Sunday, April 12, 2015

Artist Studios: Tina Freeman's Photographs at the Ogden Museum; Amer Kobasliga's Paintings at Arthur Roger

It is rare for two unrelated exhibitions to feature the same subject at the same time, but Tina Freeman's photographs at the Ogden Museum and Bosnian artist Amer Kobaslija paintings at Arthur Roger are all about artist's studios. (Odder yet, Kobaslija's show coincidentally follows fellow Bosnian
artist Lala Rascic's recent expo at Good Children.) Nola is often called a "psychic city" for the way coincidences can suddenly happen, but this is a double dose of synchronicity. Neither portrays the artists themselves, but Freeman's photos are accompanied by examples of her subjects' work while Kobaslija's paintings let us piece together their personalities from their cluttered surroundings. Not that Freeman's artists are any pikers when it comes to clutter--the late George Dureau's live-in studio, below, is a masterpiece of aesthetic accumulation that echoes the elegant curiosities that once surrounded long gone maestros like Henri Matisse or Frederic Church, in contrast to his spare artworks on view.

Her photographs of Elizabeth Shannon's antique woodwork and swamp relic-infested studio are flanked by a  taxidermed alligator climbing an old wooden ladder in an evocation of the animist spirits of the city and nearby bayous, but Robert Tannen's Crucifish assemblage  with a stuffed Marlin affixed to a tall wooden cross behind a Savonarola chair suggests something a swashbuckling Grand Isle Francis Bacon might have concocted. Ersy Schwartz's bronze, bird-headed chess pieces look dramatically orderly on their meticulous wooden cabinet, top, but their aura is bizarrely surreal. In Amer Kobaslija's painterly rendering of Jackson Pollock's studio, a solitary chair appears amid an riot of manic paint splatters on the floor. But in the rustic domesticity of Balthus' studio, above left, cats, quinces and a nude, half painted nymphet offer clues to the late artist's inner life. Kokasija's and Freeman's studio scenes are portals into the artists' personas in absentia via the environments and trappings that guided them like loadstones toward uncharted territories. ~Bookhardt /Tina Freeman: Photographs of Artist Spaces, Through July 12, Ogden Museum of Southern Art, 925 Camp St., 539-9600; Amer Kobaslija: Recent Paintings, Through May 30, Arthur Roger Gallery, 432 Julia St. 522-1999.