Sunday, June 1, 2014

Joseph Rossano at the Delgado Art Gallery

Over 800 years ago, a new Douglas fir tree pushed its way through the cool, moist soil of the Pacific Northwest. It grew tall and mighty before dying decades ago, but remained standing until it was finally felled. Cross-sections of it now appear in Joseph Rossano's Whitewashed expo. Visually minimal yet elaborate in scope, Whitewashed probes the mysteries of life, death and extinction. The Basking Shark (top) is an ancient vegetarian shark that can grow big as a yacht. Slaughtered for their fins--for soup--they face the same mindless destruction that wiped out The Great Auk (left) and other extinct species. Like most Rossano creatures, the shark is rendered in tar and juxtaposed with a cross-section of the fir tree, whose rings are nature's time markers. Though both are whitewashed, the tar bleeds through like a darkly viscous afterimage: even whited-out species leave an imprint. A drawer on the side holds a color graph like a minimalist composition that is actually the shark's DNA code. Rossano avoids sentimentality, so these works are stark reminders of what people have done, and we can only wonder what mortal implications those deeds portend.

The Siberian Tiger, below, like most large Asian and African mammals faces extinction because humans value its body parts as collectibles. Like the other wall sculptures, this piece has drawers and supplemental information via cell phone QR links, and the show also features video explorations of color DNA codes as well as television's history of depicting nature as a sentimental commodity. But it was those mute creatures facing, or lost to, extinction that made me suddenly realize how closely connected our lives are to the faraway Polar Bear, above, whose icy habitat is rapidly melting. Like them, we live in a place that is washing away beneath our feet due to destructive industrial activities, and we are only slowly realizing that the same bell that tolls for them increasingly tolls for south Louisiana as well. ~Bookhardt

Whitewashed: Mixed Media by Joseph Rossano, Through Aug. 28 (Monday - Thursday, 9am - 5pm) Delgado Art Gallery, 615 City Park Ave., 671-6377.