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