Sunday, September 7, 2014

The 18th Annual No Dead Artists Exhibition

Schism by Don Manderson
Array (Detail) by Sam Metcalf
Sometimes it's like reading tea leaves. Since its inception in 1995, the No Dead Artists expo has  not only lived up to its goals of providing important exposure for talented emerging artists, it has also  rather unexpectedly functioned as a barometer of what artists around the country and the world are thinking and feeling, an advance seismometer of incipient new directions emerging in the art world. Obviously, much has changed since the earliest NDA iterations; after starting out as a local event, it gradually expanded to statewide, then nationwide and is now international in scope. This year's 18th Annual No Dead Artists International Juried Exhibition of Contemporary Art furthers this evolution: the fifteen artists who created the 40 artworks on view were chosen by a prestigious three juror panel from a total of over 2500 works submitted by over 500 artists. In some ways this parallels the trajectory its host city. Long known for going its own way with striking, if at times insular, disregard for fashionable trends, New Orleans has in recent years become a globally recognized epicenter of experimentation where art production is often participatory, and where a larger percentage of exhibition spaces are run collectively and/or collaboratively than any other city in the nation.

Shipwrecked by Mauricio Saenz
This also parallels the rise of a global 21st century art world that is more pluralistic and diverse than its 20th century predecessor, an art world where the experiential aspects of daily life on a rapidly changing planet are being explored in a direct way, unburdened by the prefabricated theoretical filters of the past. Indeed, emerging artists today are increasingly engaged with the task of defining the elusive phenomena that constitute the new realities of a century where the boundaries of time, space and power--in the personal and organizational sense--have been redrawn by the pervasive effects of all the digital and genetic technologies that reorder our once familiar world into something more mutable and conditional, a world increasingly defined and unsettled by ever more complex combinations of digital or genetic codes, all subject to seemingly limitless human intervention.

Birth Carpet by Paul Glenn
The unintended consequence of this epochal technological evolution has been a sense of dislocation and disorientation as the familiar old world we once knew is now revealed to be far less solid or tangible than we thought. True to the prognoses of both modern physics and ancient Buddhist texts, that old familiar world has been revealed to be a virtual reality no different than the condition the sages of old  called "maya" -- the Sanskrit word for illusion, the defining quality of "samsara"--ordinary daily life. New technology expands some human capacities at the expense of the traditional grounding in the tangible that humanity has relied on for eons, leading to the perceptual crisis of our time as those who cling to the eroding absolutes of the past become ever more disturbed even as the more resilient among us find creative ways to cope, or even thrive. Both the chaos and innovation fueled by this emerging new paradigm comprise the unifying threads that link all of the works in this show.  Continue Reading>>>