Following in the wake of the Contemporary Arts Center's epic series of Nola Now exhibitions that ran from autumn of last year to this August, one might reasonably ask how the Ogden Museum's new Louisiana Contemporary survey show might set itself apart from those massive excavations of recent regional art that appeared just across the street. In fact, although this show also large, featuring more than 80 works by over 40 artists, it still manages to highlight some surprisingly underexposed talents while presenting veteran artists in an interesting new light. Curated by Rene Paul Barilleaux of the McNay Art Museum of San Antonio, TX, Louisiana Contemporary was culled from over 600 works by nearly 200 artists from all over the state and reflects the importance of contemporary visual artists to this city's identity as a global leader in cultural innovation.
Perhaps because New Orleans is a very humanistic city, its longstanding flair for abstraction sometimes seems surprising, but it is also true that local abstraction is often unusually sensual, as we see in the pristine compositions of well known area artists like Aaron Collier, Anastasia Pelias, Deborah Pelias and Wayne Amadee. Less known but no less pristine are the paintings of Covington artist Ken Tate, whose pop abstractions like Joy Wreck, top left, crackle with prismatic gestural electricity, or the canvases of UNO undergrad Dixie Kimball, which channel abstract expressionism with startling efficacy, or the whiter shade of pale pictorialism of Adam Mysock (Mt. Washington, above) even as Amite artist Mik Kastner's spidery kinetic sci-fi sculpture Hoodwink, below, is in a class by itself. Outstanding mixed media works by Hannah Chalew and videos by David Sullivan (Under Pressure, top) and Courtney Egan round out the impressive roster of subjectivity. More explicitly humanistic concerns appear in the eerily psychological work of Jessica Goldfinch and Isoko Onodera, whose The Silent Chaos of Distant Past, above left, recalls Lucien Freud with hints of Francis Bacon. No less humanistic or mysterious are the photographs by Angela Berry, Zack Brown, Maja Georgiou and Kevin Kline among others, and while the show is in many ways a mixed bag, it qualifies as an auspicious beginning for an ambitious new undertaking. ~D. Eric Bookhardt
Louisiana Contemporary: Juried Group Exhibition of Contemporary Louisiana Art, Through Sept. 23, Ogden Museum of Southern Art, 925 Camp St., 539-9600