Summer group shows are rarely very noteworthy, but this New Orleans Art Center expo is far from typical. This newest and biggest of St. Claude galleries is huge--over 6,000 square feet--and reminiscent of the early Contemporary Arts Center. It also features some artists whose best works are rarely seen these days. I'd been to Jon Schooler's gallery-studio on Oak St. where his more serious work was mixed with stuff he'd painted for the tourist market, which made for a schizoid viewing experience. But gallery director Tina Juran has a good eye, and her selection of his idiosyncratic major works cast a spell that carries the space's cavernous confines. Self-taught, Schooler displays a deft touch for mixing liquid pigments into concoctions like exotic layered cocktails that he coaxes into psychedelic marbleized swirl patterns in works like Yellow Couch Nude Dog, or the compositionally similar but tonally different, Reclining Blue Nude (top)--works that not only convey the eccentric life of his subjects, but hint at shimmering, spinning molecules in much the way Vincent Van Gogh's landscapes seem to breathe with an electric life of their own. Even his architectural subjects like Maple Leaf Bar, left, exude a carnivalesque animism.
Similarly, Adam Farrington's sculptures almost amount to an informal "best of" selection that shows off his flair for whimsical mechanical concoctions that suggest exhibits from a museum of lost or forgotten inventions, objects that imply strange and curious detours from the history of technology. Conversely, Wally Warren dissects mainstream technology to create intricate miniature cityscapes (above) from computer parts deployed like Lego bricks in busy, map-like compositions. And Tina Juran's Wild Sunflowers painting, left, reads like a latter-day feminine reply to Van Gogh's visionary vistas. Throw in some intense, promising emerging artists like Darel Joseph--aka "Infinity"--and old timers like Ray Cole, and the result is a show that epitomizes this city's curious alchemical gumbo of continuity within change. ~Bookhardt / NOLA Proud: 10 Years Post-Katrina: Group Exhibition of Gallery Artists, Through Sept. 6; New Orleans Art Center, 3330 St. Claude Ave., 707-338-8478
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