The massive, hulking brick building looming above the Claiborne Ave. overpass between Montagut and St. Ferdinand streets looks like the industrial structure it once was, and while you'd never know it from the outside, it currently comprises over 50 artist studios. It also houses the May Gallery, the St. Claude Arts District's northernmost outpost, which currently features Derek Larson's no less surprising Tantric Wealth exhibition, a mixed media extrapolation of ancient beliefs and contemporary currencies. Specifically, his busy montages of monetary symbols like euros, pesos, pounds, dollars or krona are configured into into contemporary Yantras, the sacred diagrams employed in traditional Hinduism as meditative pathways to cosmic consciousness. All are untitled, and all radiate the irony that inevitably attends any fusion of things macro and micro, sacred and venal.
Adding to their pop aura, all are rendered in acidic shades of tangerine, mauve, salmon and so forth, in patterns as incomprehensible as global finance itself. And while the sages of ancient Asia offered paths to self-liberation, today's global economy more often resembles something the Egyptian pharaohs might have devised, only our new pharaohs are the global financiers who sometimes seem to try to rule the world even as the high priests of technology keep the masses mesmerized with the latest addictive gadgets that command ever more of our attention, as we see in Larson's video projections of people seemingly transfixed, meditating on their pods, pads, tablets or cell phones. Like digital yogis, they channel vast networks of universal corporate consciousness, and here we encounter a Ray Bradbury vision of a dystopia of electronic lotus eaters where everyone is wired into a waking dream of virtual connectedness, a realm of eternally ephemeral enticements that never fail to tantalize even as the latest “new and improved” iteration of electronic nirvana looms on a perpetually receding horizon. The reality is more nuanced than this sounds, but Larson gives us a lot to think about. ~D. Eric Bookhardt
Tantric Wealth: Multimedia Installation by Derek Larson. Open Second Saturday Evening, Nov 10, and by appointment through Nov. 23. May Gallery, 2839 N. Robertson St., 316-3474
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