Sunday, September 23, 2018

Bizer at Good Children; Torres Tama at UNO

Amid all the celebratory hoopla surrounding this city's Tricentennial, it is easy to forget that autumn, 2018, marks the 10th anniversary of the St. Claude co-op gallery district that sprang up amid the community activism that followed in the wake of hurricane Katrina. Jessica Bizer is a longtime Good Children gallery artist who in many ways typifies the district's playfully experimental approach to art making. This Rainbow in the Dark series reflects her pop culture flair harnessed to the jagged psychic intensity of old time European expressionism in works like Energy Club and Vacation, among others that suggest a time-transcending collaboration of Vasily Kandinsky and David Lynch for the way they mingle suspenseful theatricality and formal dynamism. Bizer goes full tilt psychedelic with her wall size, 9 by 22 feet digital mural, Crystal Society (pictured), reminding us that psychedelic art is now not only a historic genre, but one that has recently attained new relevance with advances in the use of psychotropic substances by the medical community for treating PTSD and the like. Most mainstream galleries remain cautious, but St. Claude offers unlimited opportunities for experimentation.
New Orleans artist-activist Jose Torres Tama prefaces his drawings exhibit at UNO St. Claude with a reminder that this city's recovery from hurricane Katrina was built largely on the backs of thousands of often undocumented Hispanic workers who did the heavy grunt work with admirable efficiency. We owe them a great deal, but his drawings stylistically hark to the turbulent history of revolutionary labor movements as imagined by legendary Mexican and German artists,  and while conceptually relevant to  current controversies emanating from the White House, their rather melodramatic look flamboyantly merges art historical sensibilities with America's conflicted social subcurrents. So Hard Living is an interesting series of drawings that often reflects Torres Tama's ongoing historical obsessions as as much as the contemporary subjects that inspired them. ~Bookhardt / Rainbow in the Dark: New Work by Jessica Bizer, Through Oct. 7, Good Children Gallery, 4037 St. Claude Ave., 616-7427; Hard Living in the Big Easy: New Work by Jose Torres Tama, Through Oct. 6, UNO St. Claude Gallery, 2429 St. Claude Ave., 280-6493.