Sunday, August 18, 2019

Louisiana Contemporary at the Ogden Museum

Since 2012, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art has undertaken what sometimes seemed an impossible task: to present a sampler of work by contemporary Louisiana artists in a way that makes their chaotic cacophony of individual visions accessible to casual viewers. Louisianians are a stubbornly singular lot, but David Breslin, Director of Curatorial Initiatives at the Whitney Museum of American Art, has guest curated 44 artworks by 23 artists out of 364 applicants into a visual polyphony that is strikingly coherent while reflecting the diverse strands of this state's socio-aesthetic values.

While Louisiana shares modern America's tensions between competing economic and sociological forces, the arcane spirits of the land and the Native American, African and European peoples who took root here can still be felt in some of these works. Third place winner Rachel David's hand forged steel sculptures meld art nouveau sinuosity with a hint of swamp-futurist biology that perfectly complements Kristin Meyers nearby wrapped and bound fabric sculptures such as "He Dances," above, ambiguous figures that suggest new life forms conjured by voodoo alchemists -- an effect enhanced by Kristina Larson's clay cloud sculptures eerily emitting colored light on the wall.

Jessica Strahan's top prize winning painting, “Survived,” left, of a black girl who may have seen too much reads like an icon of our times, while Sarrah Danziger's socio-poetic views of outsider-ish younger folk convey something of the transitional social mores New Orleans has always incubated. A more eerie sense of social transition is vividly evoked in second place winner Thomas Deaton's “Night Game” urban landscape painting of a shrouded, bat-wielding figure in a dark, empty playground, below.

Social dysfunction is set to a visual rumba beat in Cuban-New Orleanian Luis Cruz Azaceta's “Opioid Crisis," left, even as subtle spirits of place infuse Ben Depp's and Sarah French's lyrical photos and paintings. In all, this show evokes psychogeographic epiphanies that reflect broader global paradoxes. As curator Devlin put it, these works are “testaments of our time, but also signal that other, better futures can still be within reach.” Louisiana Contemporary : A Survey of Recent Work by Louisiana Artists, Through January 5th, Ogden Museum of Southern Art, 925 Camp St., 539-9600.