Sunday, October 30, 2016

Garner at Antenna; Green at Second Story

“Such a nasty woman.” Doreen Garner is an artist, not a politician, but she embraces the pejorative terms often used to describe her explorations of the black female body as a nexus of sensuality and oppression. In her video, Observatory, she gazes out from a glass display case of what looks a lot like viscera or medical garbage, and in another, Uniqa, (video still, left) she appears as a scantily clad dancer alluringly  writhing to rap music in the harsh light of video projections of gory surgical procedures — an approach partly inspired by J. Marion Sims, the 19th century “father of American gynecology,” who subjected female slaves to grisly experiments in his pursuit of medical breakthroughs. Saartjie's Triangle, top, refers to a South African tribal woman exhibited in a European sideshow because her voluptuousness was of a sort not seen there since the prehistoric Venus of Willendorf. Utilizing materials that evoke smoked salmon and white caviar topped with a dark thatch, it memorializes a part of her that was -- bizarrely -- surgically excised after her death at age 25, preserved, and shown at a major French museum until 1974. Garner can seem like snark on steroids, but her work is a meditation on the superficiality of sensations that seduce and repulse, and how they affect our relationship with others, ourselves, and the world around us.   

Natori Green's drawings and mixed media works about African American hair, rendered in a style somewhere between expressionism and arte naïf, look startlingly unaffected and whimsical. Combing in the Mirror depicts a swarthy figure with natural hair against a backdrop of pictures of women with straight, processed coifs in a glaring contrast of cultures, while Can I Touch Your Hair? spotlights the sense of “otherness” that some associate with natural locks. Green's deeply felt sincerity infuses edgier, more experimental works like Hair Consultant (Lips), left, where strands of wavy dark hair pouring from between red paper mache lips extend a world of stark realities into the ether of surreal dreams. ~Bookhardt / Ether and Agony: New Mixed Media Works by Doreen Garner, Through Nov. 6, Antenna Gallery, 3718 Saint Claude Ave., 250-7975; Reappearance of Modern Happiness: New Mixed Media Works by Natori Green, Through November 6, Second Story Gallery, 2372 St Claude Ave, 710-4506.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Bultman at Octavia; Bedsole at Callan

New Orleans native Fritz Bultman was one of the founders of the modernist movement known as abstract expressionism. It was nicknamed “the Irascibles” and its godfather was the German expressionist Hans Hofmann, with whom Bultman studied as a precocious teenager in Munich in 1935. Both eventually became New York art stars, but Bultman's oeuvre is characterized by the warmer, more lyrical qualities seen in his circa 1974 canvas, Intrusion of the Blue, with its serpentine interplay of colors. Similar dance-like forms characterize some some of his late 1930s works on paper. By the late 1970s, collage paintings like Banner reveal more graphical approach, but his most classical works on view must surely be his 1950s-era canvases like Trembling Prairie III, with its atmospheric swatches of smoky yellows, reds and charcoal hues--or King Zulu, top left, a pulsating carnivalesque tone poem that, true to its title, amounts to a tribute to the lyrical resonances of his Creole home town.

William Shakespeare once wrote, “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.” But he didn't live in Louisiana, where tides can be a dicey proposition. In this Callan expo, Raine Bedsole explores the fine line between fragility and survival. Her gossamer, suspended canoes seem to drip oversize tears, but the tears are glass and their skeletal structures are made of metal, signifying the steely underlying resilience of the human spirit. That elemental dualism is a constant, appearing in works like Storm, an evocation of land liquefying into waves rendered in watercolors on antique maps, or in an impassive Buddha partially bound by ropes, or in Rain Tower, left, like a Tower of Babel drenched in mists and rising seas--a parable, perhaps for a state where politicians routinely undermine our chances for a more fortunate future by squabbling endlessly even as relentless tides rise inexorably all around us. The Irascible Remembered: Mixed Media Works by Fritz Bultman,Througn Oct. 29, Octavia Art Gallery, 454 Julia Street St., 309-4249; Unseen Currents: Mixed Media Works by Raine Bedsole, Through Oct. 30th, Callan Contemporary, 518 Julia St., 525-0518.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Eggleston plays Eggleston on his Bösendorfer

William Eggleston, the widely acknowledged master of color photography as a unique modern art form, grew up in the tiny Mississippi Delta hamlet of Sumner and has lived much of his life in Memphis. A college drop out, he was a student at the University of Mississippi in Oxford when visiting artist Tom Young introduced him to abstract expressionism. Young went on to become the founding chairman of the University of New Orleans art department, and Eggleston, via his epochal 1976 MoMA exhibition, became the catalytic avatar of new color photography. His lyrically deadpan vision mingles the Zen roots of abstract expressionism with a pop sensibility derived from the everyday flourishes of his Deep South home turf, a new Americana that amounts to a minimalist distillation of life as it is lived--a very pure form of vision that harks not only to abstract art but to the musical legacy of ambient minimalism, John Cage and the 12 tone expressionism of Berg and Schoenberg--hints of which can be heard here if you listen closely. But mostly what you hear is the ethereal inner music of a truly transformational American artist. ~Bookhardt

Monday, October 17, 2016

Solange Mytholgizes Hair, City Park Peristyle -- Sol LeWitt Advises Eva Hesse to Chill, Let It Go

Editor's note: Beyond the synchronistic alliteration of Solange and Sol LeWitt, we were struck by the similarity of their messages: Just be yourself, dammit, and stop worrying about what superficial irrelevant others think! Related ideas appear in Natori Green's current Modern Happiness show exploring the social aesthetics of black women's hair at the Second Story Gallery on St. Claude Avenue.  

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Audra Kohout at Soren Christensen

Astrology is an approximate science that relies on poetic license, but its art world parallels are striking. Scorpio is identified with the mysteries of the psyche, and many of the most psychologically intense artists including Pablo Picasso, Rene Magritte and Francis Bacon were born under the Halloween sign. You can add Audra Kohout to that list. Her Treasure Things expo extends her role as a visionary of dark fairy tales for mature audiences, a talent facilitated by her way with visual innuendo. Her subjects can initially recall storybook characters, but then they draw you into their complex little worlds and may even reappear in your dreams. Typically cobbled from vintage doll parts and derelict objects--things once coveted but then cast aside--they live in the shadow realms of the psyche where they radiate the wayward electricity of objects long unrelated but suddenly united into unlikely new creatures.

We see this in works like Chariot, above, where sled dogs with doll heads pull the skeletal husk of a carriage bearing an armless but militant woman in a spiked helmet. Twin figures are common in voudou, but Kohout's protagonists often reflect the more northern European sensibilities seen in Sibling Rivalry, where youthful Nordic royals in horned helmets, top left, stare quizzically out at a world they no longer recognize--just as a box sculpture, Happily Ever After, left, also reflects an ironic northern baroque post- Grimm sensibility. Similarly, Jezebel is a bust of a haughty fairy tale stepmother whose toxic sense of entitlement evokes  everyone inclined to blame the victim — here perhaps The Woodman, a nearby sculpture of a downcast paraplegic lad with leprechaun ears. A collar and chain enables him to be dragged around on his wheeled dolly, and his feral Celtic aura is a reminder that the English once treated the Irish like slaves before branching out into Africa, Asia and the Americas. But most of these works reflect the subtler dualities of human nature and the propensity of some to dominate others, benignly or not, for reasons that remain mysterious and paradoxical, elusive if not eternal. Treasure Things: Collage, Installations and Works on Paper by Audra Kohout, Through Oct. 29, Soren Christensen Gallery, 400 Julia St., 569.9501.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Holton Rower & Tim Hailand at Arthur Roger

There is an old controversy in art and science regarding the way mystics and schizophrenics often see the world around us as a glowing network of interwoven patterns. Is it a nutty hallucination or were they on to something? Similar patterns in the work of schizo mystic genius artists like Walter Anderson or Vincent Van Gogh also turn up in the work of psychedelic researchers as well as recent explorations of quantum physicists and fractal geometry. Now Holton Rower's Eudaimonia series of rhapsodically painted and elaborately carved plywood panels feature another new perspective sometimes described as “psychedelic topographic maps.” All are untitled. In one, top left, ripple-like forms suggest multiple interwoven vortexes riling the surface of an opaque black river, reflecting dazzlingly refracted rainbow patterns. Or is it discarded old motor oil rippling under a ceiling fan, reflecting a blacklight poster? Speculation is pointless. In the quantum world, as in ancient mysticism, everything is an interwoven part of everything else. A vast wall size work, below, evokes the kaleidoscopic patterning of a free-floating Aurora Borealis, or maybe the spiraling vortex of a multicolored universe birthing itself. Some feature X-shaped darkened patches that loom ominously over fiery cellular forms, causing them to seem furtive--but others vividly radiate striated bands of deeply luminous color, as if the God of Genesis had become a colorfield artist while creating the mesas of New Mexico. It's thoughtfully joyous stuff and a real evolution in the oeuvre of an artist who is the grandson of legendary mobile sculptor Alexander Calder.

Photographer Tim Hailand was inspired by French impressionist painter Claude Monet—or, actually his estate--where he spent days staring at the wallpaper. His photos of charismatic guys -- and female celebs like Dita von Teese and a wax statue of Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra -- were printed on similarly baroque fabric, resulting in dreamily delirious yet weirdly convincing evocations of the nebulous realm where personal inner space resonates with the collective pop culture dreams of society at large. ~Bookhardt / Almost Eudaimonia: Dimensional Paintings by Holton Rower; Sister I'm a Poet: Photomontage Portraits by Tim Hailand; Through Oct. 29, Arthur Roger Gallery, 432 Julia St. 522-1999,

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Marking the Infinite at Newcomb

Lately there have been a lot of art shows about town featuring the work of women artists dealing with contemporary identity issues. This group exhibit of nine, mostly elderly, female Australian aboriginal artists takes a slightly different approach, focusing on Mother Nature herself. Their subjects range from flora and fauna to the sea, the stars and the heavens that typically comprise much traditional aboriginal art, but the inventive and personal touch they bring to those themes makes them true contemporary artists. The way these works often seem to parallel modern abstraction may be partly because they are from the holdings of noted contemporary art collectors Dennis and Debra Scholl. But “modern art” has actually been profoundly influenced by tribal art since its inception. 

Nonggirrnga Marawili is a case in point. Her painted poles, top, hark to traditional Aboriginal subjects like lightning, fire, water or rock and feature  angular, boldly rendered forms with curious parallels to German expressionism. She says her work is, in her words, “coming from the heart and mind” rather than from the time honored traditions of the tribal elders. Angelina Pwerele's paintings (top, background) are made up of complex patterns of white dots on expansive minimal red or black fields. Her shimmering dots actually refer to the bush plum, a staple food associated with the visionary dream experiences of the “songlines” legacy of tribal traditions that unite the landscape and its bounty with the stars and the cosmos. Similar white dots on red expanses appear in Carlene West's paintings, but hers often surround elongated swatches of white representing a vast salt lake that figures prominently in the artist's personal experiences as well as in tribal legends, while also recalling modern Western pop abstraction. And Regina Pilawuk Wilson's Sun Mat, above, illustrates how woven fish nets parallel the tribal vision of all creation as a vast interwoven skein. But the most radical departure would have to be Nyapanyapa Yunupingu's Light Paintings on acetate, top left, a series of 124 drawings that morph and merge in computer generated patterns governed by complex algorithms. Apparently not even the Australian nature spirits are immune to the digital age. ~Bookhardt / Marking the Infinite: Contemporary Women Artists from Aboriginal Australia, Through Dec. 30, Newcomb Art Museum, Tulane University, 865-5328.