Sunday, October 20, 2019

Audra Kohout at Soren Christensen

New Orleans is sometimes described as a city of relics, a place where the past is never past because so much of it lives on in structures and objects, large and small. Old buildings can speak to us when they subtly resonate a sense of their former inhabitants. Lost or orphaned objects have more intimate second lives as they pass through yard sales and thrift stores and then from friend to friend as quirky gifts that live on as talismanic fetishes, symbols embodying what the surrealists saw as as fragments of society's dreams. This offers special opportunities for artists willing to engage with this unusually arcane and personal milieu, a realm in which Audra Kohout's work reflects something of the vividly dreamy and carnivalesque inner life of this city's inhabitants.
Kohout employs old dolls and figurines in theatrical configurations with bits of exotic fabric and antique props often involving mysterious arrangements of birds, animals, gears and machine parts that hark to ancient mythology and the modern female psyche while conveying a sense of how technology entangles our lives in any number of ways. In this “Reliquary” show, old music box mechanisms play a special role as revolving stages on which Kohout's mostly female figures interact almost like puppets or fairytale princesses guided by invisible forces as they play out their mysterious psychological dramas. For instance, “Dissonance,” left, features two tiny warrior princesses swathed in white fabric and wearing metal helmets studded with animal horns. Seductive yet combative in demeanor, they stand atop little circular stages that are music box mechanisms playing competing harmonies as they turn, suggesting a kind of genteel psychodramatic ballet, or maybe a miniature, innuendo charged tableau vivant. Women bound by competing internal and external forces are a recurring theme. “Coronation,” top, detail, is an ornate box sculpture in which a ceramic girl child is framed in a series of baroque ovals as a retinue of girl dolls including half avian mythic figures look on expectantly. Additional surreal pedestal and stand - alone sculptures make “Reliquary” Kohout's most audacious and ambitious exhibition in years. ~Bookhardt / Reliquaries: New Sculpture and Assemblages by Audra Kohout, Through October, Soren Christensen Gallery, 400 Julia St., 569-9501.