Sunday, April 29, 2018

Vessels of Mercy and Rath at Barrister's

Ocean currents travel in circles. Time is also a current, so here we are, contemplating our 300th year as an urban island just upriver from a restless sea that threatens our existence even as it nourishes our identity as a unique global city. It is a poetic paradox elaborated by 15 artists in this Vessels of Mercy, Vessels of Wrath expo curated by Nola Croatian, Serge Loncar. Sadly, the sea is deteriorating rapidly, acidifying and becoming choked with trash. Here Kristijan Murina's ship sculpture of a ghost freighter Leute Moj, cobbled from scrap metal and lost objects, suggests a vessel of commerce in a related state of dereliction. Nearby, a suspended skeletal boat by Raine Bedsole draped with cobalt blue streamers evokes the ethereal barques that ferried deceased pharaoh's on their journeys across the sky.

Our blood began as seawater before becoming flesh, including the hands that shaped the man-made devices that harnessed the forces of the watery deep. Sailor's knots are man-made loops that mimic the loop currents of the ocean as seen in Matthew Shain's knot photographs that focus our gaze on how even the most commonplace objects can contain hints of the eternal. The relentless sea requires resiliency on our part, a quality symbolized by the bobbing of buoys and bottles. Chris Saucedo's Self Portrait as Water Bottle Buoy sculpture features a torso-size water bottle linked with rope to an anchor in a visual paradox that contrasts human buoyancy with looming sea level rise. Robert Tannen's Stealth Sailboat is a high tech boat of last resort, but Serge Loncar's The Seventh Continent-- drawings and photographs of fantastical gargantuan container ships -- considers how a 21st century techno-Noah might respond to the potential deluge posed by relentless global warming.

Other standouts among the current exceptional array of St. Claude shows include Ruth Owens' dreamy Baby Love paintings (like Best Birthday, left) and videos at UNO St. Claude Gallery inspired by her German-African-American family's experiences navigating diverse circumstances, and Devin Reynolds' colorfully pithy Tyrone Don't Surf paintings at Antenna, a series like old time illustrated road signs contrasting modern American pastimes with the cultural cliches that surround traditional African American life. ~Bookhardt / Vessels of Mercy, Vessels of Wrath: Group Show Curated by Serge Loncar, Through May 5, Barrister's Gallery, 2331 St. Claude Ave, 710-4506.