Sunday, December 9, 2018

"Big" Works from the Ogden Museum Collection

In art as in life, things are not always what they seem. Art museums are often assumed to exhibit the best of the best, but lofty goals can be constrained by logistical considerations. This "Big" expo at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art lives up to its name with quite large works from its collection that are billed as "typically hidden from public view" due to their "grand scale." But does size alone make for a cohesive art show? Fortunately, these works also reflect some unique trends that motivated collectors and museum patrons to acquire outstanding regional art over several decades, works that suggest a kind of cultural cross section of unique local sensibilities that were shared by artists and collectors alike.
What stands out is how fresh many of these works still look decades after they were made. The late Robert Gordy was an iconic local artist until his death in 1986, and while most of his work crackled with a vibrant psychotropic electricity, figurative works like his 1972 “Two Faced” view of juxtaposed female heads (pictured, left) presaged America's current psychosexual gender controversies. Similarly, the late Clyde Connell's 1987 canvas, “Creatures of the Hot Humid Earth,” anticipated AfroFuturism via her deftly strategic use of mystical Egyptian, Ethiopian and Coptic symbolism. The sounds of New Orleans streets visually come alive in late local artist Jeffrey Cook's vibrant wall sculpture, “Makin' of a Melody,” where found objects and Caribbean colors resonate a silent hymn to the soul of our city. Much local painting featured an intuitive fusion of imagism and expressionism into a kind of Creole magic realism.

The legacy of imagism lives on in  Alabama-born Roger Brown's 1988  canvas “The Seven Last Plagues,” a haunting reminder of the not so distant past, even as North Shore artist Charles Blank's expressionistic 2001 “Pink Bombs” canvas, right, presaged America's perpetual Middle East warfare state – two representative examples in a varied yet surprisingly consistent expo featuring often timeless works by legendary area artists including Willie Birch, Nicole Charbonnet, Justin Forbes, Kendall Shaw, Fred Trenchard and Pat Trivigno ("Dancers of Delphi #2," 1986, above), among others. ~Bookhardt / "BIG" Works from  the Ogden Museum of Southern Art Collection, Through Feb. 17th, Ogden Museum of Southern Art, 925 Camp Street, 539-9600.