Thursday, May 31, 2012

Save State Arts Funding NOW!

 Both the Decentralized Arts Funding and the Statewide Arts Grants programs have been targeted with crippling cuts. In the current bill, all that’s remaining for DAF is $1 million and only $959,000 remains for SAG, which represents a 60% reduction in funding levels from Fiscal Year 2009. Louisiana Citizens for the Arts is requesting that the Legislature restore both grant programs to the 2009 funding level by adding $1 million to each program in the Division of the Arts budget. It is extremely important that you contact the members of Senate Fiance to show your support. The time is NOW to contact members of the Senate Finance Committee and ask them to vote for an increase in arts funding.  You need to do it NOW, because this is our LAST chance to have funding restored.Contact Your Legislators TODAY To Save The Arts In Louisiana:

Click here to send a message NOW asking the Senate Finance Committee members to support our request for the increase in funding.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Levitsky and Tobacyk at UNO St. Claude

Life in cities is all about navigating structures. We dart around in cars or on bikes trying to dodge each  other, as the cityscape whizzes by. We mostly see what we need to see, orienting ourselves within patterns of motion, noting the landmarks that mark our progress. That transformation of landscapes into structures, and structures into forms observed in passing, is what defines “modern” life—a process of constant reorientation in time as well as space, as motion becomes a constant. Maria Levitsky's photo-montages reflect that process as particular places and spaces are sliced and diced, then reassembled in accordance with the inner logic of the mind's eye, the subjective GPS of the psyche,  Here the steel skeleton of an industrial building seems to levitate in articulated segments in Collusion of Redundant Obstacles, below, suggesting a time lapse birth-to-death ballet of bare steel girders coming together and then coming apart. Uncanny Mirror features the ordinary yet elegant elements of antique Nola residences montaged into fragments as if reflected in a shattered mirror or a nihilist kaleidoscope. But her Treme Mystery House, top, takes us back to the elegant decadence of the 19th century in ghostly interior spaces where the walls and stairs go their own whimsical ways in an anachronistic puzzle palace--a Creole townhouse where past and present cohabit the same time worn spaces like sleepwalkers, intersecting in passages and stairways that seem to lead to unknowable other dimensions.

Natalie Tobacyk's Perceptions series includes a striking sculpture of stacked folding chairs, below, like a latter day constructivist monument to the history of public meetings, those anonymous ephemeral gatherings for purposes often soon forgotten. Her investigation of things quotidian is further explored in prints, paintings and sculptures based on random arrangements of plastic bags, the most disposable of everyday objects. Some are full but others are just outlines of baggies oozing pigment, afterimages of the lowest items in our consumer caste society, democratically memorialized for posterity. ~Bookhardt

Maria Levitsky: Uncanny Mirror of Available Darkness; Natalie Tobacyk: Perceptions; Through June 2, UNO St. Claude Gallery, 2429 St. Claude Ave., 280-6493

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Jay Weigel Resigns! National Search Announced for New Contemporary Arts Center Director

Jay Weigel, the longest serving executive director in the Contemporary Arts Center’s history, announced today that he will step down from the job he has held for more than 16 years in order to return to his lifelong love, music composition and production. At the request of the CAC‘s Executive Committee, he has agreed to remain in his position for 12 months or through the selection of his successor, and as a consultant for a transition period thereafter.

Weigel, who composed many scores for Hollywood movies and TV shows while also serving as CAC director, said the completion of the CAC’s strategic planning process, along with the search for replacements in key staff positions, made the timing right. “I took on the job of directing the CAC, knowing in my heart that I would someday return to composing music full time. For many years, there was always a good reason – the CAC’s financial survival, the development of an endowment, Katrina recovery, program expansion – that kept me engaged in the CAC executive directorship. With the completion of our strategic planning process, I feel the CAC is on sound footing and the timing is right for me to step down,” he said. CAC board president Robyn Dunn Schwarz said that the CAC’s Executive Committee asked Weigel to stay on as long as 12-15 months to guarantee a smooth transition and to ensure the continuity and integrity of the CAC’s artistic programming. “We support Jay’s decision to return to his music, and he has been gracious to stay on during the transition.” she said. Schwarz said she would form a search committee following the completion and presentation of a new Strategic Plan to the board of directors.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Crook Guidry Ligons & Ramos at Barristers

These days we hear a lot about the “natural world,” but anyone who has spent much time in Louisiana sees aspects of nature that stretch the meaning of the word and provide fodder for the imagination. Paintings by Nikki Crook, Amy Guidry and Monique Ligons further the notion that dreams and  fantasies may be the last vestige of wild nature in the modern psyche. Crook's elegant female nudes celebrate the linkage between the wild world and the dream world in works like Trophy Wife, featuring a darkly veiled woman offering a bouquet of flowers in one hand and a deer skull in the other. In The Hunter, left, a shapely if bloody young woman with a raccoon skin shawl draped across her head and shoulders confronts us with a skinned carcass in her outstretched arms, while Silent Forest, top, features a bloody rabbit and an owl with a baby doll face--all of which suggest that the female, regardless of species, may be the deadlier gender, at least some of the time.

Lafayette artist Amy Guidry juxtaposes human and animal symbolism in weirdly surreal ways that  are especially effective in works like Synnergy, left, in which a human head emerges from the earth with blood vessels below like the root system of a tree. In others, wolves' heads minus bodies roam the badlands like specters, suggesting that the real predators may have moved on, perhaps to Wall Street. As with Crook, notions of interdependence and transference are broadly implicit. Monique Ligons' intricately baroque sci-fi style paintings extend the fantasy realm into the far reaches of the imagination in truly wild images where humanoid insects reenact Biblical scenes ranging from the Crucifixion, right, to the Garden of Eden. While not yet household names, all three artists are increasingly accomplished, and their extraordinary imaginations, deftly transposed to paint on canvas, make this dramatically offbeat show very appealing for anyone with an appreciation for magic realism.

New Orleans photographer R. Ramos extends natural impulses a little further into the unnatural world in this series of nude photographs illustrating Kinbaku, the art of Japanese rope bondage. His images are pristinely well produced, but what stands out is how the artfully ritualistic aspects of Japanese culture transform something inherently tacky--sort porn bondage photos--into something much more transcendant, or even inexplicably beautiful, as the silky skin, the meticulous twine bindings and the dramatic lighting of the dungeon-like industrial setting conspire in a kind of visual paradox that Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray and the rest of the original surrealists would have doubtlessly found intriguing. Ramos concludes: "If the viewer leaves inspired or repulsed, then the exhibit was a success."

Visions of the Unnatural World: Works by Nikki Crook, Amy Guidry, Monique Ligons and R. Ramos through June 23, Barrister's Gallery, 2331 St. Claude Ave, 710-4506;

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Shirley Rabe Masinter at LeMieux Through May 26

Aesthetics is a complicated topic by almost any measure, but the aesthetics of distressed architecture--ratty old buildings--is a profoundly nuanced specialty. Most Americans don't get it. To them, blight is blight and nothing more. To more fully appreciate surfaces that threaten to collapse under the weight of a prolonged gaze it helps to be, if not a native, then at least a long term resident of Orleans Parish, and preferably a practicing artist or would be artist--someone who understands that certain kinds of decay are actually signs of character. Local photo-realist artist Shirley Rabe Masinter has been an insightful connoisseur and painterly interpreter of urban blight for decades, and her current series of seedy commercial structures in various stages of decay reflects a profound understanding of the rich inner life of grotty old buildings. Emerson once said that “every wall is a door,” but for Masinter every wall is a palimpsest, a homely Rosetta Stone where the elemental histories of structures and their inhabitants are deeply etched into those blistered and distressed surfaces.

Walter Patrolia's Beer Parlor is emblematic, a rotting two story Faubourg Marigny wreck on which a recently exposed sign, revealed under layers of old siding, advertising both the bar and Jax Beer appears like an elegant East Asian tattoo on an gnarly old seafarer. The six digit telephone number indicates that it dates from at least the 1950s if not before, and we are left contemplating a scabrous heap of history that doubles as a time machine, a portal to another age. Massinter's densely textured St. Roch Market, while gloriously ruinous, is less hopeful, a Katrina casualty that has yet to be reborn.  Others like the painting of the Shamrock Tavern, another excavation with a faded vintage beer sign, or the dilapidated deco husk of the Standard Life building, are memento mori within the architectural still life that is New Orleans, reminders that darkness and death are what give meaning to light and life. ~Bookhardt                 

Made in Louisiana: Paintings and Drawings by Shirley Rabe Masinter through May 26, LeMieux Galleries, 332 Julia St., 522.5988;

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Glaviano at Coup d'Oeil; Matsubara at Ferrara

"Approach them carefully, they're very aggressive." No, it wasn't a cage of tarantulas, this was an art gallery and the young assistant gallerist was just offering a bit of practical advice. New Orleans photographer Mark Glaviano's stark color photographs of youthful men and women suspended from hooks oozing little rivulets of blood, are indeed aggressive, literally lending a whole new level of gravitas to body piercing. Like much of the “modern primitives” movement, this is patterned on ancient rituals, and while the process is said to require practice and preparation, a lot of what we see in this Pain Tribe series looks colorfully chaotic. Amore, pictured, is emblematic, as troll-like figures hoist a gagged guy with a mohawk in a dramatic tableau like something from a punkster production of Satyricon. Similar scenes abound along with occasional moments of levity as nubile babes with buzz cuts coquettishly cut up with riding crops. Hey, girls just wanna have fun. Glaviano's Modern Ritual photos take us to a netherworld where anthropology meets pain at its most rapturous, as the spirits of the tribal past return with a vengeance.

The tone could not be more different in Ken Matsubara's ethereally beautiful, yet no less unsettling, mixed media works. Like futuristic magic lanterns from a high tech alchemist, Matsubara's silvery bell jars come to life with the floating forms of young men and women seemingly washed away in tsunami tides in Sleeping Water: Mekong Delta. Here they recall the drowned figures in local film collective Court 13's great video, Glory at Sea. Others resemble magic mirrors, or large animated Daguerreotypes in works such as Storm in a Glass, where the water in a tall clear glass sloshes from side to side in a self contained mini-tsunami--and once again we are reminded that we are living in times when the old gods can become suddenly quite restless. ~Bookhardt

Modern Ritual: Photographs by Mark Glaviano, Through May 12, Coup d' oeil Art Consortium, 2033 Magazine St., 722-0876;;  
The Sleeping Water: Video and Mixed Media Works by Ken Matsubara, Through May 19, Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, 400A Julia St., 522-5471;