Sunday, June 17, 2012

"You Beautiful Bitch" & Others at the Front

Lately if feels as if the dog days of summer are upon us. In the art world, summer means group shows, so the Front's You Beautiful Bitch expo in which eight female artists celebrate their animal partners seems only apropos. Women and their pets is a complicated theme, but here we see some new views of the  archetypal essence of dogness. Lee Deigaard's Bitch, You Confound features a head shot of a mutt in an electric moment of epiphany, as if the secret inner meaning of bone burying and crotch sniffing had just been revealed in a flash of canine enlightenment. Natalie McLaurin's video, He Needs Me, depicts the artist, head and shoulders partially buried in her yard, as her dog circumnambulates her torso in a chthonic dramatization the deeper meanings of love and dirt. Mythic riffs abound in Monica Zeringue's eerily bejeweled wolverine head piece, even as Kathy High's trans-species wall projection of Cat's Eyes beamed through a fish bowl reminds us that felines can be bitchy too. But hey, that's what pets are for: to console us and make us crazy.

In the next gallery, Claire Rau's Permission installation features apocryphal furniture parts leaning inexplicably against a wall. Replacing  Duchamp's “readymades” with improbable hand made objects, Rau quietly yet provocatively questions the meaning of art, craft and aesthetics itself. In Nicole Jean Hill's Artifacts and Incidents landscape photographs, some sculpturally bullet-riddled beer cans--and the skin of a gutted deer seemingly deep in sleep--slyly undermine on our preconceptions of truth and beauty. But Jan Gilbert's 30 Years wall documentation of her own public art projects is a compendium of graphic art about her public art, a visual archive in which a room becomes a monumental resume', a time capsule of an epoch. Meanwhile, in the back yard, Gilbert and Babette Beaullieu's flapping “Cajun” prayer flags seem to celebrate the passing of life's (hurricane) seasons. ~Bookhardt


You Beautiful Bitch: Group Show Curated by Lee Diegaard; Works by Claire Rau and Nicole Jean Hill, Jan Gilbert and Babette Beaullieu Saturdays and Sundays through July 8, The Front, 4100 St. Claude Ave., 920-3980