Sunday, January 24, 2016

Queen Selma at Scott Edwards; The Raw and the Cooked (New Carnivalesque Visionary Art) at Barrister's

Selma, Alabama, was known as the "Queen City of the Black Belt" from antebellum days through the Civil Rights movement. Bypassed by the interstate system, it has struggled in recent years despite its storied past. Moscow-born, New Orleans-based Roman Alokhin has documented Selma since 2008, but the most striking thing about his photographs, made with traditional film cameras, is how they almost look like they came straight from the pages of the great news magazines of the 1960s. In Under the Edmund Pettus Bridge, above left, a group of black folk contemplates the span made famous by Martin Luther King and the violent police response to the Selma to Montgomery marches of 1965. The tone of these images is austere yet lyrical, as scenes of high school marching bands, men playing checkers or guests at funerals, top, create a haunting portrait of a place of stately grandeur and tiny shanties, a small Southern city seemingly caught in a limbo between past and present.

Most of America never celebrated carnival, but working class folk of all races pursued their flair for psychic expression via folk art. This quest for the carnivalesque defines the current Barrister's show with its Claude Levi-Strauss inspired-title and colorful visionary paintings by Baltimore's Morgan Monceaux and his Becoming Visible black artists collective. A former homeless veteran, Monceaux found fame with fanciful history paintings, but another collective member, Gloria Garrett creates vibrant domestic scenes with lipstick and cosmetics, while William Rhodes' box sculptures like Mother, above, convey the fraught psychic complexity of inner city life. These Baltimore works are complemented by any number of noteworthy pieces by locals like John Isiah Walton's psychodramatic portrait, Mama's Last Freakout, as well as Dennis Holt's chillingly elaborate Buddhist funerary portrait of Katrina martyr Henry Glover, left, or Bruce Davenport's obsessively monumental ink on paper marching band wall mural with a cast of thousands.~Bookhardt / Queen Selma: Photographs of Selma, Alabama by Roman Alokhin, Through Feb. 16th, Scott Edwards Gallery, 2109 Decatur St., 610-0581; The Raw and the Cooked: Group Exhibition of Carnivalesque Visionary Art, Through Feb. 6th, Barrister's Gallery, 2331 St. Claude Ave, 710-4506.