Sunday, June 24, 2012

Deris & Schleh at Staple Goods; Stokes at Parse

Once, not long ago, visual art was mostly seen but not heard, while performances were much louder and occurred on a stage. Now visual art may include performances, although two shows about town take different approaches to that end. Karoline Schleh and Christopher Deris' Bobbery expo looks very domestic, with a dining room table set for dinner and Chippendale cabinets bristling with curiosities including lots of Schleh's drawings and modified Victorian graphics and such. All are very quiet until a  crank or switch is flipped, and then they suddenly whirl and pirouette like a mechanical version of the Mad Hatter's tea party, all of which is aptly described by the title, Bobbery, a Victorian synonym for “hubbub.” Deris' gear and pulley mechanisms also look Victorian, animated perhaps by the ghost of Rube Goldberg, as they compel even the most quiescent of media to perform for us.

Quiet is far from the case at Parse, where Wesley Stokes' Caligula paintings and videos appear on the walls, while on the floor some little broken busts and concrete shards suggest a mini-imperial ruin. A series of sound performances by Philip Kruse, Philippe Andre Landry, Justin Benoit and Michael Jeffrey Lee, as well as a performance by Chicago artist Elija Burgher about occult symbolism, rounded out the schedule. Using the crazy and cruelly decadent legacy of Roman emperor Caligula as a foil, Stokes suggests multiple connections between the classical world and the present in stark abstract canvases rendered in asphalt that suggest scorched earth while harking to Rauschenberg's black paintings and Brassai's graffiti photographs. Curated by John Otte, Caligula employs dusky videos of dive bars, sinister figures and eerie soundtracks to round out an intermingling of the raw and the refined in an installation that slowly reveals its Plutonic essence while suggesting the power of decadence as well as the decadence of power.~Bookhardt

Bobbery: Mixed Media Sculpture by Christopher Deris and Karoline Schleh, Saturdays and Sundays through July 8, Staple Goods Gallery, 1340 St. Roch Ave., 908-7331

Caligula: Paintings and Mixed Media works by Wesley Stokes, Wednesday--Saturday Through June 29, Parse Gallery, 134 Carondelet St.