Sunday, August 25, 2013

Void Loop at Antenna

We usually think of computers as coldly logical, soulless devices that excel in manipulating vast troves of data without a trace of human whimsy. While that is mostly true, digital artists have been teaching computers to improvise, and this Void Loop expo at Antenna features works that were co-created by computer programs in much the way surrealist artists, even jazz musicians, have traditionally collaborated in free associational frenzies. One of the artists in the show, Casey Reas, even invented an open source program for that purpose. Called "Processing," it is used to create works like MicroImage, excerpt above, an abstract animation displayed on a monitor in a booth. Reminiscent of a nascent tropical storm at first, it looks nest-like on closer inspection, as thin, interwoven lines endlessly meander and curve back upon themselves. In Reas' program, the artist creates the original pattern and the computer generates variants in motion--in this case like a time-lapse video of an undulating abstract expressionist vortex.

Far larger is a wall-size video projection IIIIIII2, excerpt above, by Annica Cuppetelli and Cristobal Mendoza. Here infinitely variable bars of light march across rows of string stretched vertically before a geometric backdrop in patterns that play hypnotic mind games with the viewer. More minimal is a nearby sound sculpture by Greg Pond, left, consisting of a single large sheet metal rectangle mounted on a pair of tapered wooden pediments. Up close, it's almost like hearing the sea in a conch shell, only it's more of a spacey electronic drone, perhaps a computer simulation of the sound of the universe on a calm day. Compared to these cybernetic extrapolations from the far horizons of the senses, Ashley John Pigford's electro-mechanical devices exploring "the intersection of technology and typography" like his Cursive Machine, below, exhibit the reassuring Rube Goldberg-like presence of inventions cobbled from garage sale components. But don't be fooled, devious computer codes lurk within. Computer codes now envelop the world the way cats claw vines envelop New Orleans, and their presence is no less inexorable.  ~D. Eric Bookhardt    

Void Loop: Group Exhibition of Mixed Media Electronic Artists, through Sept. 8, Antenna Gallery, 3718 Saint Claude Ave., 250-7975

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Rachel David at Barrister's

Their forms can look as softly languid as flowers or even jellyfish, but were crafted out of the hardest of metals. Created in an age when automation makes many things happen instantly, these objects were  slowly forged with centuries-old techniques in a blacksmith shop while subjected to heat that often exceeded 2000 degrees. Even their appearance flaunts contradictory ideas about time, somehow melding 19th century art nouveau flourishes with futuristic science fiction overtones. And if the contrasts built into this Sitting Prone expo of Rachel David's steel and wrought iron metal sculptures seem endless, that only adds to their mystique. At a time when much of the world--including the global art world--can appear dessicated and demystified, her enigmatic objects radiate an almost alchemical presence. Yet, for all that, they are the mental offspring of an artist best known for useful objects like tables, lamps and candelabras as well as architectural elements like the serpentine gates at the Bywater Art Lofts and Sculpture Garden. Shifting from practical crafts to otherworldly sculptures should be quite challenging, but David's approach makes for a seamless transition.

Adding to the intrigue, she says she is inspired by interpersonal relations, which sounds like an odd basis for works like Still Life, bottom, an elaborate concoction of spindly forms like a hybrid mix of passion flower and a sea anemone. Yet, while very different species, both are attractive and interactive; one attracts bees to help it propagate while the other seduces its prey. Likewise, Transom, above, evokes vital biological relational realms while the enigmatic Encounter, top, suggests an  oversize seed pod with long, graceful jellyfish - like tendrils that descend to its base where they coil as languidly as a cobra in repose, and it's shocking to realize that they were once discarded machine parts or plumbing fixtures given a strange new life as reclaimed materials. So what do we make of all this? The ancient alchemists tried to make gold from lead, but blacksmithing such ethereal visions from the strongest of metals seems like a hardly less daunting proposition. ~D. Eric Bookhardt

Sitting Prone: New Metal Sculptures by Rachel David, through Sept. 7, Barrister's Gallery, 2331 St. Claude Ave, 710-4506

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Home at Octavia, Sputnik 1 at BS

Thanks largely to the St. Claude scene, New Orleans is now considered a global leader in experimental, artist-run art spaces. Yet, while the spotlight was elsewhere, the Downtown Arts District has not been without ferment. For instance, the Octavia Gallery's expansive new Julia Street location in a superbly restored 19th century building has got to be one of the most impressive new exhibition spaces in the region. Their current Home group expo is also impressive with its array of work by native Louisiana-born art stars like Lynda Benglis, Keith Sonnier and Rashaad Newsome. Interspersed with a number of ascendant Nola artists, Home is a Whitman's sampler of varied visions ranging from Regina Scully's ethereal, Coltrane-esque tone poem, Phases of Sunlight, pictured, and Bryan Guidry's mystical Delta Dawn canvases, to Tameka Norris' provocative "identity portraits" and Rukiya Brown's haunting doll sculptures that blend the Mardi Gras Indian and Nigerian beadwork traditions. The vortexes of Ron Bechet's Evidence of Resilience big charcoal drawing, below, evokes Jackson Pollock, or even Dorothea Tanning, but was actually inspired by the shorn locks of the Blessed Sacrament nuns who founded Xavier University--and that's about as experimental as it gets!

More surprises abound at the Boyd Satellite Gallery's uber-eclectic Sputnik 1 group show where  Shawne Major's visionary baroque beadwork confections share space with Joan Duran's stark abstract paintings and Audra Kohout's surreal shadowbox explorations of the mysteries of the human psyche (see Arcana, left), among others. This is the space formerly occupied by the superb Heriard-Cimino Gallery prior to Jeanne Cimino's to return to her art consultancy practice in San Francisco, and while still a work in progress there is no doubt that many will be watching this Satellite to see where it goes next. The same might be said for other recent arrivals  including the Foundation Gallery, L'Entrepot and the capacious new space called The Shop, all of which promise to bring some interesting new twists to the Downtown Arts District. ~D. Eric Bookhardt

Home: Mixed Media Group Exhibition, through Sept. 28, Octavia Art Gallery, 4532 Magazine St., 309-4249; Sputnik 1: Mixed Media Group Exhibition, through Sept. 3, Boyd Satellite Gallery, 440 Julia St., 581-2440. (Left: Recollections 10 by Carlos Betancourt at BS Gallery.)

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Deliberations from The Wet Grave and Who is Pulling the Strings? at the Comtemporary Arts Center

No one needs to be reminded that Hurricane Katrina still haunts us. Like an uninvited guest that never really leaves, telltale traces of its presence continue to crop up. In the art world there is the inevitable Katrina show, but the good news is that the nature of these expos has gone from grim to whimsical over the years as the healing process continues. Tank Drama: Deliberations from The Wet Grave sounds morbid but features a wide array of art and artists with some of the freshest perspectives coming from some of the less known names. Babette Beaullieu's Sacred Trails installation, top, employs storm refuse refashioned into an altar-like structure housing ghostly objects. Framed in white petticoats, it serves as a backdrop for shimmering projections of spectral dancers that arise and vanish like charged memories.  This ties together a very miscellaneous show that ranges from Kristen Struebing-Beazley's Katrina Closet: A Floating Funerary Repository of Calalverian Vanities, below, to the Bureau of Change's Here/Home "menagerie of objects selected from cultural centers" that signify different area ethnic groups' localized sense of  Although diffuse, the show itself is really about just that, how our sense of self is rooted in our sense of home.

 On a lighter note, the piquant joys of childhood are evoked in ways that adults can appreciate in the Who is Pulling the Strings? show featuring the puppetry art of locally active troupes including Calliope Puppets, Mudlark Puppeteer, Scary Toesies and Red String Wayang Theatre. But the star of the ground floor extravaganza is puppeteer Panacea Theriac (aka Miss Pussycat), who appears daily in person as part of a residency during which she creates 100 puppets besides the ones on display, below. There, in her workshop like a mythic elfin diva, she recreates the world of human foibles that puppets embody, and we can only wish that our own human foibles were as deftly and expertly managed. ~D. Eric Bookhardt

Tank Drama: Deliberations from The Wet Grave: Mixed Media by VESTIGES Artists; Who is Pulling the Strings?: Puppetry Art through Sept. 22, Contemporary Arts Center, 900 Camp St., 528.3805