Sunday, February 28, 2016

John Isiah Walton/Vanessa Centeno/Rosa Byun / Steph Marcus/Sean Starwars @ The Front

The line between naive folk art and sophisticated expressionism is sometimes very thin, and John Isiah Walton walks it like a tightrope in this Rodeo series at the Front. Based on Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola's annual inmate rodeo, his work conveys the irony of a place where risky spectacles like bull riding provide coveted rewards for good behavior. Such ironies provide fodder for an artist whose loose brushwork is so unbridled that it's almost confrontational. It is unclear if that is intentional, but his best work exudes a psychological boldness that is attracting interest in New York and beyond. Sometimes ultra - loose brushwork makes me crazy, but he pulls it off in works like 515, pictured, where a downed rider seems on the verge of being trampled by a raging bull—a scene that harks to humanity's most ancient memories of meaningful encounters with the animal kingdom. Perhaps because Walton appears to have empathetic chemistry with his subjects, his work has an impact that makes him an emerging artist worth watching.

Vanessa Centeno's vibrant mixed media wall sculptures reflect her unique interpretation of the way colorful consumer items can snag their buyers the way lures snag fish. Their discarded remnants clog the oceans with trash and induce enough angst to provoke Centeno's inner Mary Shelley to craft brightly hued constructions with a dark side -- not exactly Frankensteinian, but definitely weird. Rather like rumpled canvas shrouds, their unsettlingly loopy accoutrements soon become evident, for instance, in Fast Lane, left, where a sinister snout with teeth surreptitiously protrudes from beneath festive ruffles in a series that collectively alludes to consumer culture as a vast, polymorphous, booby trapped pinata. In the back gallery, works by Rosa Byun, Steph Marcus and Sean Starwars exude an acerbic pop surreality typified by Marcus' painted cardboard portrait of a well fed cat in a baseball cap with human legs dangling from its mouth--a fitting talisman, perhaps, for this tumultuous time. ~Bookhardt / New Work by John Isiah Walton, Vanessa Centeno, Rosa Byun, Steph Marcus and Sean Starwars, Through March 6, The Front, 4100 St. Claude Ave., 920-3980;  

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Saturation/UNO St.Claude; M. Hoffman/5 Press

How we see our the world around us is something we take for granted. Anything we look at often enough looks normal--even in New Orleans! But that is all illusory. Thanks to Einstein, we now know that light is actually energy transmitted in waves and particles our mental processes shape into what passes for normal everyday reality. At UNO St. Claude, Jake Fried's Brain Lapse video—a psychedelic animation cobbled from ink, white out and coffee—provides intriguing parallels to Einstein's mental construction-deconstruction hypothesis. But The Blown Town in Tea, a mythico-surreal video animation by Japanese artist Saigo No Shudan, depicts an elderly sage levitating a bowl into the hands of a nubile maiden who vanishes into its otherworldly contents, recalling Einstein's description of quantum entanglement: “spooky things happening at a distance.” Even spookier, yet cerebral, is Joshua Mosley's International, featureing a hypothetical conversation between Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek and Brown & Root founder George Brown, based entirely on quotes, with a minimalist soundtrack by Mosley. Rarely has the rape of the environment by the profit motive been presented with such poetic circumspection. Curated by Dan Rule, these among others provide a colorful sampling of some of the more intriguing experimental animations being made in the world today.

Landscapes are an ancient genre dating back to Europe's stone age cave paintings, but Miro Hoffman's canvases reflect more current and local concerns. Referencing both urban farming and art history, they suggest that what we call “sense of place” results from a fusion of aspiration, aesthetics and nature. For instance, Veggi Farms III depicts a community garden designed to provide work for the Vietnamese residents of New Orleans East affected by the BP oil spill. Sparkling with crisp forms and colors, it whimsically exudes the aspirations of the garden's creators. Similar qualities appear in Press Street Gardens, where students learn to grow produce to be sold to local restaurants. Andi's Permaculture Garden, above left, a view of the artist's father's backyard, is more personal, but the scientifically and socially innovative tone of all of these scenes makes them very different from traditional landscapes. A recent artist in residence at the Joan Mitchell Center, Hoffman is a deft colorist who uses a kind of abstract shorthand to create quasi-realistic landscapes that reflect the post-Katrina movement toward community oriented visual art. ~Bookhardt / Sustainable Development: Paintings by by Miro Hoffman, Through March 5th, 5 Press Gallery, 5 Press St., 940-2900; , Saturate: Recent Animations by National and International Artists, Through March 6, UNO St. Claude Gallery, 2429 St. Claude Ave, 280-6493.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Barney at NOMA; Bennett at Delgado

Tina Barney is a photographer with an anthropological passion for documenting that most mysterious of American subcultures: old time wealthy white people. Specifically, Barney photographs the genteel, Waspy residents of Watch Hill, Rhode Island, a Victorian-era resort town that evolved into a homey if tony community based on the old Yankee virtue of bland, understated propriety. Her affable subjects are mostly family and friends drifting through prosaic daily routines that she records with the loopy candor of  a photographic Jane Austen on Xanax. In Jill and Polly in the Bathroom, top, an older and younger woman appear in matching bathrobes amid a maternal monologue, and everything is pink except the lawn and doghouse outside the window. It dates from 1987 but the tone is very 1950s. So is Mark, Amy and Tara, 1983, a scene where pale, pleasant young folk lounge decorously in a sun room, and The Reception, 1999, above left, where formally attired gentry pose stiffly around an antique bust on a coffee table. These are the nice, reliable rich people, her pictures seem to say, not the pretentious, Gatsby-esque bunch down the road at Newport, but in 21st century America they can seem as rare and exotic as the lost tribes of Tanzania's Serengeti plains.       

Gus Bennett is known for his haunting post -Katrina figurative photomontages that merge a vast expanse of time, space and emotion into a single image. His Blak Code series explores local notions of beauty, focusing on black identity juxtaposed with natural forms like leaves and flowers, resulting in images that seem more abstract than personal.They are also very dark, so reflections on their glass from the gallery's vast arched window create an unexpected hall of mirrors effect, and it can be disconcerting to look at someone else and see one's own reflection. On the other hand, isn't that what empathy is really all about? ~Bookhardt / Photographs by Tina Barney , Through Feb. 28, New Orleans Museum of Art, City Park, 658-4100; Gus Bennett: The Blak Code Series, Through Feb. 25, Delgado Art Gallery, 615 City Park Ave., 671-6377.

Livingston, We Presume: Einstein's Lost Gravitational Waves Found in Louisiana

We always knew there was something odd about Livingston. North of and between the cyclotronic nodes of New Orleans and Baton Rouge, its obscurity reflects the wayward space-time of a state where gravitas is often lacking and gravity meanders along its own feral, wayward path, as unpredictable as stray cats, implausibly buoying listing drunks while snaring the respectable via impromptu voids that swallow cars, sections of streets and even small towns with scant warning. Ages ago, an oracular hermit named Two-hat, who observed the nuances of spacetime from a folly in the guise of a garage on Dante Street, warned of a quantum gyre manifesting as a simulacrum of the city emanating from parts of its historic districts, causing an otherdimensional urban doppleganger to coexist above, below and alongside it. Later, another seer and geopsychic artist, Myrtle von Damitz, was able to perceive and reproduce its ambient aura, above left, via her finely honed attunement to magnetic fields. Now we finally have an official scientific explanation for all the derelict particles and waves that litter the local landscape, and for that we are thankful. Well done, Einstein--better late than never! ~Bookhardt

Gravitational Waves Explained:

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Kate Clark and Andrea Deszo at Newcomb

The humanoid animal sculptures by Kate Clark at Newcomb instantly instill a sense of wonder, but, is there more than mere novelty at work here? Entering the gallery is eerie; it is almost like a zoo where wild creatures with familiar human features cluster like family groups in a public lobby. Three antelope with faces like restless young guys gaze appraisingly around them even as two bears wear expressions like British anthropologists looking for lost tribe. A dazed zebra, top, suggests a fashion model who just downed a spiked drink, and some conspiratorial hyenas across the room look like they could be the culprits. By making their expressions more like ours, Clark blurs the boundaries between the human and animal realms and emphasizes our shared sentient sensibilities. Dog and cat lovers already know the depths of feeling their furry faces convey, but here Clark may also be taking us back to a time when people and animals were more alike, before we put them in concentration camps called factory farms and mechanically dismembered them into packaged food products. In this show, Clark reminds us of the extent to which animals are people too.

Our awareness of the primordial magic embodied in animals, forests and the heavens has long been dissipated by the distractions of technocratic urban life, but those sensibilities live on in ancient myths and folk art--including the dreamlike visions that inspired Andrea Dezso's shadow boxes, graphics and ceramics. Even her space aliens suggest mythic, folkloric beings, but for us her most emblematic and easily relatable works would probably have to be her oversize, back-lit shadow boxes inspired by her native Transylvania as well as an adjacent series of illustrations that Nola Carnival designer Carlotta Bonnecaze created for the 1892 Krewe of Proteus parade. Both series reflect the dreams, myths and psychic resonances of the wild world that have motivated artists since time immemorial. ~ Bookhardt / Mysterious Presence: Taxidermy Sculptures by Kate Clark; I Wonder: Ceramics and Works on Paper by Andrea Dezso, Through April 10, Newcomb Art Museum, Tulane University, 865-5328,