Sunday, May 26, 2013

LaPopSexTVArtShow at Barrister's

The Claude Arts District is often considered a post-Katrina phenomenon--and it mostly is--but this show illustrates how deep the experimental Marigny-Bywater art scene's roots really are. Curated by Beau Tardy and Michael Fedor, themselves veterans of Fedor's former (1987--1990) Marigny-based Galerie Avant Gout, it also includes works by Patti D'Amico and William Warren whose Waiting Room Gallery in Bywater was active from 1997 to 2008. Both spaces catered to emerging artists, a tone that
continues in this show. Tardy, who worked for MTV in New York for years, was inspired by mass media's fixation on erotic titillation as seen in GotCha, left, a manipulated image of a babe in a vortex of flashy graphics like those TV ads that somehow inspire salacious thoughts based on nothing more than subliminal suggestion. The paintings by French counterpart Louis Jean Gorry are far more graphic, but his style is as raw as scrawled subway station graffiti. Somehow slick is more insidious. But fellow Frenchie Cyr Boitard, left, takes a more romantic turn in his Proustian evocation of the soft porn of the past in images like an updated Toulouse Lautrec hashish fantasy.

Michael Fedor's intricately surreal collages such as Goliath, left, suggest something an absinthe-inspired French Quarter Max Ernst might have  created in a dark corner of the Napoleon House in the lost days of yore, a sensibility complemented by Patti D'Amico's mystically tinged canvas The Medium, among others. In 2008, she and partner Warren moved to Water Valley, MS, where the omnipresent kudzu inspired him to paint humanoid vine critters like Kudzu Blues Man, a wavy gravy exercise in animist pointillism in the form of a vinous Delta musician, bottom left.

Throw in Margaret Meinzer's adjacent expo of pop-expressionist dreamscapes like A Small Boat at Sea, above, and it's a weirdly wonderful show in the grand St. Claude tradition of ad hoc epiphanies by artists with eternally youthful attitudes--a sensibility that resonates neatly with French digital artist Nicolas Sassoon's Green Waves, a vast surround-sound and light environment of choreographed pixels in motion at the May Gallery in Bywater, and Irish artist Jane Cassidy's electronic music-video composition at Parse (see upper left sidebar). Both of these sublimely ethereal shows at two of the newer art spaces in town extend a long local tradition of experimental art in unlikely places. ~D. Eric Bookhardt

LaPopSexTVArtShow: Group Exhibition Curated by Beau Tardy and Michael Fedor, through June 1, Barrister's Gallery, 2331 St. Claude Ave, 710-4506 


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Dalai Lama in Nola

Two very emblematic photographs from His Holiness the Dalai Lama's spectacular visit to New Orleans this weekend. Top, presenting ceremonial kata to Mayor Mitch Landrieu after Landrieu presented him with the Key to the City, accompanied by an introductory speech emphasizing the commonalities between the teachings of Saint Francis and the the teachings of the Buddha. Below, at the Tulane commencement ceremonies receiving an honorary doctorate with iconic Nola music legends Dr. John and Allen Toussaint, who of course performed, to HHDL's apparent delight. Below, HHDL gets his groove on at Tulane grad ceremonies in the Superdome.

More photos of the Dalai Lama's amazing visit can be viewed at Charlie Varley's Varleypix site.

Pat Steir at the Newcomb Gallery

Big time celebrities, in big cities like New York, sometimes get big heads. It is a common human trait to try to find meaning in fame and fortune, but wisdom is a very different experience.  Longtime New York art star Pat Steir turns the fame game on its head in her Self Portrait expo. Self portraiture is nothing new, but Steir's Self Portrait is comprised of eyes, ears, noses and features that bear no resemblance to her actual appearance. Drawn directly on the gallery walls like precise renaissance sketches, they seem to be trying to tell us something, but what? Steir adheres to the old Buddhist view that what we think of as our "self," or ego, is a concept that is an illusory mind game. In this view, our sense of self is a product of our common DNA filtered through differing circumstances and degrees of awareness -- so identifying with our fellow humans is not only compassionate but can facilitate a happier and more meaningful life in a conflicted world where everything is impermanent except for the eternal present and, ultimately, the universe itself.  

Buddhist sages discovered the time-space continuum eons before Einstein, and in Steir's Endless Line, top, it appears as a continuous drippy tracery meandering around the room like a river. Painted white, it glows blue in the gallery's cobalt light and recalls her famous "waterfall" canvases of drips orchestrated into magical cascades with overtones of Zen and Jackson Pollock. Endless Line is painted directly on the walls and will be painted over when the show closes. This parallels the meticulous sand mandalas created by the Tibetan Buddhist monks who appeared with the Dalai Lama this past weekend. After days of work, the sand mandala was swept up and thrown into the river. Here the act of creation is an ongoing exercise in the art of life, and all that really matters is the--hopefully enlightened--awareness we bring to it. ~D. Eric Bookhardt 

Endless Line and Self Portrait: Site Specific Wall Installations by Pat Steir, through June 16, Newcomb Art Gallery, Tulane University, 865-5328.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Stephen Paul Day at the Arthur Roger Gallery

What do the rise and fall of empires have to do with Las Vegas? Probably not much except that both were into glamorous and grandiose symbolism. History is always a roll of the dice and somebody always loses. Empires were often fueled by visions of vast wealth, yet they all eventually crumbled. Stephen Paul Day's Blame It On Vegas exhibition actually focuses far more on European history than it does on Nevada's sin city, which is mostly represented here by his oversize paintings of tacky souvenir matchbooks. By contrast, his sculptures often feature mini-renditions of major European historical figures. In Virus, Adolph Hitler appears as a little manikin frozen in a Roman Salute in a foggy glass bubble. In a smallish bronze sculpture, Michael, a morose child appears surrounded by chess pieces comprised of scowling military men. Here in Louisiana we grew up with allusions to Napoleon in the form of avenues, cafes and even our legal code, but in Day's General Strategy Napoleon appears as a row of pastel candy colored busts on a shelf. This interplay of grandeur and tackiness is an ongoing theme.

His attempts to link Vegas with European historical figures can seem far fetched, yet he appears obsessed with finessing the contradictions of his romantic yet nihilistic outlook, and his work is often so finely wrought that it can be seductive. Lady Fingers is a glass female figure finished like white marble and it would be quite neoclassical if not for her unexpectedly exposed inner organs. In Pink Napoleon, the romantic egomaniac, reappears as two identical glass busts, kissing, in a mingling of flashy attitude and classical craft comparable to, say, snips of Beethoven's Eroica symphony sampled in a rap song. And then there's his wall sculpture, Mirror, six assault rifles rendered in reflective gold glass arranged in a row. Is it a comment on the 2013 version of the American Dream, or is it just Day up to his old tricks? Your call. ~D. Eric Bookhardt

Blame It On Vegas; Collecting Meta-Modern: Mixed Media works by Stephen Paul Day, through May 25, Arthur Roger Gallery, 432 Julia St. 522-1999.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Michael Pajon at Jonathan Ferrara Gallery

Winston Churchill once said that "History is written by the victors." How true. But it is also true that stories are for everyone, and in America stories appear almost everywhere, from song lyrics to comic strips or even old vintage scraps of paper, as we see in Michael Pajon's striking O Bury Me Not collage show at Ferrara. The title, from a Depression-era cowboy ballad, sets the tone for a wide range of folksy snippets of printed matter that, when shrewdly reworked into evocative collages, lead us straight into the wayward residue of the American dreams of the past, those alternative histories that  can never be written except by the poets, dreamers, musicians and inspired madmen among us, those rare creatures who can capture life as it is lived rather than simply chronicled.     

Art is what happens when such dreams are reworked into visions of the past, present and future, times that Einstein opined exist all at once. In Standard American XXIV, a vintage American vision of "progress" appears as a fraught nirvana of cowboys, flappers and Pullman cars surrounding a bulls eye target graced bye a bluebird of happiness and guarded by WWII aircraft among other whimsical omens of a happy hereafter. A Wisper, a Handshake, a Drop of Blood features a gathering of similarly dressed corporate stalwarts posing for posterity flanked by anatomy charts and tombstones. To the victors go the spoils and if the price is paid by others, so much the better, their expressions seem to say. Hunters, Hazards and Haints reads like a fever dream from the mind of Mark Twain, a fractured fairytale of Conestoga wagons, cowboys, railroads and Indian chiefs, and a lone home on the range where the deer and the antelope play--along with hucksters, hunters, snake oil salesmen and preachers, what Pajon calls "the 'lesser' folk of our collective American history," characters who, like the cowboy riding into the sunset, "should be allowed the luxury of myth." ~D. Eric Bookhardt

O Bury Me Not: Mixed-Media Drawing Collages by Michael Pajon, through May 28, Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, 400A Julia St., 522-5471. Left: They Fractured His Arm But Not His Spirit