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.