Sunday, June 16, 2019

Maeyama at Staple Goods; Sugiura at Ferrara

Once, while strolling through the French Quarter, an inebriated panhandler requested a handout with an unusual greeting: “Welcome to New Orleans, land of the living dark...” That stuck with me, and came to mind while viewing Kaori Maeyama's latest paintings at Staple Goods. A native of Japan based in Nola since 1994, Maeyama has long explored the inner magic of familiar nocturnal scenes like the stretch of elevated roadway seen in “Blue Highway II Blue Sky Blue.” Here what initially looks ordinary soon becomes otherworldly as the vast cobalt sky sets the dark urban grit into stark relief below streetlights glowing softly as fireflies.

In “Double Shotgun Double,” above, two old houses appear bathed in ambient light. Although outwardly ordinary, they come alive as we note the way the humid, below-sea-level atmosphere softens the patches of light as they dance across the ancient facades. Ditto the seemingly featureless side of an old shotgun house softly reflecting  multiple ambient light sources in “Primaries,” where hints of primary reds and blues ripple across the pale salmon clapboard siding. In this exhibition, Maeyama reveals the subtle visual secrets of “the city of the living dark.”
At Ferrara, Japanese painter Akihiko Sugiura explores a magical world of the fluid energy fields that he regards as the inner essence of what most of us see as the “real world.” In “Beard,” we see a guy who in peripheral vision might appear as an assertive redhead but up close becomes a demonic visage of red, green and flamboyant yellow slashes of color. “Two” depicts two girls sitting on a sofa. One's pose suggests she might be resting her feet on a footstool, but her lower legs are missing. Her ghostly pale partner gazes at her seemingly in mid-conversation, and in these works Sugiura depicts the fluid and ever-shifting spectrum of energies, physical and emotional, that he perceives just below the surface of ordinary, everyday life. ~Bookhardt / Subaquatic Homesick Blues: Paintings by Kaori Maeyama, Through July 7, Staple Goods, 1340 St. Roch Ave., 908-7331; Kyorai (去来): Coming And Going: Paintings by Akihiko Sugiura, Through July 15, Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, 400A Julia St., 522-5471.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Virtual Idylls: Botanical Videos by Courtney Egan
“A rose is a rose is a rose.” So said the 20th century American poet, Gertrude Stein. But is it really? The popular contemporary philosopher, Eckhart Tolle, says we should forget the name and just contemplate the rose as it slowly reveals its magic. Stein presaged conceptual art, and Tolle recalls modern physics and ancient mysticism. Conceptual and mystical notions appear in this  “Virtual Idylls” expo of video projection art by Courtney Egan.

The magnolia flower in “Repository,” right, might initially recall Gertrude Stein's rose until we see it slowly, gracefully unfolding to reveal its magical presence. Like a mandala made of moonlight, it is clearly a living thing with a shimmering life of its own. That aura of magic running through Egan's oeuvre can be unforgettable if seen in the right circumstances, as some might recall from the claw-foot bathtub filled night-blooming cereus flowers slowly blossoming in the dusky bathroom of an old house as part of a Prospect.2 satellite exhibition in 2011. The tub was real, but flowers, a time-lapse video projection, were light in motion. A somewhat reminiscent experience appears here in the slow-dancing cereus flowers of her mandala-like “Sleepwalkers” wall projection video, top.

A more conceptual approach appears in “Metalfora,” a wall video that dominates the gallery as you enter the exhibit. The flora suggests glowing wallpaper, but when triggered by motion sensors, they blossom rather quickly, reflecting the random, haphazard way people move around in a world where the need for speed makes true contemplation almost impossible. But another new work, “Self Fulfilling Prophesy,” above, takes us to the magical space-time of angel's trumpet flowers as they slowly unfurl. Here the projection includes a sculptural element in the form of replica human arms that seem to clutch serpentine strands of the glowing blossoms, echoing a scene in French surrealist Jean Cocteau's landmark film, “Beauty and the Beast.” These works reveal how Egan, a New Orleans native whose vision was profoundly influenced by her childhood experiences growing up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, transcends genres, boundaries and expectations. ~Bookhardt / Virtual Idylls: Botanical Video Projections by Courtney Egan, Through August, Ogden Museum of Southern Art, 925 Camp St., 539-9600.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Mary McCartney: From the Print Drawer

You can learn a lot about people by running errands with them. Back in 1994, I interviewed Linda McCartney, Paul's late wife, during her "Sun Prints" show at A Gallery for Fine Photography. We soon realized that we were once almost neighbors in New York's East Village, and even knew some of the same people, back when I was playing hooky from UNO and she was a young photographer named Linda Eastman. We talked for an hour and a half as her daughter, Mary, refreshed our bottled water. Finally, Paul showed up and our conversation continued for a bit on the streets of the French Quarter, where we ducked into Walgreens when someone needed Tylenol. It seemed shocking that we were all soon standing in line when most celebs would have sent a staff gofer to fetch the pills. We met again at  a party, but it was at Walgreens that I realized the McCartneys, beyond being extraordinarily nice, were the rare celebs who remained "real people" in spite of it all.

Fast forward to the present and Mary McCartney's photographs are now on the wall. What I find   striking is how her vision saliently and aesthetically reflects how so many regular, “real people” see the world around them. Here ordinary places and things are revealed in those rare moments when they come across as extraordinary epiphanies, and extraordinary people appear in ways that express the common humanity we all share. For instance, “Butterfly in Pool” reads like a beautiful mystery. How, and why, did it end up there? “Beach House, Sussex,” a dark cottage on a rocky shore at dusk, seems to glow with the souls of its occupants over the ages. In “Joni Mitchell, London,” the iconic singer looks solemn, haughty yet vulnerable. These works reflect Mary and her mom's shared unselfconscious quality of pure awareness. I never forgot Linda McCartney's empathy, kindness and generosity, and was deeply saddened when she died in 1998. It is very gratifying that so many of her visionary goals and traits live on in her idealistic and uniquely talented daughter, Mary. ~ Bookhardt / Mary McCartney: From the Print Drawer, Through August 1, A Gallery For Fine Photography, 241 Chartres St., 568-1313.