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;