Sunday, October 28, 2012

"It's Hot Out" by VonHaffacker and "Bullets for Breakfast" by John Isiah Walton at the Second Story Gallery

It's not often that cops become serious artists, and it's even rarer for them to exhibit paintings based on what they see on the mean streets of the city. A local white cop who signs his name VonHaffacker is all that and more, and his two person expo with emerging black artist John Isiah Walton at the Healing Center's Second Story Gallery may be the most provocative show this month. Here the paintings have ballistic impact as we see in works like Throw me Somethin' Mista, his still life painting of an AK 47 assault rifle draped with Mardi Gras beads, or Doing Lines, his near photographic view of some power lines with a telltale pair of sneakers dangling ominously against the sky.  But his masterpiece, Ghost of Telly Hankton, is a mosaic portrait of the murder kingpin made up of hundreds of  spent shell casings shaded with varying degrees of oxidation to comprise an oversize mug shot with an iconic, arresting presence. It is accompanied by a wall essay on Hankton's bloody antics that reads like one of Quentin Tarantino's violence-porn movie plots, only this is the real thing, not some emotionally retarded director trying to be cute with carnage. Here VonHaffacker strikes a nerve and then some.

More ballistic art appears in John Isiah Walton's Bullets for Breakfast series of gold and metal leafed cereal box portraits of famous assassination victims in history ranging from John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King to Abraham Lincoln. Interesting, but most pale in comparison to his simple sculptures of cereal bowls filled with rounds of live ammo ranging from small bore bullets to hefty hollow points with a spoon stuck into them. No, it's not the breakfast of champions, but it does illustrate how violence has become the all American commodity, a toxic product that wreaks havoc on our streets even as it poisons our national image in the eyes of the world. ~D. Eric Bookhardt

It's Hot Out C'he in New Orleans: Recent Paintings by VonHaffacker; Bullets For Breakfast: Works by John Isiah Walton, Through Nov. 3, Second Story Gallery, 2372 St. Claude Ave., 710-4506