Sunday, December 14, 2014

Prospect.3: Recent Work by Andrea Fraser, Hew Locke & Ebony Patterson at Newcomb Gallery

It's like a parallel universe in some ways; visiting the Newcomb Gallery can be like coming home and finding similar but unfamiliar furnishings in place of your own. Hew Locke, a London-based artist from Guyana, is inspired by his Caribbean homeland's Carnival processions celebrated in cities  that are often situated below sea level and surrounded by swamps and old plantations, or along marshy coasts that are rapidly washing away. The first piece I saw, Mosquito Hall, left, looks so startlingly like a bayou fishing camp from my childhood, I had to look twice just to see the psychedelic swamp spirit hovering over it. In fact, the abandoned old structure is a relic of Hew Locke's childhood memories of Guyana, now immortalized in paint. Nearby, the walls are covered with his linear baroque flourishes like drawings rendered in black rope and beads depicting the march of history as a fantastical carnival procession with mythic gods, beasts and bizarre creatures brandishing assault rifles. Titled Nameless, it's a uniquely compelling installation created during Locke's first visit to New Orleans, where he was surprised to find so much that seemed so familiar, including Carnival beads dangling from the trees.

In the next room, a small mountain of colorfully bizarre fabric, left, suggests something the Society of Saint Anne marching krewe might have left behind. But a label says it's Andrea Fraser's Monument to Discarded Fantasies, a conceptual installation comprised of Brazillian carnival costumes. In a nearby gallery, Jamaican artist Ebony Patterson's paintings suggest ethereal androgynous figures in vortexes of glitter and paint in what a wall text calls her "exploration of Jamaican dancehall culture as a space for... masquerading and gender fluidity" in the "laissez-faire spirit of Carnival." Locke and Patterson are also in the Contemporary Arts Center's upcoming En Mas exhibition featuring Carnival as a contemporary performance art practice in the Caribbean, Europe and New Orleans. Locke's procession piece, co-produced by the CAC and Britain's Tate Modern, premiered at Tate's Turbine Hall last August.  ~Bookhardt

PROSPECT 3: Recent Works by Andrea Fraser, Hew Locke, and Ebony G. Patterson, Through Jan. 25, Newcomb Art Gallery, Tulane University, 865-5328. Left: two birds--beyond the bladez (detail) by Ebony Patterson