Sunday, November 27, 2016

Robierb at Octavia; Centeno at The Front

The cities with the most interesting art scenes usually have their own unique visual identities. Miami can be notoriously crass, but it is also dynamic and colorful thanks to the Hispanic and Caribbean influences also seen in its art. If older Miami artists evoked the soulful sensibilities of their homelands, more recent arrivals like Brazil-native Rubem Robierb often embody a mix of tropical color and global pop culture. His big War-Hol Flowers painting recalls Andy Warhol's classic 1960s flower graphics, but it is based on the florid patterns made by hollow-point bullets on impact. Rose Bouquet, a still life painting of a hand grenade in a floral arrangement, is similarly ballistic. Ditto Butterfly II, (pictured) a blood orange butterfly that is actually a bullet depicted against a blue background, and Love Changes Everything is a three foot tall sculpture of a bullet with a tip covered in Swarovsky crystals. Beautiful but creepy, these colorful, crisply executed works could be seen as glamorizing weaponry, but presumably were intended as critiques of pop culture's incessant fetishization of violence.

Facebook is such a familiar part of our lives that we often forget how weird it really is. Nola artist Vanessa Centeno is fascinated by its alternative reality aspects, especially the fantastical way some people present themselves on FB image platforms like Instagram. Centeno is known for her explorations of the nexus of female identity and pop culture, and Inher Reflection is an installation of dreamlike images projected on reflective panels represents Instagram as a digital hall of mirrors experience. But it is her photo-collages on the walls that effectively turn glamor girl clichés inside out in images where glossy hair, silky skin and glittering jewels become entangled with the more visceral aspects of the body and its orifices. Unexpectedly and eerily beautiful, their surreal physicality and colorful nuances seduce us into confronting the voracious social, physical and emotional neediness that people often experience, and that Instagram reflects and glamorizes in seemingly infinite variations. ~Bookhardt / Rubem Robierb: Juxtaposed, Through Dec. 3, Octavia Art Gallery, 454 Julia Street St., 309-4249; Vanessa Centeno: Inher Reflection, Through Dec. 4, The Front, 4100 St. Claude Ave., 920-3980.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Clock: Christian Marclay at the CAC

It's about time. Christian Marclay's video collage, The Clock, focuses on time in an age when nobody seems to have enough of it. It also provides a new view of a topic we take for granted yet have never really understood. Time is how we measure the moments between dawn and dusk and vice versa, yet the moments of our own lives often seem to either fly by or drag on interminably. The Clock takes us to the movies to explore the uneasy relationship between time and life as it is lived. Cobbled from over 10,000 old film clips featuring scenes set in various times of the day or night, Marclay's monumental video installation can be used as a clock in its own right. Now making its Southern premier at the Contemporary Arts Center as a prelude to the Prospect.4 biennial, you can even set your watch by it – just look at the screen as the time appears on clocks and watches during scenes of dramatic bank heists, car chases or high noon shoot-outs. Nights can be boozy or rambunctious before eventually yielding to sleep and dreams in the the wee hours, and although clocks and watches are the focus of the show, The Clock features more movie stars over its 24 hour duration than an Oscar Awards ceremony.

If it sounds like a clever stunt, many who have ventured into venues like New York's Museum of Modern Art expecting to catch a few minutes of it have found themselves transfixed, still staring at the screen several hours later. Why that happens may have to do with the mysterious nature of time itself, as well as the no less elusive mysteries of art and artists. Soft spoken and unassuming, Marclay is not a flashy Hollywood Casting sort of art star, but when it comes to time and movies his background is perfect. Born in California, America's longtime film industry epicenter, and reared Switzerland, a place synonymous with clocks and watches, he is nothing if not meticulous, and The Clock is as precisely polished as a high end Swiss watch. But can that really explain why so many have found it so engaging?
Marclay says, “I'm trying to create a seamless flow, yet it's all fragments, so the editing is crucial. You take two things that are unrelated and you make them click. The fact that it's in real time is the key to the piece. It is happening now and your life becomes part of it, so you become an actor in this piece because you have to make choices, your life is still looming on the side. So there is always that tension: how long am I going to stay? What else do I have to do? I think that tension is really important in a way that is unlike most film or video work.” In other words, you can be both a participant and a spectator – if you have the time. ~Bookhardt / The Clock: 24-hour Video Collage of Clocks from the History of Cinema by Christian Marclay, Through Dec. 4, Contemporary Arts Center, 900 Camp St., 528.3805.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Music Box, Reborn, Invokes St. Malo

The stellar trajectory of New Orleans Airlift's landmark project, The Music Box, began with a bang, when an antique cottage on bounce impresario Jay Pennington's Bywater property collapsed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. A co-founder of Airlift, Pennington brainstormed with fellow founders, Delaney Martin and Taylor Shepherd, and the result was the transformation of the wreckage into a dozen or so shanties designed to function as oversize musical instruments. Christened The Music Box and often described as “a fairy tale in a junkyard,” it premiered to rave reviews amid the global coverage of the Prospect.2 art biennial in 2011, when it was often mistaken for an official biennial component. Since no zoning code exists for fairytale shanties in Bywater, the mythic structures became migratory, even turning up in City Park like a settlement of musical follies conjured by elfin troubadours, among other venues as far flung as Shreveport, Louisiana and Kiev, Ukraine. This year they were no less mysteriously reborn at a new permanent site on Rampart Street at the Industrial Canal. An inaugural concert, L'Union Creole, officially kicked off their Rampart St. reincarnation on November 4th and 5th. 
A big part of the Music Box mojo is the way the shanties resonate with a range of performers, and in L'Union Creole they became spirit houses as Bruce "Sunpie" Barnes and the Louisiana Sunspots, Martique-based singer Dédé Saint Prix, Cote D'Ivoire-born New Orleans percussionist Seguenon Kone and Nola's Opera Créole celebrated the extraordinary legacy of Jean St. Malo with blusey riffs, ecstatic drumming and incantatory Creole French vocals. A legendary 18th century freedom fighter who escaped plantation slavery and led raids to free other slaves who joined him at the maroon village on nearby Lake Borgne that bore his name, St. Malo and his followers were eventually caught and killed by Spanish colonial authorities. His memory lived on in the form of songs, legends and voodoo shrines. Remarkably, his shanty town was soon reoccupied by mutinous Malays from Spanish galleons who extended St. Malo's sanctuary status into America's first Asian settlement – proof, if any were needed, that shanties have a long and magical local history. ~Bookhardt / Rebirth of the Music Box by New Orleans Airlift, The Music Box, 4557 N Rampart St.

Related: Zacharie Richard Explains St. Malo and his World:

Related: Louisiana was a Spanish colony during St. Malo's time, but much of its culture was French Caribbean linked to our closest sister colony, St. Domingue, aka Haiti. A recent video, Les filles de Pantagruel, by Natacha Giafferi, evokes a sense of the culture from which St. Malo emerged.

Related: Common Edge on the Music Box as collaboration and community.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Gunning and Clay at the Ogden Museum

"Did you ever, stand and shiver... just because you were looking at a river?" So sang early Bob Dylan mentor, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, about a youthful trip to New Orleans where the Mississippi's inscrutable currents embodied the sense of mystery he felt here—a sensibility echoed by Simon Gunning in this sprawling retrospective. Intrigued by the Big Muddy and its contrast to the pristine shores of his native Australia, Gunning devoted much of his life to exploring its awesome charisma and the city it shaped--as seen in early paintings like The Messenger, where a bicycle courier navigates a narrow backstreet that ends with a huge freighter looming tall above antique buildings. Schiro's at Sunset, below, depicts 1990s  Marigny as a panorama of street life including stoop sitters, produce wagon vendors and stray dogs foraging amid discarded fried chicken bags as an elderly man in sleeveless undershirt clutches his bag of groceries. The Haunted Wharf is a chaotic river vista framed by the skeletal ruins of a dock, a view that contrasts sharply with his gorgeously serene swamp scenes. Gunning is at his mysterious best in works like Waiting, above, where ships like massive floating monoliths gather at the mouth the river, the placid surface of which belies roiling subcurrents surging into the Gulf Stream on its endless global journey.

Mississippi Delta native Maude Schuyler Clay returned home to record her world after a stint as a photo editor in New York. For her, the Delta is really its people as they appear in their remote rural setting, as we see in images like Bonnie Claire green car, view of a young woman looking much like a Pre-Raphaelite angel with a 1953 Oldsmobile. In Bill with Gun, her cousin, legendary color photography pioneer William Eggleston, clutches a vintage shotgun in a pose that takes him out of the worlds great museums and returns him squarely to his roots. ~Bookhardt / Simon Gunning: The Southern Louisiana Landscape, Through February 5, 2017; Maude Schuyler Clay: Mississippi History, Through January 15, 2017, Ogden Museum of Southern Art, 925 Camp St., 539-9600.