Sunday, December 3, 2017

PhotoNOLA: Over 60 Venues through December

When Hurricane Katrina left New Orleans uninhabitable in 2005, many questioned if it would survive. Would its residents, including its legendary creative community, ever return? Artists responded with schemes that sounded like pipe dreams, but today both the Prospect New Orleans Triennial, and the New Orleans Photo Alliance's annual PhotoNOLA photography expo, are globally celebrated events. Both meander like loopy bon vivants at a city-wide Easter egg hunt, and sometimes even intersect: PhotoNOLA's opening event was headlined by Prospect.4 art star Xaviera Simmons at her New Orleans Museum of Art exhibit. While many of Prospect's 73 artists utilize photography, PhotoNOLA's ever-expanding roster features a diverse army of photographers  exhibited at over 60 venues ranging from our best known museums and galleries to the most obscure pop-up spaces.

Among the former, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, despite featuring an array of P.4 stuff, also hosts PhotoNOLA's Currents 2017 expo of work by 17 Photo Alliance members, including several like Aline Smithson (photo: Lisa, from the Fugue State, left )based in other cities. Other prominent local art spaces include A Gallery for Fine Photography, where P.4 artist Michel Varisco's surreal photos of Nola as a modern Atlantis, above, are featured, as well as colorfully focused group shows at the Front on St. Claude Ave., and at the Soren Christensen Gallery on Julia St. But PhotoNOLA shines a special light on exotic fare like Celia and Jose Fernandes' Insentient Objects exhibit at Gallery Eight One Eight on Royal St., or noted curator Richard McCabe's Land Star show of his recent photographs created with vintage Polaroid cameras on view at the obscure Little Shotgun House gallery on Maurepas St. But even St. Claude Avenue still surprises with places like the Grand Maltese Gallery, where the surreal Catharsis exhibit of work by Lauren Simonutti, Cornelia Hediger and Brittany Markert probes an exotic psychic terrain where All Soul's day meets the swamp, for instance, in  Markert's Menage a Trois, top. Like its namesake city, PhotoNOLA 2017 is no slouch when it comes to encounters with the unexpected. ~Bookhardt / PhotoNOLA 2017: Citywide Photography Exhibitions, Through Dec. 31; New Orleans Photo Alliance, 1111 St. Mary Street, 513-8030.