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.