Sunday, May 25, 2014
Sunday, May 18, 2014
Drag Queens in the Rain by Elizabeth Fox
Played to Win: Paintings by Elizabeth Fox, Thru June 3, Boyd Satellite Gallery, 440 Julia St., 899-4218; City in Mind: Monotypes by Barbara Brainard, Thru May 31, Cole Pratt Gallery, 3800 Magazine St., 891-6789
Sunday, May 11, 2014
After spending many years documenting the splendors and struggles of our wetlands and the Gulf of Mexico, Michel Varisco has shifted her focus to a new perspective on the world's waterways. Her Fluid States expo at Octavia reveals unusual views of those bodies of water and the life forms they contain ranging from our own aqueous environs to China's turbulent rivers and New Zealand's exotic seascapes. What ties them all together is the beauty of their timeless vistas and the mysteries that dwell beneath their silvery surfaces. In the most macro view, The Color of Water, above, those shimmering surfaces comprise a large and diverse grid of seascapes. When artists create grids, we expect something that scientifically reduces their subjects' implicit drama to a cool taxonomy for cerebral contemplation, but this piece is unabashedly sensual with sublime colors that elucidate each body of water as a separate yet related universe. A more micro approach is seen in Marsh Seedbox, below, named for one of the plants that appear in a view directly into a swamp, where pale, rose-like flowers on serpentine stems rise from the murky depths of a rather Max Ernstian miniature jungle just below the surface. Other works explore everything in between and the magic that is hidden in plain sight in the watery world all around us.
A related yet different view appears in Daniel Minter's Water Road paintings. We've all heard about the horrors of the slave ships that plied the oceans as their human cargo died in vast numbers from the hideous conditions below deck, but Minter rather shamanistically merges ethereal visions of archetypal African people with the sea's mystical azure aura in images that suggest that all aspects of nature and humanity are ultimately sublime, and that the intermittent horrors of the human condition are the result of our small minded failure to comprehend that universal, yet elusive, reality. ~Bookhardt
Fluid States: Recent Photographs by Michel Varisco, Through May 31, Octavia Art Gallery, 454 Julia Street St., 309-4249; Water Road: New and Retrospective Work by Daniel Minter, Through May 31, Soren Christensen Gallery, 400 Julia St., 569.9501. Left: A River Red by Daniel Minter.
Sunday, May 4, 2014
Linked by water in the form of shipping and flooding, New Orleans and the Netherlands share a long history. Our locally invented pumps, built to keep a wet city dry, were long ago adopted by the Dutch, but since then they have excelled in water management while we fell behind until Hurricane Katrina motivated us to adopt some of their techniques. Besides engineers, Dutch artists have increasingly visited, intrigued by the similarities and differences, and although much of their population also lives below sea level, the Netherlands is north European and orderly, whereas Nola is tropical, spontaneous and messy. Dutch artist Lotte Geeven brings scientific tidiness, as well as a cerebral sort of spontaneity, to her massive Vigor installation at May. The product of a two month residency funded by local and Dutch institutions, Vigor is very thorough, with its own print publications including a hefty softcover book and five issue newsletter in addition to the main installation and accompanying video.
That installation, The River, above, initially suggests a 30 x 38 foot swimming pool bisected into a multi-colored bar graph. In fact, those long, rectangular basins of colored water each represents a river that feeds into the Mississippi, bringing its own hues to the Big Muddy, seen here as the widest basin. The accompanying book contains excerpted lines of poetry pertaining to those rivers, while the newsletters document discussions that influenced the installation's conception. The video, top, features a group of people carrying above them a large, mysterious, silvery sphere in a nocturnal meander past the Roosevelt Hotel and on down Canal Street. This purposely ambiguous attempt to insert an alien element into the city's familiar environs reflects a technique sometimes used in psychogeography to cast the defining characteristics of a place into high relief, although here it may have simply been taken for yet another parade. But the ships on the river are also a parade, and Geeven's imaginative investigations insightfully reframe our familiar hometown in a poetic new light. ~Bookhardt
Vigor: Multimedia Installation by Lotte Geeven, Through June 27, May Gallery, Suite 105-2839 N. Robertson St, 316-3474.