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.