Sunday, December 27, 2015

Rachel David at Barrister's

Rachel David is a blacksmith. She is also a sculptor. Both professions shape metal, but they are really different worlds. Blacksmiths were once everywhere, in the cities and remote rural regions where they worked steel into the horseshoes, hinges and the fixtures that everyday life required. Sculpture always  appealed to art collectors and churches in need of objects that transported people to a realm of wonder. Today blacksmiths are far scarcer than sculptors, but they are still totally different professions. That is why Rachel David is so unusual. She accepts commissions for functional, hand forged objects, but as a sculptor her vision is wondrous and otherworldly.

As one of the rare individuals willing to work long hours with heavy chunks of steel heated to glowing hot temperatures over 2000 degrees Fahrenheit, David somehow fuses the archaic serpentine extravagance of 19th century art nouveau with the futuristic, post-apocalyptic aesthetic of Mad Max, or sci-fi writers like Philip Dick who anticipated the wonders and terrors of the shape-shifting, digitally defined present we now inhabit. Darlingtonia, upper left, a collaboration with artist Liz Judkins, suggests a tall, spidery, Auguste Rodin-esque interpretation of a gigantic carnivorous blossom with a darkly elegant art nouveau aura. Narcissus Lycorine is another mysterious botanical form, a metallic meditation on the Narcissus flower. One side resembles a shield, but revolves to reveal a mirror on the other side. The "lycorine" in the title refers to the poison contained in its sap, a metaphor, perhaps, for the toxicity of extreme narcissism, but Spinning Wheel, above, suggests an alternative Industrial Revolution shaped by the laws of nature. Bursae, top, suggests a vastly oversize cocoon reminiscent of an ancient Viking ship. Clusters of actual silk worm cocoons embellish either end in fuzzy baroque flourishes. David says most of her ideas come from dreams and observations of emotional states in herself and others. In Bursae, "holding patterns" play an important role. "The silk worm is in a holding pattern. It builds the cocoon around it; there is a mile of silk in each cocoon and the moth, transformed, emerges and flies away." ~Bookhardt / Holding Pattern: Hand Forged Steel Sculpture by Rachel David, Through Jan. 3, Barrister's Gallery, 2331 St. Claude Ave, 710-4506.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

2015: The Year in Art

New Orleans Airlift's Music Box Roving Village                                 Photo by Tod Seelie
Some years are marked by outsized personalities associated with epochal turnabouts or sweeping sea changes that challenge our imaginations. The year 2010 was like that. In the midst of the city's uncertain recovery from a devastating hurricane, further complicated by a global financial collapse, the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl. It was just a ball game, but it altered how the city was perceived locally and nationally. Suddenly, it seemed like we could do anything. Most years are made up of almost unnoticed bits and pieces that eventually facilitate later heroic victory or epic failure. Then there are the years when sweeping changes are more sensed than obvious. In the New Orleans art world,  2015 was such a year. More>>

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Magdalena at International House

'Tis the season to be jolly, as Santa, reindeer, Christmas trees and Nativity scenes pop up all over town. Lately, Mary Magdalene--the "other Mary" not seen in the Nativity scene--is increasingly an object of fascination. Unlike Santa or reindeer, she appears in the Bible. As a libertine who repented, she became the most mysterious saint and, consequently, a favorite of renaissance religious painters like Domenico Tintoretto, who depicted her with flowing locks, crucifixes, skulls and satiny skin in sensational works  that reflected the speculation surrounding her story. Timed to coincide with the annual PhotoNOLA festival, this third annual Magdalena show at the International House asked photographic artists to "re-imagine Mary Magdalene: Who she was and Why she was." Curated by Aline Smithson, this year's selections are displayed in the lobby and augmented by works from previous years--for instance, Claire Mallett's Lover, Saint, Servant, Sinner, below--in the Magdalena Gallery on the second floor. All are intended to explore the mythology of  "extraordinary women and the divine feminine" over the ages--a sentiment amply illustrated in an adjacent chamber featuring works by guest artist Michelle Magdalena.

Although the these images might initially evoke notions of pop psychology or feminist spirituality, works like James Wigger's Hope, top--a view of a Mary Magdalene with a Sacred Heart glowing from her chest--suggest contemporary flashbacks to Tintoretto. Saintly mysticism is often associated with intimations of mortality, and in Jaime Johnson's Spine what initially looks like a  braided strand of hair on a woman's back under a turbid sky is revealed as a skeletal spine on close reflection. But in Anna Tomzcak's very Biblical looking, Hector's Mistress, above left, a visually similar object suggests a botanical scepter like an oversize laurel branch. Saints always struggled with the frailty of the flesh in relation to their expansive spirit, and in Nicole Campanello's The Fisherman's Daughter, left, body and spirit are reconciled in a mystical reunion with the sea -- but in Amanda Smith's October 08 (Trying to Fly) an evanescent woman seems to almost dematerialize into the ether. ~Bookhardt / Magdalena: Mixed-Media Art about Mary Magdalene, Through Jan. 4, International House Hotel, 221 Camp St. 553-9550.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Billy Name at Boyd Satellite Gallery

"If I could make the world as pure/ And strange as what I see/ I'd put you in a mirror/ I'd put in front of me/ Linger on, your pale blue eyes..." -Lou Reed.

In 1964, Billy Name covered the inside of Andy Warhol's loft, "The Factory," with reflective tinfoil and silver paint, ushering in the pop maestro's iconic "silver age" that became symbolic of the artist and his crew of misfits that made art, movies and music within its gritty confines. Those silver surfaces proved a perfect metaphor for the way Warhol and his collaborators reflected the creative chaos of bohemian 1960s New York, a time and place that were embodied in the Factory's insurgent house band, the Velvet Underground, and its disarmingly deadpan dirges like Pale Blue Eyes. At a time when patchouli-scented hippie utopianism was sweeping America, Lou Reed's ironic lyrics and German model-singer Nico's chilled-ether voice distilled poignantly poetic moments from the darker corners of city life.

But the Factory's creative ferment was real, and Billy Name was its photographic recording angel, as well as its chief fixer, bouncer, electrician and troubleshooter. His self-taught photographic flair enabled him to shape much of what the outside world saw, including most of the images on the Velvet Underground's album jackets. This show is a memento mori, a revelatory look at the glittering innards of the lost world that defined Warhol's transition from emerging pop artist to ubiquitous household name. Similarly, Reed, Nico, John Cale, Paul Morrisey, Holly Woodlawn and many others emerged from that tinfoil Camelot to become legends in their own right as Billy Name, clicking away on the Pentax Warhol gave him, crafted photographs where they appear haphazardly arranged, for instance, with a Brillo Box Sculpture, top (detail) or on a ladder, above left, or in any number of half-posed variations. His head-shot portraits of Bob Dylan and Nico come across as solo rarities amid a more stream of consciousness milieu that constitute a profoundly insightful collective portrait of a unique, almost inexplicably influential, subculture. ~Bookhardt  / The Silver Factory Years (1964 - 1968): Photographs by Billy Name, Through Dec. 31, Boyd Satellite Gallery, 440 Julia St., 899-4218.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Jacqueline Humphries at the Contemporary Arts Center

 There is always something nostalgic about this time of year as old friends and long departed relatives suddenly reappear during the holiday season.  This large solo show of paintings by mid-career New York artist Jacqueline Humphries marks a triumphal homecoming for the Nola native, the daughter of legendary local jewelry designer Mignon Faget. It is also the first show initiated by the Contemporary Art Center's new Visual Arts Curator, Andrea Andersson, a Nola native and former New York-based independent curator. Music buffs may recall her grandfather, Knud Andersson, who led the New Orleans Opera for nearly two decades.

I have long suspected that there was something subversive about Humphries' paintings, but it was never clear exactly what it was until recently. For ages, New York artists were expected to strike a pose of cold ironic detachment based on tediously obsolescent theories, but in a 2009 interview Humphries somewhat blasphemously expressed admiration for "sincerity." Even so, her large silver paintings can look very Warholian at first, with grids like ghostly half tone dots and other durable New York mass media memes. But look again, and peculiar things are sometimes happening just below the surface of works like 0, left, including an oddly confrontational evanescence that fuses digital artifacts and emoticons into reflective melanges. Some, like like (), above (detail) evoke congealed magnetic fields from surreal science fiction, while others hint at a tersely voluptuous sensuality that harks to her Nola roots. If her silver paintings use New York-isms to slyly tweak New York orthodoxy (a well -received gesture if her inclusion in the 2014 Whitney Museum of American Art Biennial is any indication), her black light paintings, top, are joyous gestures of pure rebellion. Here hints at traditional abstraction are blasted into the stratosphere with glowing, super-saturated psychedelic colors more reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix than Mark Rothko. By being deadly serious about not looking serious, Humphries breaks the unspoken rules of the official New York art world, buoyantly challenging its decades-old tedium, while reminding us that carnival is just around the corner. ~Bookhardt / Jacqueline Humphries: Recent Silver and Black Light Paintings, Through Feb. 28, Contemporary Arts Center, 900 Camp St., 528.3805.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Nicole Charbonnet at Arthur Roger

In art, as in literature, time is the wild card. One generation's genius is another's kitsch as tastes and perspectives change. In some places, change happens like mood swings, but in New Orleans change is as alluvial as the local soil as new layers occur in organic increments. Here the surfaces of walls are like palimpsests where old and new are eternally in flux. Initially, Nicole Charbonnet's spectral painted compositions with repeating patterns might suggest the empty "zombie formalism" favored by Wall Street investors in recent years, but look again and micro-ecosystems of words and images emerge from partial obscurity beneath painterly washes in works that utilize time like a tone or color.

Their pale, tactile patina evokes the whitewashed walls of suns-plashed places from the Vieux Carre to Spain's Alhambra or Alexandria, Egypt. Pattern (Climb Every Mountain No. 2), left, is a skein of polychrome geometry like a sandblasted wall in Saudi Arabia, but amid the austere lines are traceries of handwriting and other marks like lost notes or printed news dispatches. Pattern (Flowers No. 8) is more baroque, like floating clusters of faded blooms that might have once adorned the wallpaper of a local bordello, now derelict and discolored with the dampness of the ages. Pattern (Follow Every Rainbow No. 2), top, recalls the art deco frills of a depression era ballroom of a prairie ghost town. All of these works are tributes not just to what endures but to the way all that is new is given depth by all that came before. That point is amply illustrated by the timeless modernism of Lin Emery's consistent yet ever-evolving kinetic metal sculptures in the adjacent chamber--in the diademic dazzle of Flight or Fan Tree. Like George Dunbar, whose own modernist vision appears coincidentally at the nearby Callan Gallery, Emery was a co-founder of the Orleans Gallery, the Royal Street co-op that anticipated by several decades the co-op artist spaces that now dot St. Claude Avenue. ~Bookhardt /All You Need Know: Paintings by Nicole Charbonnet, Through Dec. 26, Arthur Roger Gallery, 432 Julia St. 522-1999.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Josephine Sacabo at A Gallery for Fine Photography

In this exhibition, Josephine Sacabo explores the meandering, shadowy passageways of the psyche as a kind of ethereal visual architecture. Inspired by Juana La Loca, the 16th century "mad queen" of Spain who was imprisoned for 46 years, this series features spectral, dreamlike female figures positioned within intricately labyrinthine structures that look rock solid yet elusive as rays of reflected light. That duality conveys a fraught tension of gravitas and transcendence in complex compositions so delicately balanced as to evoke music, numerology or patterns of sacred geometry. Seen through the dark patina of old tintype processes, the images seem to glow with the dusky luminosity of the ages.

Sacabo rather modestly calls her works "manifestations of the written word" inspired by Rainer Maria Rilke, Charles Baudelaire, Vicente Huidobro and Stefane Mallarmé among others, but they can also mimic heat seeking missiles with the potential to illuminate the poetic impulse itself. Her use of antique processes takes us into a Proustian attic of memories, a place where time opens to allow entry into other worlds. That shadowy patina forces us to employ intuition to "see" what can never really be seen but is only felt--in works like Juana, top, where the mad queen stares defiantly back at us. Decades of confinement led some to regard her as a martyred mystic, and in Lost Hours a poetically disordered array of timepieces suggests a woozy, lurching sort of music of the spheres. The shadowy, infinitely receding arches of The Passageway take us through vaulted stone chambers reminiscent of ancient Moorish alchemical diagrams depicting the origins of time and space, but Juana reappears in Tristeza, in an otherworldly feminine profile that blends seamlessly with the ornamental filigree etched into her dank, stony confines. Here as in so many of the other works on view, the feminine and the spiritual appear as tidal forces that are only partially shaped--but never completely contained--by the stoneworks erected by mere empires. ~Bookhardt /  Juana and the Structures of Reverie: Tintype Photographs by Josephine Sacabo, Through Jan. 1, A Gallery For Fine Photography, 241 Chartres St, 568-1313.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Iconic Psychogeographic Maestro News

Allen Toussaint Circle

Should Lee Circle be renamed Allen Toussaint Circle? Is that even a question? Some have argued that Virginia's Confederate general, Robert E. Lee, was  "important" to New Orleans. But how? The Confederate president Jefferson Davis died here, and our charismatic Confederate general, P. G. T. Beauregard, returned home to Nola after the war to lead the local Unification civil rights movement--but it is hard to find evidence that Lee had any connection to New Orleans whatsoever. Louisiana was dragged into the war by powerful planters, not popular opinion. For New Orleanians, it was "la guerre Americaine." But Allen Toussaint, who died at 77 on November 10, was New Orleans personified, a Southern gentleman and musical genius of the first magnitude who brought sublime New Orleans joy to the world. Even his name, "Toussaint," means "All Saints," the beloved local holiday. Replacing the cold and distant Lee with Allen Toussaint is a no-brainer.  To sign the petition: Click Here. More on Toussaint: Click Here (Be sure to catch his soliloquy on his Creole French childhood on the video, which captures a deep and loving current of the soul of our state. Gorgeous...) More on the Toussaint Circle movement Here.

Tony Fitzpatrick's Dime Stories
Before geopsychics, or psychogeography, the ancient Romans had a name for the protective spirits of place: genii loci. Chicago's Tony Fitzpatrick (who survived a close call earlier this year) is a living avatar of all things unique and wondrous about his remarkable city. A true Chicago treasure, Fitzpatrick started out as a boxer and a bouncer before evolving into a fascinating artist, actor and writer. A master of the vernacular cadences of his city's streets and its greatest interpreter since Carl Sandberg, Nelson Algren and Studs Terkel, he's the real deal and his soulful, if not always saintly, eloquence illuminates his self - illustrated Dime Stories columns on the pages of Chicago's Newcity weekly magazine. It is rare that journalism achieves such heights of salty eloquence, but in this compendium edition of the same name, one gets the sense that Fitzpatrick's words are animated by battalions of profanely poetic Hibernian ancestor spirits railing at the dark, venal injustices of daily life while celebrating serendipitous earthly splendors that are free to all with eyes willing to see and ears willing to hear. (Or as Fitzpatrick's mama said about birds: "For a piece of bread, you can hear God sing.") Life may be a craps shoot, but the force of nature that is Tony Fitzpatrick has proven himself not only up to the task, but able to plumb the depths of the human cauldron and return with nuggets of brilliance. For more on Tony Fitzpatrick's Dime Stories,  Click Here and Here.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Jacqueline Bishop at Arthur Roger

The Other Landscape
Billed as an exploration of landscape painting and the complex connections between climate change, species extinction and migration, Jacqueline Bishop's new Arthur Roger show, The Other Landscape, encompasses familiar environmental topics from the daily news. But her imagery evokes a realm of nature so otherworldly that mythology and sorcery may be the most immediate references that come to mind. In fact, art is the mythology of the modern age, the societal equivalent of the dreams that in our individual lives serve to psychically integrate all that we experience and provide the meta-narratives that define our sense of who we are and where we are going. Likewise, technology is the sorcery of our time, and in this show, climate change, migration and extinction are its consequences that Bishop transforms into a new mythos, a visionary ecology of the imagination.

Ecology is often viewed as a mechanistic system of checks and balances in the natural world, but it is really all about how everything in the world is connected as a totality. Bishop's large painting, After the Rain, above, depicts birds cavorting in an effusion of roses--a surreal ayahuasca sort of  vision where joyous beauty is framed by skeletal trees and emaciated animals. Not so very long ago, pollution from chemical refineries upriver from here made our sunsets spectacularly gorgeous, but it was a deadly kind of beauty that could potentially destroy all that it touched if left unchecked. Just as crack cocaine burns out the body and mind, our rapacious exploitation of earthly resources burns out the planet, and this is the drama that Bishop depicts in canvases like Landfill: Mountain where a promontory of roses punctuated with smokestacks is lapped by the waves of a troubled sea. Similarly, her watercolor  collages  like Formation of Pearls, above left, made with Mississippi River water use words and images from the past to poetically evoke the ecology of communication, the quotidian visual/verbal assertions and seductions that comprise the informational echo chamber of our media saturated age. ~Bookhardt /  The Other Landscape: New Paintings and Mixed Media Works by Jacqueline Bishop, Through Dec. 26, Arthur Roger Gallery, 432 Julia St. 522-1999.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Christopher Saucedo at LeMieux

It is often said that the most successful art reflects the zeitgeist--the spirit of the times--in which it was created. Expressionism reflected the rise of psychology and the subconscious just as pop art reflected the mass media imagery that increasingly surrounds us. Postmodern art attempted to make academic theories seem edgy if not sexy, but influential former University of New Orleans art instructor Christopher Saucedo took a counterintuitive approach based on weights and measures: he got his kicks from cubic displacement in his obsessively deadpan output of sculptures and prints. While postmodern theory focused on power structures and media spectacles, Saucedo obsessed over how much volume his school-aged children displaced in barrels of water. He had no idea this was in any way prophetic, at least not until Hurricane Katrina's floodwaters filled not only his barrels but the rest of his Gentilly home as well. This trial by water followed a trial by fire; his New York fireman brother died in the 911 attack in 2001. After Katrina, he moved his family back to his native New York just in time for his new home in Rockaway to be flooded by Hurricane Sandy.

He is still obsessed with weights and measures but his history with cubic displacement has become indelibly personal. His new work probes the inner life of his subjects in stylized go-cups, gallon jugs and five gallon bottled water containers that exude the iconic resonance of personal mythology--as we see in his print, Red Cup Formation, above, a pop rendition of plastic cups with an aura of martyrdom. In Fluid Volume (Scrovegni Guilt) bottled water and other containers sport saintly halos, and in Red Cup (Inversion) plastic cups do backflips as if possessed by poltergeists. A hanging wire mobile of stylized cups, cans and bottled water containers turns out to be a "self portrait," top, in a work that might be said to speak volumes. Saucedo speaks in person at an artist talk on Saturday the 14th at 2 P.M. ~Bookhardt / Pints, Quarts and Gallons: New Work by Christopher Saucedo, Through Nov. 28, LeMieux Galleries, 332 Julia St., 522.5988.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

KAWS, Karl Wirsum & Tomoo Gokita at Newcomb

If your craving for things dark and creepy hasn't  been satiated by Halloween, you might want to drop by the Newcomb Art Museum and see some surprisingly spooky art while burnishing your credentials as an aesthete. Despite its civilized, contemporary veneer, this Shared Space show, curated by Monica Ramirez-Montagut, exudes a dark aura that harks to the excesses of pop culture, expressionism and technology. Indeed, some of the figures suggest the sorts of mutations that might have been spawned at Disneyworld in the wake of an atomic apocalypse. For instance, New York artist KAWS' 16 foot tall sculpture, Companion, is rather like a monstrous mutant Mickey Mouse holding his head in his hands as if mourning the demise of childhood. Or maybe he's just suffering from a form of digital dementia brought about by acute Photoshop poisoning.

Digital technology allows everyone to modify everything at will for good or ill, but the early 1960s art movement known as Chicago Imagism presaged many of the more extravagant exaggerations that now characterize all things digital. Its influence continues today in founding member Karl Wirsum's  alluring painted freak shows--in works like his hypnotically demonic fever dream, Throw a Wait Line Proof of Purse Chase, top left. Just what is it about those Chicago redheads, anyway? Scary stuff. If Wirsum takes his cues from the art of the insane, Tomoo Gokita came to sex and horror naturally as the son of the editor of the Japanese edition of Playboy magazine. Maybe its food coloring-hued skin tones and airbrushed body parts caused him to rebel into a realm of black and white anatomical grotesquerie. Speechless depicts a couple posed in a casual embrace. Their flashy demeanor reflects the assertively affluent hedonism long championed by Playboy--except, of course, for the deep, dark voids where their heads should be. Playboy was born in Chicago almost simultaneously with the Imagist movement. Playboy no longer features nude photos, but the legacy of Chicago Imagism lives on. ~Bookhardt / A Shared Space: Kaws, Karl Wirsum and Tomoo Gokita, Through Jan. 3, Newcomb Art Museum, Tulane University, 865-5328.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

House: Group Expo For Blights Out at Foundation

This group exhibition at the Foundation Gallery seems unpretentious, with mostly affordable work presented in a small French Quarter space that once housed the offices of the Nola Express underground newspaper. If the show itself is modest, the ideas behind it are downright lofty for the way they reflect one of the more important emerging local trends: the increasing synergy of artists and activists trying to solve this city's worsening affordable housing problem. Sponsored by the Lafayette - based Heymann Foundation, the gallery donates 25% of each show's proceeds to a local nonprofit. This month it's Blights Out, an organization devoted to finding a more community-based solution to rehabbing neighborhoods than simply demolishing derelict properties or selling them at tax auctions. Founded by arts activist Imani Jacqueline Brown, Blights Out is inspired by communitarian artists like Rick Lowe in Houston, and Theaster Gates in Chicago, who created successful arts-centric neighborhood redevelopment projects. Brown says arcane property laws and rigidly robotic local bureaucracies only compound the problems, so Blights Out is developing knowledge-based resources accessible to communities trying to facilitate affordable housing. A Nola native, she also believes local traditions like Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs can potentially provide unique new paradigms for solving housing and other pressing local problems.

The works on view are a mixed bag of curiosities, but standouts include Loren Schwerd's Mourning Portraits of houses--like 1317 Charbonnet St, top--woven from hair extensions found outside a Katrina-ravaged beauty parlor. Also noteworthy are Ben Hamburger's luminously gritty local streetscapes with shadowy shotgun houses framed by spidery electrical wires and sometimes lurid streetlights, above, are so accessible that you have to look twice to realize that he's really a rigorous social realist who paints with efficiently evocative economy. Shawn Waco's sprawling etchings of flooded railroad yards subtly convey the clash of vintage industry and the wrath of the nature gods, but Marta Maleck's household objects rendered as colorfully abstract forms, below, evoke unlikely assemblages that hark to Ida Kohlmeyer's Semiotics Series paintings rendered unexpectedly in three dimensions. ~Bookhardt / House: Group Exhibit Inspired by New Orleans Houses, Through Oct. 30, Foundation Gallery, 1109 Royal St., 568-0955.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Reverb: Art After Hurricane Katrina at the CAC

Last August, National Public Radio ran a broadcast on how local art museums commemorated the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The narrator, Neda Ulaby, seemed shocked that they mostly didn't--but focused instead on how local art has evolved since then. This Reverb expo at the Contemporary Arts Center features some iconic Charles Varley storm photographs, but most of the 36 artists' works chosen by New York-based curator Isolde Brielmaier are often so nuanced that we may wonder what holds the show together. The answer is tone. Instead of the "shock and awe" of the storm itself, we encounter a collective meditation on the poetics of memory, loss and resurgence, in objects rendered with a grace and gravitas that recalls both the fiction of Walker Percy and the cool lyricism of cerebral jazz musicians like Keith Jarett and Jan Garbarek.

Indeed, I could almost hear something of the icy fire of Jarrett's early Arbour Zena tone poem while viewing works like Sibylle Peretti and Stephen Paul Day's Wetlands grid of small plastic baggies of clear water arranged as liquid lenses covering an city scene like bubblewrap. Similarly, Anita Cooke (below left) and Rotherin Ratliff transformed rubbish into sleek animist assemblages that resonate a soulful human presence. In a city obsessed with housing, Loren Schwerd turned hair extensions salvaged from a storm ravaged beauty salon into a Shotgun house, above, part of a series of hair houses based on actual structures. Carlie Trosclair's wall-size Fissure sculpture transformed ripped sheetrock and wallpaper into a poetic architectural equivalent of tribal scarification, while Rick Snow's electronic mystery totem, Paths and Sympathetic Resonance, top, turns ambient field recordings into eerie soundscapes, just as Krista Jurisich turns scrap cloth into landscapes. Night Blooming Cereus flowers blossom when approached in Courtney Egan's interactive Dreamcatchers video--reminding us of the flowers that bloomed out of season right after the storm, in much the way local people, shaken to their depths, found unexpected creativity and resilience in response to the existential challenges posed by an apocalyptic deluge. Reverb: Past, Present, Future: Group Exhibition Curated by Isolde Brielmaier, Through Nov. 1, Contemporary Arts Center, 900 Camp St., 528.3805.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Brian Guidry and Monica Zeringue at Ferrara

Brian Guidry's rigorously executed abstractions have long suggested meditations on symmetry and surprise, harmony and heraldry, nature and manipulation. But now there are some new approaches like Cool Down Active where buoyant, floating forms and randomized textures suggest a larger role for the laws of chance. All hell breaks loose in Absolute Zero as free-form pigments blast forth from an invisible seam in space, and if the colors are pure Guidry, their serpentine ripples convey an expansive aura that makes the over five foot canvas seem bigger than it is. Formal order is restored in the purple, green, gold and fuchsia tones of Serenity Amp, above, where mystical geometry vibrates to the rhythm of  textured, Shroud-of- Turin-like markings that look almost like they might perform an electronic music requiem if scanned.

It is always around but you can't always see it. Its presence ebbs and flows; it can be big and bloody, or barely visible and pale as driven snow. The moon is linked to madness and witchcraft--as well as to women, so it fits neatly into Monica Zeringue's Goddesses and Monsters series where female figures mingle with lunar mysticism. In Narcissus, above, a Zeringue-like nude gazes into a puddle of water and sees herself reflected as the full moon. Rendered in graphite, this luminously cool self portrait flanked by a series of detailed close ups of the moon rendered in graphite and dark beads on white primed linen. Blood Moon, depicted in deep crimson oils, beads and hair, is more dramatic and personal, as is Flesh Moon with its bodily aura of warm, moist organs secreted deep within the body. But Cusp, above left with its decorous white pigment, gold beads and flowery red wallpaper, evokes otherworldly harmony. Post Tenebras Lux, above, transforms her own visage into a vertiginous reflection of the ever shifting phases of the moon in a new example of the old mystical adage: "as above, so below."  ~Bookhardt / Invisible Ping: New Paintings and Collages by Brian Guidry; Absence and Presence: New Paintings and Drawings by Monica Zeringue, Through Oct. 31, Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, 400A Julia St., 522-5471.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Rose, Stevens, Reichert and Nash at Angela King

Time flies. Days slip by, sometimes almost surreptitiously, until decades have passed. Angela King noticed that recently as she realized that her gallery was 30 years old. She has been its director for decades, starting when it was called the Hanson Gallery and featured work that was to contemporary art what "easy listening" is to FM radio. After buying it from its California-based owner ten years ago, King included art that, while still accessible, has more psychological or spiritual depth. The current Marlene Rose expo of cast glass sculptures is decorous while resonating the timeless aura associated with the African masks, Buddha heads, totems and ancient artifacts. Local art buffs will note some parallels with the cast glass concoctions of local maestro Mitch Gaudet, whose surreal works often feature martyred saints whose suffering on behalf of others reflects traditional Roman Catholic notions of empathy. Both studied glass sculpture at Tulane, but Rose's serene Buddha heads like Purple Lotus Buddha, above, evokes a meditative sort of empathy meant to transcend suffering itself. Royal Street's highly competitive distractions can be daunting, but King's humanistic focus makes her offerings personable.

Belgian artist Eddy Stevens' dreamlike portraits, painted in a magic realist style reminiscent of van Eyck, Lucian Freud and our late, local barfly genius, Noel Rockmore, evoke characters from fantastical fiction while looking oddly at home in the French Quarter. Local artist Aaron Reichert's manically dynamic and sinewy gestural paintings of historical figures like Abraham Lincoln and Albert Einstein also hark to Rockmore--especially the eerie depth and otherworldly funk that characterized his jazz portraits. But Woodrow Nash's large "African Nouveau" clay sculptures are unlike anything else. With hints of Nubian statuary and traditional West African wood figures, some are rendered in ceramics so vividly hued that they seem almost psychedelic. Despite their prismatic charisma, his figures seem pensive, even reflective, like timeless witnesses to their own history who have been left in stunned silence by what they have seen. ~Bookhardt / Temples of Glass: New Work by Marlene Rose and Mixed Media by Gallery Artists, Through Nov. 13, Angela King Gallery, 241 Royal St., 524-8211.