Sunday, January 4, 2015

Prospect.3 at the Contemporary Arts Center

Welcome to the world! There is often a National Geographic quality about much of Prospect.3, which  offers many windows on the far corners of the planet. The Contemporary Arts Center epitomizes this perspective with works by two dozen artists that are often more meditational than sensational yet, despite all that,  the nuances of Douglas Bourgeois' paintings can be startling as the maestro of Saint Amant, LA, finds no dearth of exotica on his own home turf. His Twilight High Yearbook painting--a grid of swarthy, grinning adolescents like a U.N. sampler of ethnicities and hair styles -- epitomizes the exotic aura seen in later works like A New Place to Dwell, below, an evocation of the interplay of pop culture and the exalted that defines so much of the local cultural landscape. It's a great selection of some of Bourgeois' best that that Art News said was "worth the trip to New Orleans" by itself. Sophie Lvoff's photographs of street scenes and interiors  initially suggest social realist views of Nola bars, cafes and banged up cars, but up close they look more whimsical and otherworldly, like scenes from a carnivalesque parallel universe governed by the laws of chance.
Click Graphic for Douglas Bourgeois Interview
Japanese-American artist Glenn Kaino's tanks of corals in seawater, top, resemble a strangely beautiful science project, but a wall text says the corals are growing on replicas of the military hardware the army dumps into the ocean, and those lovely corals are actually locked in a fierce battle over territory. Theaster Gates makes art from ordinary objects like old fire hoses, but his minimalist black on black tar paintings resonate a special aura--perhaps because his father was a roofer. Many of the works from the most remote places on the planet defy easy assessment, but some can be surprisingly familiar. Entang Wiharso's Double Happiness aluminum wall sculptures evoke demonic Hieronymus Bosch figures but may actually be more about his native Indonesia's complex history of globalization, just as Chinese artist Jun-Fei Ji's dioramic scroll  paintings deploy ancient Chinese ghosts to depict evoke and environmental displacement. Both artists feature figures oddly reminiscent of 19th century Carnival illustrations, a reminder that east Asia profoundly influenced the Western art and design of that time. ~Bookhardt

Prospect.3: Douglas Bourgeois, Sophie Lvoff and Two Dozen International Artists, Through January 25, Contemporary Arts Center, 900 Camp St., 528.3805.