Sunday, November 17, 2013

Memory Project: Artists from Poland and New Orleans Explore the Meaning of Memory

Once, before World War II, the Polish city of Lodz had a population of over 600,000. Approximately one third of its citizens were Jews. Most did not survive the Nazi occupation. Today even the memory of their once vital neighborhoods has mostly faded. One who survived remembered buying balloons on strolls with her father before the war. Her daughter, Nola artist-curator Robin Levy, was inspired by such memories to invite contemporary artists in Lodz to share their impressions of the meaning of memory, in a collaborative expo with local artists Courtney Egan, Anita Yesho and Deborah Luster. Egan and Yesho's profusely documented history of the Antenna gallery building and the land it sits on amounts to a colorful social history of the St. Claude neighborhood itself. Deborah Luster's well known photographic portraits of local murder scenes reveal sites where once vital lives were suddenly reduced to memories that poignantly linger among the living. Appearing with the already diverse works of the Polish artists, these pieces can contribute to an initial impression of diffusion that on further investigation suggests a holistic rumination on the meaning of life, death, time and place woven together by the processional continuum of memory. 

Adam Klimzak's 161 Photographs With Lodzia, top, offers the starkest reprise of the past in a slide show of photos set within the ID numbers of a blowup of a young Lodz woman interned in a labor camp. Inspired by his mother, this spans the full spectrum of human emotion. Piotr Szczepanski's video employs a narrative history of places and people, above, associated with a former Jewish neighborhood to articulate a psychic history of 20th century Lodz itself, while Marta Madejska shares a friend's more recent, yet pointed, childhood memories. Justyna Wencel's video, above left, employs elegantly dreamlike images as symbols of the tensions that arise between mother and daughter as societal values shift over time, but Agnieszka Chojnacka's makeshift cavern of old quilts contains a video exploration of the psychic violence of childhood symbolized by a wand with a tin foil star, below, puncturing soap bubbles--a reminder that the lives and dreams we take for granted are often far more fragile than we realize. Levy deployed balloons in a poignantly eloquent allusion to her mother's own fragile, yet enduring, memories of Lodz.  ~D. Eric Bookhardt

Memory Project: Mixed Media Works by Polish and American Artists, through Dec. 8, Antenna Gallery, 3718 Saint Claude Ave., 250-7975.