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.