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>>