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.