Sunday, April 28, 2013

Baer at UNO St. Claude; Ho & Langlinais at the Front

Kevin Baer's Ritual Process show at the UNO St. Claude Gallery is a little like the jazz piano playing of Keith Jarrett: both seem coolly minimal yet are actually complex. In Baer's case, organic materials were deployed with surprising lyricism to evoke natural and man made processes. Horizons, pictured, was inspired by the Rothko Chapel where the legendary artist's abstract canvases appear as objects of meditation. But in Baer's Horizons, a blank canvas literally paints itself as its bottom is suspended in a trough of colored dyes that gradually saturate it like a wick. Likewise, some glassy illuminated obelisks in the parking lot slowly change form over time as what looks like cast glass turns out to be sugar glass that melts in the rain and heat. Even some of the drawings--created with materials like hair, charcoal and dust--look almost like they drew themselves. Ritual Process is cool and sleek yet organic in tone, and if that seems unlike Nola's baroque extravagance, think again, because this city is like a vast process art project that is always in flux. Even that self-painted Rothkoesque canvas might be read as an aesthetic re-visioning of the water lines found on so many structures after Katrina. Here Baer explores the unfathomable nexus of nature and culture.

More minimal process art appears in Colleen Ho's near monochromatic drawings at the Front. Stitched in thread on paper, they suggest spider webs in frost or footprints in snow observed from above. Labor intensive yet quietly evocative, they explore the subtle interplay of presence and absence.  Barrett Langlinais' abstract photographs return us to a realm of natural and man made processes as they appear etched into the skin of the city. Contained in those surfaces is a poetry of decay and regeneration like a resonant interplay of minor and major tones, the eternal counterpoint of darkness and light. ~Reviewed by D. Eric Bookhardt  Ritual Process: Mixed Media Process Art by Kevin Baer, Fridays-Sundays Through May 5; UNO St. Claude Gallery, 2429 St. Claude Ave., 280-6493; Strata: Photographs by Barrett Langlinais, On Impulse: Mixed Media Drawings by Colleen Ho, Saturdays-Sundays Through May 5, The Front, 4100 St. Claude Ave., 920-3980. Reviewed by D. Eric Bookhardt

Sunday, April 21, 2013

"Cardak Ni Na Nebu Ni Na Zemlji," A Mixed Media Group Expo at Barrister's Gallery

What do abandoned local gas stations and Soviet-era monuments have in common? The short answer is Nola-based Croatian expat artist Srdjan Loncar,  who used them as the basis for this Cardak Ni Na Nebu Ni Na Zemlji show at Barrister's. Taken from a Serbian fairytale, it means “a castle neither in the sky nor on earth,” which to Loncar suggests monumental structures that once had a purpose but which now exist in limbo if they exist at all. Designed in the 1960s by Yugoslavia's leading modern sculptors as military memorials when that nation was the most progressive place in the former Soviet empire, they are now bizarre monuments to a vanished communist past, just as defunct gas stations memorialize the oil industry's past. Loncar's photographs, pictured, and scale model metal sculptures distill them all into design statements that celebrate the surprising surrealism of unintended consequences.
Irish artist Malcolm McClay extends this exploration in his collaged graphics of partially completed luxury homes that were suddenly abandoned when the housing bubble burst with a bang in Ireland, leaving many ruinous monuments to greed and broken dreams in its wake. The tone turns elegiac in Christopher Saucedo's ghostly white abstractions on blue handmade paper that are really ectoplasmic impressions of the Twin Towers where his New York firefighter brother died during the 911 attacks. Beyond the politico-economic nature of these works, all share an emphasis on the nature of geometry itself, not simply for its utility but also for its symbology of how the pieces of society fit together. Or not. The iconic nature of geometric abstraction appears at its most ethereal in Jane Cassidy's haunting video installation They Upped Their Game After The Oranges, below, a kind of ever shifting video light sculpture for which she also wrote the musical score. Here electronic music provides the field in which the interweaving vectors of light seem to float autonomously.

Dawn Dedeaux's ghostly glowing sculptures of front steps that once lead to  homes that were swept away by hurricane Katrina bring us down to earth once again even as they hint at the hovering of the souls of the former residents of those vanished homes. But in Nola just about anything left unattended soon becomes a memorial to something, as we see in Angela Berry's photos of everyday items like patio furniture that she recreated in miniature with a 3-D printer and arranged as glowing altars to the ordinary in an adjacent alcove. Similarly, Hannah Chalew's elegantly intricate ink drawings of vine covered abandoned homes are reminders that everything is ultimately impermanent, and that nature always has the last word. Reviewed by D. Eric Bookhardt

Cardak Ni Na Nebu Ni Na Zemlji: Mixed Media Group Exhibition Curated by Srdjan Loncar, through May 4, Barrister's Gallery, 2331 St. Claude Ave, 710-4506

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Monica Zeringue at Jonathan Ferrara; Stephanie Patton at Arthur Roger

Go to any major museum and you see art based on mythology, from the renaissance to modern times. Nobody knows why. Monica Zeringue's spectacular graphite drawings -- nude self portraits of the artist in various mythic guises--may offer some clues even as they evoke contemporary performance art. In Cloak, below, she appears on all fours in a lion's skin a la Hercules. This marks a big departure from her earlier drawings based on her more introverted schoolgirl self, which resurfaces in her Ophelia Descending drawing, left. Inspired by John Millais' great painting of a drowning Ophelia, Zeringue's version depicts child-like images of herself entangled in a waterfall of hair, the main element in her earlier work. Hair suggests the tangled currents of the psyche, but in these new drawings she's having a better, or at least bolder, hair day. In Hide and Seek, top, she appears as twin women with many arms like those multi-limbed east Asian deities, only here they seem to be questioning each other. Myths linger because they distill essential human traits, for better or worse, so they epitomize aspects of who we are inside. In this show, Zeringue takes off--in any number of ways--like the eagle in the Prometheus legend.

Stephanie Patton's Private Practice show continues her exploration of psychic and physical healing in padded white vinyl wall hangings, fanciful soft sculptures that evoke the convolutions of the brain or even padded cells--or maybe what might have happened had a bedding company hired Salvador Dali as a designer. But Patton offers a few clues in the form of mattress-like letters spelling out the words "Good Boy," or a video of her head covered in mummy-like Band-Aid wrappings that she painfully yanks off, one by one. Enigmatic and minimal, her soft sculptures defy easy interpretation, and if that seems like too much work, remember, you can probably sleep on them! ~D Eric Bookhardt

Goddesses and Monsters: Graphite drawings by Monica Zeringue, through April 23, Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, 400A Julia St., 522-5471; Private Practice: Mixed Media by Stephanie Patton, through April 20, Arthur Roger Gallery, 432 Julia St. 522-1999   

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Troy Dugas at The Arthur Roger Gallery; Casey Ruble at The Foundation Gallery

In the art world, some people wonder if this is the worst, or the best, of times. Neither of the leading art world capitals, New York and London, have produced any truly exciting new art or artists in ages, but the silver lining is that tedious trends like "postmodernism" no longer rule, and vital regional art scenes like Nola and Los Angeles have never been more highly regarded. This quiet revolution that transcends the prevailing "isms" is exemplified in Acadiana-based Troy Dugas' large cut paper collages. His well known mandala-like compositions like Jewel Pride, top, are so precise they look digital; only up close is it clear that they're cobbled from product labels. Here the wastes of consumer culture appear transformed as if by a gesture of aesthetic judo into something surprising and sublime. His new portrait series, loosely derived from art history and online police reports, also employs a similarly strategic use of product labels. Fayum Blue, left, exemplifies his transcendent remake of mug shots reconfigured from engraved French wine labels into something more akin to a shimmering Hindu deity. By transforming the waste products of mass production into unique objects of wonder, Dugas melds the dynamics of op art, pop culture and classical mosaics into an intriguing new gumbo of expanded visual consciousness.

Cut paper collage takes a muted turn in Casey Ruble's small compositions of street scenes that can look almost bland, as if the collage maestro, Matisse, had entered the realm of Nancy and Sluggo. Even her New Orleans vistas can look almost prosaic, but by all means look again, for there is a deft precision and almost Zen-like vision at work here. Like Walt Whitman or William Carlos Williams, Ruble poetically probes the mysteries of the familiar. Her ethereally minimal world may seem understated at first, but it is well worth a visit. ~D. Eric Bookhardt

The Shape of Relics: Work on Paper by Troy Dugas through April 20, Arthur Roger Gallery, 432 Julia St. 522-1999; The Offing: Works by Casey Ruble through April 20, The Foundation Gallery, 608 Julia St., 568-0955. (Above left: Magazine St.; Right: West End Boulevard, by Casey Ruble.

Jerry Saltz on the Demise of New York's Gallery Scene and the Financialization of Art

"Artists and dealers are as passionate as ever about creating good shows, but fewer and fewer people are actually seeing them. Chelsea galleries used to hum with activity; now they’re often eerily empty. Sometimes I’m nearly alone. Even on some weekends, galleries are quiet, and that’s never been true in my 30 years here. Fewer ideas are being exchanged, fewer aesthetic arguments initiated. I can’t turn to the woman next to me and ask what she thinks, because there’s nobody there. Instead, the blood sport of taste plays out in circles of hedge-fund billionaires and professional curators, many of whom claim to be anti-market..." (Photo: Keith Haring at Tony Shafrazi Gallery, 1982)  More>>