Sunday, July 21, 2019

Unframed: Five New CBD Murals

Billed as the first “multi-mural exhibition of large scale artwork” in the CBD, "Unframed" suggests a new status for street art in New Orleans. In a deeply aesthetic city where artistic self expression has long been the norm, street murals make sense in a way that most graffiti scrawls rarely did. Along St. Claude Ave. even the most raw street murals contribute to the evolving visual smörgåsbord, but the CBD sets a higher bar and the five murals in “Unframed” suggest new level of approval by the city's establishment. This marks a stark departure from the long shared history of murals and revolutionary movements across the Americas, a history epitomized by 1920s Mexico City – a city that today embodies a more varied mix of insurgent and establishment concerns. Similarly, contemporary New Orleans murals reflect a related blend of activist, community and establishment aspirations. 

The most prominently situated is the boldly colorful mural on the side of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art (925 Camp St.) by the Nola-based international artist known as Momo. Employing a mix of graphic design and spray paint impressionism, Momo's visual version of jazzy ambient music makes abstraction playful and fun. The colorful geometry of Carl Joe Williams' mural (827 Tchoupitoulas St.) evokes a blend of African design and Euro-American pop art influences in a massive abstraction that pulsates with rhythmic echoes of Nola's vibrant musical traditions. Brandan Odums and the Young Artist Movement's realistic mural (636 Baronne St.) of a black man lifting a young child in his arms appears symbolic when we see the stylized waves below, suggesting that learning to swim may be a metaphor for approaching life's challenges.

The mysterious hooded figure in the Polish duo Etam Cru's mural (detail above, 600 O'Keefe St.) appears amid an intriguing mosaic of Slavic folk art patterning, while Nola's Team A/C's black and white line mural of a domestic interior (746 Tchoupitoulas St.) literally turns our expectations of our familiar everyday world inside out. ~Bookhardt / Unframed: Five Large CBD Murals, Ongoing, sponsored by the Arts Council of New Orleans, 1307 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd, 523-1465,  and the Helis Foundation, 228 St Charles Ave, 523-1831.