Sunday, January 19, 2014

Momo at May Gallery; Raven Creature at Byrdie's

Welcome to NoRo. That's short for North Robertson Street, where the May Gallery is located in the fortress-like, former Union Beer brewery by an overpass. Currently a rusting industrial wasteland of old warehouses and railroad tracks, NoRo will no doubt be its moniker if the area gets trendy. The bunker-like gallery is well suited to Momo's super-graphic style of environmental art. One of a new breed of locally based global artists and curators, he seems to be perpetually in orbit, graphically modifying building facades across Europe, Asia and the Americas, yet his designs are a far cry from graffiti. Instead they suggest latter day art deco or  Russian constructivist abstraction updated with pop flourishes and saturated electric colors.

Much of this show is made up of Momo's extensive sculptural modification of the May interior itself, above. The title, Butt Joints, is a carpentry term for the simplest construction method, but what we see is a complexly hallucinatory maze where formerly static floors and walls come alive with colorfully pulsating forms that evoke pop art pyramids, clouds or skateboard ramps, accompanied by his nearby paintings and drawings. The May space also includes a residency that has recently hosted several, mostly European, artists, complementing the locals ensconced in their own studios elsewhere in the building. Like the DuMois Gallery on Freret Street where Jeremy Willis' paintings are currently on view, and which recently expanded to larger quarters now shared by the Uptown Messenger, the May Gallery constitutes an aesthetic enclave that sets a new tone for a neighborhood in transition.  Such spaces take this city's burgeoning experimental and emerging artist scene, formerly dominated by cafes, to a new level. Even so, the latter can still surprise, as we see in the graphite portraits of hipster heroes like William Burroughs and Phillip Dick by Raven Creature at Byrdie's Cafe. Rendered with remarkable presence in a hyper-realist style, this is actually one of the most intriguing shows currently up on St. Claude. ~Bookhardt

Butt Joints: Large-Scale Sculpture and Paintings by Momo, through Jan. 25, May Gallery, Suite 105, 2839 N. Robertson Street, 316-3474 ; Drawing From the Inside: Drawings by Raven Creature, Through Feb. 4, Byrdie's, 2422 St. Claude Ave., 656-6794.