Sunday, June 14, 2015

Initiating Cause and Effect: Prints by Katrina Andry

The great jazz musician, Sun Ra, claimed to have come from Saturn to lead black people to their true home on another planet. He was still earthbound when he died in 1993, but his belief--that black folk might as well be from another planet as far as many Americans are concerned--still resonates today.  Superficial stereotypes distort everyone's perceptions of each other, but for African Americans the ghetto casts a long shadow no matter who they are. Lately many black artists have created their own caricatures of those negative cliches as a way of critiquing the critiques--a strategy that pervaded last year's 30 Americans expo at the Contemporary Arts Center. So much emphasis on one approach risks appearing redundant, but Nola native Katrina Andry's unusually large, briskly acerbic yet startlingly original wood block prints are in a class by themselves.    

Beyond their virtuoso technique, Andry's prints stand out for quirky innovations like role reversals of  "ghetto" stereotypes featuring white folk in blackface. For instance, When I Grow Up: The Ascribed Black American Dream, top, features the somnolent form of a young black guy with a superimposed tableau of white youths in blackface brandishing recreational and contraband objects including knives amid the interwoven words, "When I grow up I dream of being... a drug dealer... NBA star... homicidal single mother..." and so forth, in an anthem of desperate options. She also often substitutes a reddish "watermelon face" for blackface. The Jungle Bunny Gave You Fever, above left, depicts a Garden of Eden scene with a nude white woman in Playboy Bunny ears and "watermelon face" embraced by a snake as white guys carry on like coke-crazed frats in a parody of the old "oversexed black folk" cliche, an elaboration on her earlier Garden of Eden scebe, Western Interpretation of the Other, starring a black-face eve and an overly familiar snake, left. Andry's stone-lithograph self portraits depict her as an angry black woman in meltdown mode, but in person she's gracious and demure, as befits an artist recently named by Art in Print magazine as one of their top 50 printmakers.  ~Bookhardt / Initiating Cause and Effect: Woodblock Reduction Prints by Katrina Andry, Through July 25, Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, 400A Julia St., 522-5471.