Sunday, November 29, 2015

Nicole Charbonnet at Arthur Roger

In art, as in literature, time is the wild card. One generation's genius is another's kitsch as tastes and perspectives change. In some places, change happens like mood swings, but in New Orleans change is as alluvial as the local soil as new layers occur in organic increments. Here the surfaces of walls are like palimpsests where old and new are eternally in flux. Initially, Nicole Charbonnet's spectral painted compositions with repeating patterns might suggest the empty "zombie formalism" favored by Wall Street investors in recent years, but look again and micro-ecosystems of words and images emerge from partial obscurity beneath painterly washes in works that utilize time like a tone or color.

Their pale, tactile patina evokes the whitewashed walls of suns-plashed places from the Vieux Carre to Spain's Alhambra or Alexandria, Egypt. Pattern (Climb Every Mountain No. 2), left, is a skein of polychrome geometry like a sandblasted wall in Saudi Arabia, but amid the austere lines are traceries of handwriting and other marks like lost notes or printed news dispatches. Pattern (Flowers No. 8) is more baroque, like floating clusters of faded blooms that might have once adorned the wallpaper of a local bordello, now derelict and discolored with the dampness of the ages. Pattern (Follow Every Rainbow No. 2), top, recalls the art deco frills of a depression era ballroom of a prairie ghost town. All of these works are tributes not just to what endures but to the way all that is new is given depth by all that came before. That point is amply illustrated by the timeless modernism of Lin Emery's consistent yet ever-evolving kinetic metal sculptures in the adjacent chamber--in the diademic dazzle of Flight or Fan Tree. Like George Dunbar, whose own modernist vision appears coincidentally at the nearby Callan Gallery, Emery was a co-founder of the Orleans Gallery, the Royal Street co-op that anticipated by several decades the co-op artist spaces that now dot St. Claude Avenue. ~Bookhardt /All You Need Know: Paintings by Nicole Charbonnet, Through Dec. 26, Arthur Roger Gallery, 432 Julia St. 522-1999.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Josephine Sacabo at A Gallery for Fine Photography

In this exhibition, Josephine Sacabo explores the meandering, shadowy passageways of the psyche as a kind of ethereal visual architecture. Inspired by Juana La Loca, the 16th century "mad queen" of Spain who was imprisoned for 46 years, this series features spectral, dreamlike female figures positioned within intricately labyrinthine structures that look rock solid yet elusive as rays of reflected light. That duality conveys a fraught tension of gravitas and transcendence in complex compositions so delicately balanced as to evoke music, numerology or patterns of sacred geometry. Seen through the dark patina of old tintype processes, the images seem to glow with the dusky luminosity of the ages.

Sacabo rather modestly calls her works "manifestations of the written word" inspired by Rainer Maria Rilke, Charles Baudelaire, Vicente Huidobro and Stefane Mallarm√© among others, but they can also mimic heat seeking missiles with the potential to illuminate the poetic impulse itself. Her use of antique processes takes us into a Proustian attic of memories, a place where time opens to allow entry into other worlds. That shadowy patina forces us to employ intuition to "see" what can never really be seen but is only felt--in works like Juana, top, where the mad queen stares defiantly back at us. Decades of confinement led some to regard her as a martyred mystic, and in Lost Hours a poetically disordered array of timepieces suggests a woozy, lurching sort of music of the spheres. The shadowy, infinitely receding arches of The Passageway take us through vaulted stone chambers reminiscent of ancient Moorish alchemical diagrams depicting the origins of time and space, but Juana reappears in Tristeza, in an otherworldly feminine profile that blends seamlessly with the ornamental filigree etched into her dank, stony confines. Here as in so many of the other works on view, the feminine and the spiritual appear as tidal forces that are only partially shaped--but never completely contained--by the stoneworks erected by mere empires. ~Bookhardt /  Juana and the Structures of Reverie: Tintype Photographs by Josephine Sacabo, Through Jan. 1, A Gallery For Fine Photography, 241 Chartres St, 568-1313.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Iconic Psychogeographic Maestro News

Allen Toussaint Circle

Should Lee Circle be renamed Allen Toussaint Circle? Is that even a question? Some have argued that Virginia's Confederate general, Robert E. Lee, was  "important" to New Orleans. But how? The Confederate president Jefferson Davis died here, and our charismatic Confederate general, P. G. T. Beauregard, returned home to Nola after the war to lead the local Unification civil rights movement--but it is hard to find evidence that Lee had any connection to New Orleans whatsoever. Louisiana was dragged into the war by powerful planters, not popular opinion. For New Orleanians, it was "la guerre Americaine." But Allen Toussaint, who died at 77 on November 10, was New Orleans personified, a Southern gentleman and musical genius of the first magnitude who brought sublime New Orleans joy to the world. Even his name, "Toussaint," means "All Saints," the beloved local holiday. Replacing the cold and distant Lee with Allen Toussaint is a no-brainer.  To sign the petition: Click Here. More on Toussaint: Click Here (Be sure to catch his soliloquy on his Creole French childhood on the video, which captures a deep and loving current of the soul of our state. Gorgeous...) More on the Toussaint Circle movement Here.

Tony Fitzpatrick's Dime Stories
Before geopsychics, or psychogeography, the ancient Romans had a name for the protective spirits of place: genii loci. Chicago's Tony Fitzpatrick (who survived a close call earlier this year) is a living avatar of all things unique and wondrous about his remarkable city. A true Chicago treasure, Fitzpatrick started out as a boxer and a bouncer before evolving into a fascinating artist, actor and writer. A master of the vernacular cadences of his city's streets and its greatest interpreter since Carl Sandberg, Nelson Algren and Studs Terkel, he's the real deal and his soulful, if not always saintly, eloquence illuminates his self - illustrated Dime Stories columns on the pages of Chicago's Newcity weekly magazine. It is rare that journalism achieves such heights of salty eloquence, but in this compendium edition of the same name, one gets the sense that Fitzpatrick's words are animated by battalions of profanely poetic Hibernian ancestor spirits railing at the dark, venal injustices of daily life while celebrating serendipitous earthly splendors that are free to all with eyes willing to see and ears willing to hear. (Or as Fitzpatrick's mama said about birds: "For a piece of bread, you can hear God sing.") Life may be a craps shoot, but the force of nature that is Tony Fitzpatrick has proven himself not only up to the task, but able to plumb the depths of the human cauldron and return with nuggets of brilliance. For more on Tony Fitzpatrick's Dime Stories,  Click Here and Here.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Jacqueline Bishop at Arthur Roger

The Other Landscape
Billed as an exploration of landscape painting and the complex connections between climate change, species extinction and migration, Jacqueline Bishop's new Arthur Roger show, The Other Landscape, encompasses familiar environmental topics from the daily news. But her imagery evokes a realm of nature so otherworldly that mythology and sorcery may be the most immediate references that come to mind. In fact, art is the mythology of the modern age, the societal equivalent of the dreams that in our individual lives serve to psychically integrate all that we experience and provide the meta-narratives that define our sense of who we are and where we are going. Likewise, technology is the sorcery of our time, and in this show, climate change, migration and extinction are its consequences that Bishop transforms into a new mythos, a visionary ecology of the imagination.

Ecology is often viewed as a mechanistic system of checks and balances in the natural world, but it is really all about how everything in the world is connected as a totality. Bishop's large painting, After the Rain, above, depicts birds cavorting in an effusion of roses--a surreal ayahuasca sort of  vision where joyous beauty is framed by skeletal trees and emaciated animals. Not so very long ago, pollution from chemical refineries upriver from here made our sunsets spectacularly gorgeous, but it was a deadly kind of beauty that could potentially destroy all that it touched if left unchecked. Just as crack cocaine burns out the body and mind, our rapacious exploitation of earthly resources burns out the planet, and this is the drama that Bishop depicts in canvases like Landfill: Mountain where a promontory of roses punctuated with smokestacks is lapped by the waves of a troubled sea. Similarly, her watercolor  collages  like Formation of Pearls, above left, made with Mississippi River water use words and images from the past to poetically evoke the ecology of communication, the quotidian visual/verbal assertions and seductions that comprise the informational echo chamber of our media saturated age. ~Bookhardt /  The Other Landscape: New Paintings and Mixed Media Works by Jacqueline Bishop, Through Dec. 26, Arthur Roger Gallery, 432 Julia St. 522-1999.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Christopher Saucedo at LeMieux

It is often said that the most successful art reflects the zeitgeist--the spirit of the times--in which it was created. Expressionism reflected the rise of psychology and the subconscious just as pop art reflected the mass media imagery that increasingly surrounds us. Postmodern art attempted to make academic theories seem edgy if not sexy, but influential former University of New Orleans art instructor Christopher Saucedo took a counterintuitive approach based on weights and measures: he got his kicks from cubic displacement in his obsessively deadpan output of sculptures and prints. While postmodern theory focused on power structures and media spectacles, Saucedo obsessed over how much volume his school-aged children displaced in barrels of water. He had no idea this was in any way prophetic, at least not until Hurricane Katrina's floodwaters filled not only his barrels but the rest of his Gentilly home as well. This trial by water followed a trial by fire; his New York fireman brother died in the 911 attack in 2001. After Katrina, he moved his family back to his native New York just in time for his new home in Rockaway to be flooded by Hurricane Sandy.

He is still obsessed with weights and measures but his history with cubic displacement has become indelibly personal. His new work probes the inner life of his subjects in stylized go-cups, gallon jugs and five gallon bottled water containers that exude the iconic resonance of personal mythology--as we see in his print, Red Cup Formation, above, a pop rendition of plastic cups with an aura of martyrdom. In Fluid Volume (Scrovegni Guilt) bottled water and other containers sport saintly halos, and in Red Cup (Inversion) plastic cups do backflips as if possessed by poltergeists. A hanging wire mobile of stylized cups, cans and bottled water containers turns out to be a "self portrait," top, in a work that might be said to speak volumes. Saucedo speaks in person at an artist talk on Saturday the 14th at 2 P.M. ~Bookhardt / Pints, Quarts and Gallons: New Work by Christopher Saucedo, Through Nov. 28, LeMieux Galleries, 332 Julia St., 522.5988.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

KAWS, Karl Wirsum & Tomoo Gokita at Newcomb

If your craving for things dark and creepy hasn't  been satiated by Halloween, you might want to drop by the Newcomb Art Museum and see some surprisingly spooky art while burnishing your credentials as an aesthete. Despite its civilized, contemporary veneer, this Shared Space show, curated by Monica Ramirez-Montagut, exudes a dark aura that harks to the excesses of pop culture, expressionism and technology. Indeed, some of the figures suggest the sorts of mutations that might have been spawned at Disneyworld in the wake of an atomic apocalypse. For instance, New York artist KAWS' 16 foot tall sculpture, Companion, is rather like a monstrous mutant Mickey Mouse holding his head in his hands as if mourning the demise of childhood. Or maybe he's just suffering from a form of digital dementia brought about by acute Photoshop poisoning.

Digital technology allows everyone to modify everything at will for good or ill, but the early 1960s art movement known as Chicago Imagism presaged many of the more extravagant exaggerations that now characterize all things digital. Its influence continues today in founding member Karl Wirsum's  alluring painted freak shows--in works like his hypnotically demonic fever dream, Throw a Wait Line Proof of Purse Chase, top left. Just what is it about those Chicago redheads, anyway? Scary stuff. If Wirsum takes his cues from the art of the insane, Tomoo Gokita came to sex and horror naturally as the son of the editor of the Japanese edition of Playboy magazine. Maybe its food coloring-hued skin tones and airbrushed body parts caused him to rebel into a realm of black and white anatomical grotesquerie. Speechless depicts a couple posed in a casual embrace. Their flashy demeanor reflects the assertively affluent hedonism long championed by Playboy--except, of course, for the deep, dark voids where their heads should be. Playboy was born in Chicago almost simultaneously with the Imagist movement. Playboy no longer features nude photos, but the legacy of Chicago Imagism lives on. ~Bookhardt / A Shared Space: Kaws, Karl Wirsum and Tomoo Gokita, Through Jan. 3, Newcomb Art Museum, Tulane University, 865-5328.