Sunday, October 27, 2013

Osborn at Barrister's; Deris at Antenna

This is one weird sculpture show. Strange in an interesting way, Lisa Osborn's mostly human size clay figures radiate pathos, but their meaning is up to us. Many suggest tragic figures from the dark fantasy realms of Mary Shelley or Edgar Allen Poe, and indeed Shelley's Frankenstein has nothing on Osborn's Old Man, below.  A hulking, dejected figure like a long retired linebacker, his ample forearms hang haplessly from metal rods reminiscent of meat hooks as his  hairless head appears lost in unknown ruminations. That contemplative aura links him to the all too human heroes and deities of the great myths, some of which appear here. Prometheus, who was bound by Zeus for gifting humanity with fire, is chained to a constraining iron wheel that encircles him as a humanoid owl stands guard. Poor Thoth, the ibis headed god of ancient Egypt, above, suffers a similar fate. No longer the master of the Nile, he is confined to the lower levels of oblivion today. Osborn's otherworldly female figures like the adjacent Green Girl seem more hopeful, but we are still confronted with echoes of an earlier age, those pagan times when men and gods were not so very different, eons before new technologies stole their thunder and left mere mortals to wander adrift in today's strange new electronic wilderness. A native of Avery Island, Osborn has recently returned to Louisiana after a long sojourn in Boston.    

Human aspiration, technology and the imagination appear in uneasy relationships in Christopher Deris' kinetic sculpture expo at Antenna. Here mixed media body parts are animated by improbable concoctions of gears, rods and pulleys that according to Deris "act as surrogates or metaphors for humanity." In these works, man and machine are intimately, if messily, united but unlike today's digital technologies we can at least see the forces that move them, even as it remains unclear who is in control. ~D. Eric Bookhardt

Wheels, Figures, Choices: Ceramic Sculpture by Lisa Osborn, Through Nov. 3, Barrister's Gallery, 2331 St. Claude Ave, 710-4506; The Soul Silently Fidgets: Kinetic Sculpture by Christopher Deris, Through Nov. 3, Antenna Gallery, 3718 Saint Claude Ave., 250-7975.