Sunday, August 26, 2012

New and Old Photography at the Ogden Museum

  Jolie Laide by Lisette de Boisblanc

A photograph can reflect many things — a dream, a memory or an event. This Ogden Museum New Southern Photography expo, although lacking any unifying theme, conveys something of a kaleidoscopic quality in work that is mostly quite recent if often rooted by the past. This sensibility is expressed in Lisette de Boisblanc’s X-ray photographs of her grandmother’s doll collection, or what was left of it after it was submerged for days in post-Katrina floodwaters. Her images reveal not only the archaic inner workings of vintage dolls but also the ghostly vestiges of the garments that emanate from them like auras, as we see in Jolie Laide, above, a luminous figure whose blank eyes seem focused on a world invisible to ordinary mortals. No less eerie is Heidi Kirkpatrick’s Mahjong in Fruitcake Tin, above left, a delicate arrangement of Mahjong tiles incorporating photographs of cactus plants, female nudes with spiked collars, views of the Eiffel Tower, skulls and crucifixes in a kind of subconscious smorgasbord. Poignant arrangements of memorial plastic flowers appear in Seth Boonchai’s Broken Flowers installation on the wall and floor even as some surreal views of the random absurdities of the American streetscape link this to the big, ambitious and generally rewarding Louisiana Contemporary expo upstairs.

Women in Front of Barber Shop 1960 by Ralston Crawford

All of this is complemented by the Ogden’s Louisiana Photographs from the Permanent Collection, a grab bag from the great photographers who’ve either resided in or passed through the Pelican State. While some are probably familiar to photography buffs, there are rare surprises like Ben Shahn’s shabbily exotic 1935 Church in Louisiana, Eudora Welty’s circa 1935, darkly surreal Mardi Gras Celebration, left, and Ralston Crawford’s spectacularly graphic 1960 backstreet Barber Shop, above, all of which complement slightly more familiar work by Walker Evans, Fonville Winans, Clarence John Laughlin and others in a show like a chance reunion with dear old friends on a balmy summer day. ~D. Eric Bookhardt
Through Sept. 23, New Southern Photography, Louisiana Photographs from the Permanent Collection, Ogden Museum of Southern Art, 925 Camp St., 539-9600