Sunday, November 4, 2018

William Monaghan at the CAC



The homing instinct of certain creatures, for instance, swallows returning to Capistrano, is legendary, and Louisianians are no exception. Childhood impressions count, and New Orleans native William Monaghan was fascinated by the machinery where his father worked at Reily Coffee Company. After studying architecture and art at Harvard and Yale, his fascination with machinery endured through his years as a builder and a sculptor in the Northeast. He moved back to New Orleans five years ago, but his most dramatic visit was just after hurricane Katrina when he searched for his mother in waste-deep floodwaters. She survived, but many homes did not, so he founded the Build It Now nonprofit to help local residents build affordable, eco-friendly new homes based on traditional local designs.


His “I-Object” exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Center harks to metal construction materials and the machinery that made them. Recalling the gritty found-object assemblage art of the 1960s, untitled works like a magenta rhapsody of twisted steel and metal mesh (detail, top) hark to the soulful aura of distressed and discarded machine parts that served us dutifully before ending up in a scrap pile. Mounted on wood, their monochromatic finishes emphasize ripples of light and shadow on flattened surfaces that resonate a rhythmic, painterly musicality while suggesting a fateful encounter of the Tin Man, from the Wizard of Oz, with a vintage Sherman tank. The sheer force used in the making of metal machine parts gives these works a silent inner pathos that we sense on a subliminal level.

The metal forms that comprise these compositions harks to the early 20th century futurist art movement that embraced disruptive industrialism as an ideal, but the ironic approach of the assemblage artists and found object sculptors of the 1960s anticipated post-industrialism and the decline of the Rust Belt, as we see in a series of Monaghan's prescient earlier works that neatly round out the vision of this Nola native who saw the past and future, not as opposites, but as an ongoing, organic continuum. ~Bookhardt / “I-Object:” Metal Sculpture by William Monaghan, Through Feb. 10, Contemporary Arts Center, 900 Camp St., 528.3805