Sunday, June 26, 2016

Lala Rascic at Good Children

Are you a Facebook (or Twitter or Tinder) zombie? Social media sites are handy for helping us stay in touch with friends, but in a recent Atlantic Magazine article Twitter co-founder Evan Williams raised  concerns that the internet is now dominated by a few companies that herd people into literally “Like”-minded masses, in contrast to the more “open web” of the past. New technologies can have unintended consequences, and this Lala Raščić expo is a rumination on that problematic legacy. In her Evil Earth System video, she telescopes time and space with remarks like, "Mountains are deposits of minerals and ores--iPhones subsume elements from 40 different mountain tops." Here the mountains are both rhetorical and physical as she recalls our history of treating nature as a threat to be conquered with technology. But it is social media's effect on human nature that inspired her work with Slovenian programmer Marko Plahuta exploring 8.6 million Tweets that featured prefixes like, “anti, pro, pre, post or contra”--words that suggest rhetorical peaks and valleys in our symbolic mental landscapes even as they reflect the algorithms employed by social media companies to subtly determine what we see, feel and experience when we log on. Even words that seem chaotic in conversation appear neatly ordered when reduced to the algorithmic patterns strategically employed by leading social media sites.

This invocation of cybernetic speculation in relation to cultural and scientific history may not be easy to follow, but what it comes down to is perspective. Data algorithms can be represented as rays and circular forms. Mulltimedia pieces like Neosphere, above, feature deft arrangements of lights, lenses and mirrors that reveal how appearances can change significantly depending on your point of view. Here luminous optical geometry suggests a sense of continuity with the modernist structures depicted in Vera Lutter's wall-size paper negative prints, left, at NOMA, a vision that neatly complements Raščić's more algorithmic machinations while recalling the proto-futurist ideal of techno-utopias where devices were our servants and houses were “machines for living.” The question today is whether our seductive devices actually serve us, or if we serve them. ~Bookhardt / Evil Earth System: Multimedia Installation by Lala Raščić, Through July 3, Good Children Gallery, 4037 St. Claude Ave., 616-7427. 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

No Longer Nomadic, New Orleans Airlift's Magical Music Box Village Finds a Home
The globally acclaimed New Orleans public art project known as The Music Box, legendary for its fantastical installations at various sites about town, now has a new permanent home and you can help take it to the next level. An extraordinary synthesis of this city's musical and architectural heritage, the Bywater - based Music Box Village is the fulfillment of a long held dream to install its magical musical houses in a permanent location in the heart of the community that inspired it. Click Here for More.

Controls and Counter-Reactions at Antenna

Blighted housing is a conundrum -- an old house that some see as an eyesore might be someone else's beloved home. Gentrification and high insurance and tax rates wiped out most of the low cost rentals that proliferated here before Huricane Katrina, even as higher values saved some grand old homes from the wrecking ball. For low income communities, the problem is dire. Blights Out, an NGO focused on community self-determination, staged this exhibition, curated by Carl Joe Williams, as a catalyst for exploring blight from new social and artistic perspectives. The diverse range of work can seem baffling at first, but the artists' explanatory texts are so poetically insightful that the words merge with the visuals into an ultimately thoughtful and cohesive installation.

Horton Humble's City That Floats Away, top, recalls expressionist abstraction but was inspired by Hurricane Katrina: “Walking amid the debris, I felt that if I could create something meaningful, I could envision a way to rebuild.” Katrina Andry's brutalist baroque brushwork, left, evokes the lush vines covering an abandoned Mid City house that she notes is also “a fire hazard” that can “hide guns and crime.” But Hannah Chalew's mystical landscapes, above, are painted on paper she made from vines culled from overgrown lots, transforming unwanted weeds into objects of value. An artist named Bottletree's The Mayor of St. Roch--a voodoo-esque memorial shrine to St. Roch Improvement Association founder and longtime affordable housing activist Reggie Lawson--illustrates the diverse spiritual and deeply rooted cultural associations that underlie the quest for social justice in New Orleans; but a mysterious found object sculpture by Rontherin Ratliff resonates cosmic antiquity, like what a satellite launched from 19th century Treme might have looked like. Founded in 2014 by New Orleans native Imani Jacqueline Brown, Blights Out is one of the most innovative iterations of the fusion of art and social activism that emerged in the wake of Hurricane Katrina as determined New Orleans residents banded together to defend and rebuild their city. ~Bookhardt / Controls and Counter Reactions: Mixed Media Group Exhibit Inspired by Blight, Through July 3, Antenna Gallery, 3718 Saint Claude Ave., 250-7975.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Art Hysterical at Jonathan Ferrara

It could have been silly--art about art history has been the basis of too many trite exhibitions in recent years--but this tart expo curated by Matthew Weldon Showman is hysterical in the most catalytic sense of the word. Most of us know the Emanuel Leutze painting, Washington Crossing the Delaware, but in this new Ode to Washington Crossing the Delaware, top, by the duo known as E2, his men are women of various races, and Washington is a resolute black lady. This may seem funny, but it is also symbolic. Although the American Revolution was a revolt by affluent white guys against a British monarchy run by and for affluent white guys, the Constitution they drafted set the stage for a process of gender and racial emancipation that continues to this day.

Digital manipulation reaches new heights of magic realism in some remarkable remakes of vintage masterworks by Tony Campbell and Matt Vis. In their version of The Ecstasy of St. Teresa, above left, Campbell portrays the martyred saint as a scruffy, semi-conscious homeless person assailed by Vis as a macho cop in a humorous, if deadly serious, social realist take on an old renaissance theme. Similarly, Rene Magritte's creepily iconic painting of a female head that, up close, is really a woman's nude torso, below, undergoes a bit of role reversal in Nora See's version, which disconcertingly features a tumescent male torso. Rachel Burch Williams' My Ghost, above left, is like an elegant goth update of old Dutch “vanitas” still life paintings, replete with skulls and insects, that remains remarkably true to form. Adam Mysock's On a Snowy Night suggests small yet convincing copy of Edward Hopper's Nighthawks, but look again and it's snowing inside like a zany snowglobe. Master 20th century New Orleans painter Paul Ninas may seem like the odd man out here, but if you look closely at his work in various styles, it becomes quite easy to see him as the Gerhard Richter of his milieu. ~Bookhardt / Art Hysterical: New Orleans Artists Revisit Art History, Through July, Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, 400A Julia St., 522-5471.         

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Al-Hadid at Newcomb

Diana Al-Hadid is a native of Syria who emigrated with her family to the U.S. when she was a small child, but her show at Newcomb leaves the distinct impression that she has been crossing borders and boundaries ever since. Her mind-bending sculptures and multidimensional wall mounted works are so multi-layered that different people may initially see them very differently as they are transported into the less familiar labyrinths of history, science and culture. As Newcomb Art Museum director Monica Ramirez-Montagut has noted, Al-Hadid is influenced by historical forms from art and architecture that she transforms with “drips, textures, patterns, and ornaments that recall Arabic calligraphy and Islamic textile patterns. Yet through their ruinous quality, they simultaneously evoke absence.”

Mob Mentality (above, with Blind Bust), is emblematic. Seen from a distance it suggests a ghostly tapestry of overlapping gothic arches, but viewed more closely, its spidery forms seem to beam out at you like poltergeists, and it soon becomes clear that it is really a massive shadow box where gossamer, doily-thin polymer drips and industrial substances cohere in pale crescendos like waves of ghostly sea foam while evoking something of the multi-layered gothic aura of Anselm Kiefer's spooky expressionist canvases. Related techniques appear in  monumental sculptures like Head in the Clouds, left, which recalls renaissance paintings where saints  seem to loom miraculously above medieval cities, while also evoking the fanciful way lightweight materials are used in carnival float construction. Those surreal, decadent and carnivalesque qualities extend to far more substantial works like In Mortal Repose, top, a large, reclining female figure whose limbs, rendered in dark bronze seemingly ooze down a concrete pedestal culminating in a pair of liquifacious feet poised on the lower tiers. Here the perceived boundaries that define not only history, but even  reality itself, melt away in much the way digital technology and quantum physics depict reality as merely a complex construct -- an unsettling perspective that probably causes many  people to gravitate toward absolutist platitudes, but which Hadid uses to create works that are not only intriguing, but often beautiful--and occasionally even fun. ~Bookhardt / Diana Al-Hadid: Recent Sculpture and Mixed Media Works, Through July 24, Newcomb Art Museum, Tulane University, 865-5328.
June Newsbriefs:
Critic-Curator Nick Stillman New Arts Council CEO 

Former Bomb Magazine Managing Editor, UNO Visiting Critic and Arts Council Deputy Director Nick Stillman has been promoted to CEO. "I’m very honored to assume this position, especially at this pivotal moment for our city,” Stillman said. “Just as the city of New Orleans is looking ahead to the 2018 Tricentennial, we too are focused on demonstrating over the next three years how pivotal, transformative, and essential the arts are to New Orleans.” An active art critic who regularly contributed to Artforum, Stillman also curated eight exhibitions at PS1 in New York, including the debut museum solo shows by Kalup Linzy, Amy Granat and Joe Bradley. More>>
Curator Kenny Schachter Shreds Big Art as "Corrupt"

According to New York-born, London-based, global art world gadabout, gadfly, collector, curator and contrarian self-promoter Kenny Schachter, the global art market is a "hotbed" of corruption. This is hardly news to those of us who have noticed  the New York and London art markets are the last unregulated play pens for international banksters, but it was interesting to see it in the London Telegraph's coverage of a Schachter talk about how the corruption he had seen over a long and global career was born of the high sums of money involved. Even museum trustees were in on the act, he alleged; using their inside knowledge of future exhibitions to give tips on which artists are likely to see a boost in prices. High level dealers could use the auction system to artificially inflate prices, planting an accomplice to bid against clients and ramp up the final price. Important works, he claimed, were sometimes sold at a private price significantly lower than the sum announced publicly, the headline-catching public price boosting the status of the artist for future sales. "Any time a lot of money crops up, hideous behaviour follows too." More>>