These days New Orleans' shared history with Haiti is much better known than its Spanish Caribbean heritage, so it may come as a surprise that when Louisiana was a Spanish colony we were governed by officials in Havana, Cuba, not Spain. That Hispanic island history came to mind when viewing Antonio Carreño’s abstract paintings at Stella Jones. A native of the Dominican Republic, Haiti's Hispanic neighbor, Carreño infuses his work with something of their shared island's mystical aura, as seen in Senses, top left. Here cryptic markings reminiscent of voodoo and other religious symbols punctuate crimson blood and hibiscus swatches radiating out from verdant green glades and deep azure pools amid a misty veil of atmospheric slate and gold in a composition that recalls both tropical nature and the turbulent history of the Caribbean. Amid the somewhat more subdued hues of works like Endless Night, left, are related motifs that not only evoke indigenous mysticism but also the Afro-Caribbean rhythms that define our musical heritage from Louis Moreau Gottschalk to Mardi Gras Indians and Allen Toussaint.
Also on view is a selection of works by New Orleans native and pioneer abstract expressionist Ed Clark, who along with Norman Lewis came to symbolize black America's contribution to an idiom viewed by many as a kind of visual version of modern jazz. These among other iconic works are part of the lead-up to the Stella Jones Gallery's 20th Anniversary show in August featuring classic paintings and sculptures by Elizabeth Catlett, Jacob Lawrence and Richard Dempsey as well as some of the younger artists they inspired. Twenty years is a stellar art world milestone by any measure!
Speaking of milestones and visual jazz, after years if semi-nomadic existence, the internationally celebrated Music Box Village of musical shanties now has a permanent Bywater home. A production of the non-profit NGO, New Orleans Airlift, the Music Box project still relies on Kickstarter campaigns for its funding, but its new permanent address will finally provide it with a foundation to build on. ~Bookhardt / Raw: Mixed-media Paintings by Antonio Carreño, Through July 31, Stella Jones Gallery, 201 St. Charles Ave., Suite 132, 568-9050.
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