caused many people to abruptly “disappear,” they cause other people to abruptly disappear, throwing the political class into chaos. Lately, many things in the local art scene have also mysteriously disappeared. For instance, Alex Podesta has long been known for his lifesize sculptures of bearded guys in bunny costumes, so it was shocking to see a Podesta show sans rabbits. His new sculptures at the Front featuring peculiar devices manipulated by disembodied hands, pictured, are intriguing, but ghosts of bunny men still haunt the room.

Both he and Lala Rascic were included in the Spaces exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Center. The gallery and its entrance, left, were definitely there when the show opened on February 25, but in a mere few weeks the gallery suddenly disappeared without a trace as we see in the photo, below right, dated April 11th. At first no one seemed to know what became of it, but some artists said
it was really only the entrance that had disappeared, walled off in a mysterious plot perpetrated by either the devil or Quentin Tarantino (whose locally shot film Django Unchained, is about the disappearance of an immigrant dentist's wife). All told, the gallery went missing for ten days. Witnesses say the first hint of these remarkable events came about when a crew of spectral workers taking suspicious measurements announced their intention to make the gallery entrance vanish, and many artists responded by preemptively making their work vanish from the show. Lala Rascic managed to stage a “Flash Mob” protest ritual in the gallery before it was sealed off, a performance she repeated at this Front expo. Adding to the angst, some of the artists' families had made plans to visit New Orleans to see the CAC show only to have it suddenly disappear from view. By April 19th the gallery entrance had reappeared as mysteriously as it vanished, and then the show itself reappeared, with noteworthy omissions, by April 21, but the controversy continues. CAC director Jay Weigel says it was all result of “misinformation,” misunderstandings and having to rely on movie revenues to supplement declining donations. But others argue that vanishing art shows are likely to make funding for such programs vanish as well, and indeed, Bob Snead, an Antenna Gallery artist and treasurer of the Press Street non-profit literary and visual arts collective, says some St. Claude galleries now qualify for foundation grants that have devilishly vanished from the CAC's base of potential donors. It seems transparency is now all the vogue, while vanishing acts are considered problematic. Whatever the cause, these remarkable disappearances have been disquieting if not disturbing. Was it the Rapture or Mayan prophesies? Were the bunny men harbingers of doom or resurrection? Was it an omen that two of them were spotted in the Spaces show when the doors were pried open again? Perhaps only the devil or Quentin Tarantino knows for sure, but neither would confirm or deny the rampant speculation. ~Bookhardt   


Alex Podesta and Lala Rascic: New Work
Saturdays and Sundays through May 6
The Front, 4100 St. Claude Ave., 920-3980; www.nolafront.org