Sunday, April 28, 2019

Woodrow Nash at Angela King Gallery; Delita Martin at Stella Jones Gallery

Over the years, Creole culture has come to be viewed as a dynamic, ever evolving hybrid of shared African, Native American and European roots. We see this in New Orleans and wherever those roots  were woven into new forms of art, music or cuisine. Woodrow Nash's vividly glazed, deeply hued clay figures celebrate Africa's people and cultures in a style that harks to diverse influences ranging from 15th century tribal Benin to 19th century French art nouveau. In some tribal African cultures animal masks play a major role, but here a female figure, “Thema with Necklace,” above, appears in full zebra mode with pale pearlescent stripes that match her cowery shell necklace against her ebony skin.
The turquoise blue face of Nash's female figure, “Erunzigera,” left,  recalls an unusually lifelike tribal mask but its deep, almond shaped eye-slits evoke an oracle rendered sightless from having seen too much. Here hints of Henri Matisse's vibrant formalism mingle with echoes of Caribbean poet Derek Walcott's ghostly narrators recalling being ripped from mother Africa only to end up lost beneath azure Antillean seas. Blue moods also define an imposing male figure, a warrior with ornate striations etched into his indigo flesh. In these works, Nash synthesizes tribal African motifs with global design appeal to return us to the primal essence of a rapidly vanishing world. 

Delita Martin's new work at Stella Jones continues her visual interpretations of familiar everyday women she portrays amid fantastical tropical patterning. Employing layers of print, painting and collage techniques, Martin, who is inspired by women who have often been marginalized, transforms prosaic personalities so they appear as elegant elements integral to the natural order as we see in works like “Under the Evening Moon,” where a young black woman with extravagant, otherworldly braids appears amid paisley starbursts and spiral mandalas. They might be sunspots around a woman at a bus stop, or they might be reflections of the inner life of someone we might not ordinarily notice. ~Bookhardt / Woodrow Nash: Recent Sculptural Works, Through May, Angela King Gallery, 241 Royal St., 524-8211; ; Delita Martin: “Shadows in the Garden,” Through May 31, Stella Jones Gallery, 201 St. Charles Ave., Suite 132, 568-9050.