Sunday, March 20, 2016

Jim Richard + Cheryl Donegan / Amy Feldman / Wayne Gonzales / Lisa Sanditz

For most of his long career, Jim Richard's paintings amounted to “art about art,” only instead of art history, they evoked settings for short stories where the artworks were the protagonists. These new works are similar in that sense, but they also allude to the way digital technology makes everything in the world seem more accessible yet less real, as elusive as pixels on a computer screen. In Pretty Boy, above, an elephant sculpture appears in a patio where the mauve light and pixilated composition suggests a fever dream from the remote regions of cyberspace like a Google search gone weirdly awry. In Art in the Garden, the paintings levitate at odd angles amid delirious blooms like a vision from an experiment in opiated vaping. Others feature sculptural figures imbued with edgy human apprehensions, as if waiting to make a run for it. By invoking the quicksilver digital evanescence of the present, Richard reunites painting with its stone age origins when flickering fires seemed to animate the spirits of the creatures depicted on the cavern walls.  

As an influential luminary of the Louisiana Imagist movement, Richard, now retired, was a mentor to many over his long tenure at the University of New Orleans. The adjacent gallery spaces are filled with works by four of his former students. New York based painter and New Orleans native Wayne Gonzales is known for his lyrically gritty, pop media-inspired canvases, but his painting, Forest, 2014, above left, suggests a postmodern Thoreau via its dense, intricately baroque leaves and branches that seduce the eye while remaining opaquely and ironically impenetrable. A series of colorful canvases by Lisa Sanditz recalls pure abstraction at first, but look again—those colorful rectangular blobs are termite-tented houses! Amy Feldman also paints blobs but hers are buoyantly minimal and expansively mysterious, while Cheryl Donegan's otherworldly videos mostly defy description, although my mental shorthand for one, Head, below, was: “orgy at a Tupperware party.” Enough said.  ~Bookhardt / New Work by Jim Richard with Cheryl Donegan, Amy Feldman, Wayne Gonzales and Lisa Sanditz, Through April 23, Arthur Roger Gallery, 432 Julia St. 522-1999.