Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Rent Is Too Damn High: Group Exhibition at the Crescent City Boxing Gym

As a setting for an art event, the Crescent City Boxing Gym, located amid mostly drab warehouses in an obscure part of Central City, seems unusual. Inside its well lit expanse, Martin Payton's imposing steel sculptures, left, and a spiritually reclaimed abandoned mattress by Ayo Scott under Cecelia Givens' haunting ancestor portraits are complemented by a wide array of smaller works such as C + J Fernandes' Barricade, below, and K. D. Lewis's Where are We Going? ...Follow my Sinking Heart, below left -- all of which make for a colorful contrast with the desolation outside. That may be the point. The title, The Rent is Too Damn High, is a fair housing battle cry popularized by longtime New York community activist Jimmy McMillan, but here the event and its title reflect how local folk are being marginalized by escalating housing costs. Curated by Dr. Fari Nzinga in conjunction with the Color-Bloc organization of over 350 local artists of color, Rent eschews gallery glitz in favor of directing the transformative power of art to a neglected urban enclave.

If that sounds unrealistic, some may recall how an art show held long ago in a rundown warehouse in an area then known as “wino row” became the Contemporary Arts Center and changed the area. But revitalization without gentrification remains an elusive goal. At fateful junctures in our past, New Orleanians placed their faith in the legendary voodoo priestess, Marie Laveau, whose spiritual potency would surely be welcome in the fight for fair housing today. In that vein, writer and performance artist Kristina Kay Robinson has invoked Laveau's legacy in her Temple of Color and Sound, top, a movable voodoo altar where she explores the potential of strategic voodoo shrines as a new form of community based arts activism. In fact, as an expression of the classic Creole synthesis of African, Native American and European spirituality that spontaneously arose among diverse peoples here and in the Caribbean, voodoo was the original spiritual performance art of the Gulf-Caribbean region. Unlike the sensationalism propagated by its critics, the true voodoo espoused by Marie Laveau was considered a sacred practice that united diverse generations of New Orleanians with the healing powers of nature. Hopefully her magic mojo can help heal our neighborhoods as well. ~Bookhardt / The Rent is Too Damn High: Mixed Media Art Exhibition (Tuesdays 12pm - 4pm; Thursdays 12pm - 4pm & 6pm - 8pm) Through May 6, Crescent City Boxing Gym, 3101 Erato St., 539-6344.