Sunday, October 28, 2018

Lina Iris Vikor at New Orleans Museum of Art

History just gets curiouser the more you look into it. To most of us, the antebellum slavery era that ended with the Civil War exists as a series of flashbacks to old text books, statues and movies, and some may also recall that the African nation of Liberia was intended to be a home for former slaves. British-Liberian artist Lina Iris Viktor's work recalls its history as an offshoot of the American abolitionists' romantic vision of “the Libyan Sibyl” as a mythic prophetess of the slave trade, but in her large mixed media works, Viktor not only harks to the arcane mysteries of the past but, using herself as a model, morphs into modern time-transcending sibyl who embodies an Afro-futurist notion of boundless possibility. Civilization began in Africa, after all, and if Viktor's gilded baroque invocations of deeply personal possibility recall Austrian maestro Gustav Klimpt's use of gold as an elemental agent of timelessness, her imagery's roots in the Egyptian Book of the Dead suggest a vision in which time becomes an infinitely variable color on the artist's palette, a form of energy that transcends traditional limits through the sheer force of the artistic imagination.
Unfettered imagination and intuition were the babies that postmodernism threw out with the bathwater, but Viktor's exhibit of eleven large works in New Orleans Museum of Art's atrium lobby conveys a sense of boundless resourcefulness in works like “Eleventh,” top, where the artist's retro-Egyptian pose appears integrated into a Liberian tribal map where geographical forms meld seamlessly with the African fabrics she is wearing.

In “First” she reticently gazes backward at a floral grid like a trellis in which time appears as an organic efflorescence, but in “Fourth” reappears as a mythic being who merges the gilded formalism of ancient Egypt with the infinitely shimmering depths of the sub-Saharan world. As Crescent Park and Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture lead architect, Sir David Adjaye, recently put it, her work “... crosses confidently across a landscape of science, technology, culture and identity with a timeless elegance and a casual defiance that is definitively modern.” ~Bookhardt / Lina Iris Viktor: “A Haven. A Hell. A Dream Deferred,” Through Jan. 6, 2019, New Orleans Museum of Art, City Park, 658-4100.  See Also: Lina Iris Viktor and the Black Panther Video Controversy.