Sunday, November 18, 2012

Harper at Antenna, Benischek & Miller at The Front

Autumn is the season of renewal in New Orleans, and this November marks both the re-opening of the Antenna Gallery at its new St. Claude  location and the fourth birthday of the Front. Yet, both feature works dealing more with endings than beginnings. At Antenna, David Harper explores mourning in sculptures crafted from white porcelain, fabric and lace inspired by the Dutch still life tradition. But where the Dutch masters painted arrangements of flowers and fruit with occasional skulls as reminders of mortality, Harper's style is even more gothic. Better, Still features a deathly white porcelain doll next to a porcelain snake with blue floral patterns on its snow white skin, in a haunting if creepy reprise of the way ornamentation has been used to commemorate the departed. In Noblesse Oblige, a large white porcelain deer with two heads appears in an delicate lace cage-like vitrine on a faux polar bear rug. Amid smaller and subtler works, it rounds out Harper's beautiful, yet disturbing, elaboration of a dreamlike yet historically based, alternate reality.

Brad Benischek and Case Miller's Breaking Up Is Hard To Do at the Front, pictured, is a no less psychological, yet totally funky, environmental installation crafted to resemble a bitter end border crossing at some dark twilight zone of the soul. Featuring a realistic, life size recreation of a steel, graffiti smeared, Port of Embarkation complex, it is really an architectural rendition of the Charles Bukowski/Tom Waits world view. an externalized equivalent of the bleak inner landscape of emotional loss that results when the bonds of love are sundered and people move on--which at the opening featured a guitar strumming bum playing Nirvana and Jacques Brel covers as viewers traversed a winding, infernal looking corridor that deposited them unceremoniously outside the building. Not always appreciated, this at least offered a reminder, if any were needed, of how disconcerting emotional transitions can be.  ~D. Eric Bookhardt

Better, Still: New Work by David R. Harper, 12-5pm Sat-Sun Through. Dec 2,
Antenna Gallery, 3718 Saint Claude Ave., 250-7975; Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: Installation by Brad Benischek and Case Miller, 12-5pm Sat-Sun Through. Dec 2,
The Front, 4100 St. Claude Ave., 920-3980