Sunday, August 28, 2016

Carroll at Chaisson; Moleski at Foundation

Funny what we take for granted--or not. Some regions of France have banned the "burkini" -- the body-concealing swimwear devout Muslim women wear to the beach--as "culturally inappropriate." But the laws may have accidentally banned Roman Catholic nuns, whose habits are similarly concealing. How awkward. For photographer Patty Carroll, clothes and home décor are extensions of our skin, and her experiences abroad convinced her that all three have a lot to do with how women are perceived. In her photographs, they are all fused into a single dreamlike image, so Kilim, below left, initially suggests a heap of oriental rugs, but a second glance reveals the female form obscured amid all the exotic patterns. In Dotty, a figure draped in a polka-dot fabric suggests a vintage Diane von Furstenburg fashion shoot arranged by a trendy ayatollah, and in Royal, a woman on a gold throne is swathed in blue silk that perfectly matches the satiny blue theater curtain behind her. But in Chandelier, top, a regal figure swathed in white against a black background wears a chandelier as a crown. By challenging our habitual expectations, Draped takes us on a mystery tour of the remote realms of the subconscious that we don't usually visit except in dreams.

Amaryllis DeJesus Moleski has had it with stereotypes. This series of paintings on paper focuses on, in her words, “all things queer, feminine, Afro-Diaspora, futuristic, mixed, and alchemical.” She also likes glitter. Her buoyantly rendered figures are bubbly, vaguely Afro-futurist earth deities who wear their third eye with pride in works like Sovereign, where a caramel Aphrodite arises from the sea. Cerberus, left, features a full figured Nubian princess in repose wearing a halo of flowers, sunshine and lightning. Instructions for a Freedom suggests an orgiastic mosh pit of tawny goddesses, yet here as elsewhere the tone is utopian, aspirational, as whimsical as a fairy tale. ~ Bookhardt / Draped: Anonymous Women: Photographs by Patty Carroll, Through Sept. 10, Martine Chaisson Gallery, 727 Camp St., 302-7942; Soverign: New Work by Amaryllis DeJesus Moleski, Through Sept. 25,Foundation Gallery, 1109 Royal St., 568-0955;

Sunday, August 21, 2016

/’pāpər/: Works on Paper at the Ogden

The Makin' of a Melody by Jeffrey Cook

Riva, 1970, by Noel Rockmore
In the art world, paper means different things to different people. For dealers and collectors it can mean fat checks, but for artists paper facilitates experimentation and free association. Works on paper can be more affordable, but for anyone who just likes looking at art, the paper trail provides the most insightful view of an artist's creative processes. As fragile and ephemeral as thoughts, it is the most intimate of media, and if the artists' names in this Ogden expo seem improbably varied, the show itself is oddly cohesive for the way it elucidates the interwoven visual culture of this region over time.
Thistle, 1955, by Walter Anderson
Mississippi's greatest visual artist, Walter Anderson, was born and raised in New Orleans but spent his adult life in Ocean Springs where his penetrating watercolor studies like Thistle, 1955, expressed an incisive, near-psychedelic mysticism. But Mississippi-born John McCrady's lyrically Faulknerian vision, seen in drawings like Mississippi Family, 1945, helped make him one of Nola's most influential mid-20th century artists after a teaching stint in New York with his buddy Thomas Hart Benton.

Going Home, 1992, by Willie Birch
Nola native Willie Birch also found fame in New York with papier mâché sculptures like Going Home, 1992, and later with local mural-size drawings like The Wedding, a ceremonial scene that suggests a seamless continuity with our ancient west African cultural heritage. That legacy was eloquently evident in the work of the late local genius, Jeffrey Cook, whose large installation, Makin' of a Melody, top, amounts to a syncopated spirit house composition of colorful talismanic objects. Cook celebrated the magic of ordinary New Orleans people and things, all of which became spiritual components of his oeuvre, but much the same could be said of artists like Noel Rockmore, George Dureau, Michael Deas and all the others who make this show almost like a gathering of old and dear friends for anyone who has followed this region's creative culture over the years. ~Bookhardt / /’pāpər/: Works on Paper from the Permanent Collection, Through Nov. 6, 2016, Ogden Museum of Southern Art, 925 Camp St., 539-9600.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

James Flynn at Callan

What does the Mississippi River have to do with quantum physics? That is a deep question. Neither is easy to fathom, but the easy answer would have to be James Flynn. A former river pilot turned painter, Flynn's years spent deciphering the river's inscrutable currents probably made it easier for him to relate to the physicists who spent decades investigating the elusive patterns of protons and particles on which quantum theory was was based. In his paintings, the vortexes at the heart of quantum physics are dramatically represented in complex canvases that build on the 20th century Op art legacies of Victor Vasarely and Bridget Riley while hinting at the peculiar visual parallels that quantum physics shares with the mind bending visual puzzles and black light posters of the psychedelic 1960s. 

In fact, graphical representations of the elusive Higgs boson particle that validated quantum theory at the Hadron particle collider in 2012 can look weirdly like the psychedelic patterns popular with the LSD generation as we see in Flynn's Eigenstate V Ultraviolet, top, or Quantum Nous, left. Einstein's quantum breakthrough occurred when he discovered that electromagnetic waves could also resemble particles, and Flynn's vividly luminous Pierrot and Harlequin at the Pareidolic Masked Ball, top left, celebrates that playful shape-shifting quality by relating it to the popular clown characters featured in the comical masked theater performances of 17th century Europe. But the cultural history of shape shifting really dates back thousands of years to the esoteric traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism whose deities, like those of the classical Greeks, could assume various guises even while representing aspects of ancient wisdom--a sensibility embodied in the undulating interwoven geometry of Flynn's Heart Sutra—Form is Void and Void is Form. If that sounds confusing, it is really not all that different from the versatile digital technologies we take for granted every time we pick up a smartphone. Flynn just illustrates, brilliantly and vividly, the reasons why nothing is ever entirely what it seems. ~Bookhardt / Quantum Nous: Graphic Experiments about Quantum Physics by James Flynn, Through Sept. 24, Callan Contemporary, 518 Julia St., 525-0518.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

George Dureau at Arthur Roger

Two years after his death, George Dureau is finally getting the recognition he deserved but never really pursued. For an art photographer, having an Aperture Foundation monograph devoted to your work is the gold standard of recognition, and when it  published George Dureau: The Photographs last month, it assured his place in photography's Olympian pantheon, a position further enhanced by his inclusion in upcoming museum symposia at New York's Museum of Modern Art and elsewhere. Now this sprawling show of his photographs and paintings at Arthur Roger provides further insights into the many facets of his persona—facets that can seem more complex in retrospect than when he was alive. Never has someone so otherworldly blended so easily into the background. 
A colorful French Quarter character known for his flamboyant paintings populated by stylized mythic creatures rendered in Creole earth tones, he was also an influential photographer who in the 1970s mentored the iconic New York photographer, Robert Mapplethorpe. What set them apart, and led to Dureau's posthumously  elevated status, was his remarkably empathetic vision. The prosthetic arm in his portrait of Wilbert Hines, top, is initially jarring, but its cold presence provides a contrasting foil to Hines' stoic yet fiery pathos. Similarly, the open gaze on the face of BJ Robinson, above left, suggests an equilibrium unfazed by his truncated body. Bohemians and street people provided a steady supply of athletic or voluptuous models for his paintings, and his photographs of hunky, sculptural black guys were celebrated as more sensitive counterparts to Mapplethorpe's colder sensationalism—but it was  Dureau's ability to show us the strength and dignity, amid vulnerability, of marginalized people that ensures his place in art history. His theatrical personality could come across like a pompous artist-aristocrat in a Marcel Proust novel despite his modest Mid City roots, but his disarmingly extroverted playfulness enabled him to incorporate whoever he met into his operatic, mythic universe in which everyone was a magical creature. That quality made him easy to take for granted even as he created some of the most psychologically profound photographs of the latter 20th century. ~Bookhardt / From the Estate: Work by George Dureau, Through Sept. 17, Arthur Roger Gallery, 432 Julia St. 522-1999.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

No Dead Artists 2016 at Jonathan Ferrara

Cosmosis: Video by Ben Long and Jack Schoonover

We all live in outer space—the earth is but a minor planet of a lesser star in the depths of the universe. We also live in inner space—everything we experience comes to us through the senses that are part of the neural systems of our body and mind. Artists work with inner and outer space and everything in between. Every year for the last two decades, the Jonathan Ferrara Gallery's No Dead Artists exhibition has featured the work of artists not yet part of the entrenched interests of the global art world to exhibit their own fresh perspectives on the ever-changing world around us. The results have often been striking for their originality and sometimes for their prescience. Now it its 20th iteration, this 2016 edition continues to intrigue with its insightful exploration of a world transformed by technology-induced changes in which everything can seem closer yet elusively distant, more enlightened in some ways yet more violent in other ways, and where the micro and macro perspectives often can seem to overlap as the disruptive forces of globalism and digital communications forever alter the way personal identity and sense of place are defined.
Today cities and towns are paradoxes in which the traditional and the modern assume new guises or meanings as electronic tidal waves of data overwhelm mere mortals through digital devices that turn even the most prosaic words, gestures and activities into electronic artifacts that can live eternal lives in cyberspace, so what was once a world of things becomes a world of abstract patterns. Lithuanian-born Chicago artist Alex Braverman gave up a high tech career to explore this kaleidoscopic reordering of the way we perceive the built environment through his shimmering geometric cityscape photo-collages based on the striking architecture of Chicago, Vienna and other iconic world cities, images that reflect the dizzying perceptual vortexes in which all of us are increasingly immersed.
At first glance, Nate Burbeck's bucolic oil on canvas views of spacious Minnesota vistas seem to almost suggest a deadpan update of Norman Rockwell's America, a place of modest suburban enclaves and the harmonious relationships between their mild mannered inhabitants and the state's fertile green expanses. But there is a sweetly surreal, almost virtual-reality quality about some abandoned party balloons on a suburban front lawn, and the stark, graffiti-tagged pillars of an elevated expressway slicing through a verdant green prairie in a world where nature slowly yields to man made abstractions. Click to Continue