Tuesday, March 31, 2009

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

John Henry and Sculptural Transmigration

It's been said, by Duchamp among others, that artworks have a "life" of their own, but that goes double for certain local sculptures that have seemingly become almost nomadic of late. It all began a year ago when Ernest Trova's PROFILE CANTO, which once graced the grounds of the New Orleans Museum of Art, was loaned to Jefferson Parish to try to make Veterans Blvd. look civilized.

Now Leandro Erlich's WINDOW AND LADDER: TOO LATE FOR HELP, right, that was a Lower 9th Ward landmark during Prospect.1, has found a new home in, you guessed it, the New Orleans Museum of Art's Sculpture Garden. Meanwhile, John Henry's monumental ZACH'S TOWER, above, part of Michael Manjarris' ongoing Sculpture for New Orleans project, is being installed near the Poydras Street entrance of Harrah's Casino, not far from its original proposed site on Poydras near the Superdome. With this game of sculptural musical chairs in full swing, the fact that Louise Bourgeois' great EYE BENCHES piece, another SFNO installation, is staying put for at least another year in Lafayette Square, is welcome news indeed.

Of all the above artists, few are more mysterious than John Henry, a Kentucky- born resident of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Part of his mystique is that his work has been shown all over the world even as Henry himself has remained a low profile persona. Part of it is his deceptively simple style, an approach that suggests seeming contradictions like "Zen engineering." The eye reads the elements as having fallen spontaneously into place even as the mind recognizes them as products of great precision. Like splash or starburst patterns, they also suggest those bamboo sticks tossed randomly to form the hexagrams used in traditional Asian interpretations of the I Ching. To me this is what his works at Bienvenu suggest. Others will have their own interpretation, part of Henry's somewhat protean modus, and an example of what philosopher Eric Hopper, in discussing Western culture, once called "the mysterious Occident." ~D. Eric Bookhardt
John Henry: Recent Sculpture
Through April 28
Gallery Bienvenu, 518 julia street, 525.0518; www.gallerybienvenu.com

Friday, March 27, 2009

Seen at the Front:

Rachel Jones: Empty Ciphers

Lingerie as Sociology and Surreality at the Darkroom

The Darkroom's Peek - The Lingerie Show is a group exhibition of photographs featuring or inspired by lingerie. Curated by Debbie Fleming Caffery, it runs through April 1

Traer Scott, Galaxy

Susan Hayre Thelwell, I Do

Monday, March 23, 2009

H x W x D at UNO

You could call it an "alumni show," but it's really more momentous than that. HxWxD marks the 30th anniversary of the University of New Orleans' Masters of Fine Arts program and is also part of UNO's 50th anniversary celebration. Once a desolate former military base, UNO is now a cultural and economic engine with influence that extends far and wide. Because the 18 artists in this show span several decades, it's an expo that also traces the UNO school's stylistic evolution from its earlier pop abstraction and imagism to the playfully polemical postmodernism for which it is known today.

Of course not everyone fits neatly into either category. Allison Stewart's elegantly abstract, nature-based canvases are more decorously languid than anything we ordinarily associate with UNO, and Ted Calas's stark, near-monochromatic paintings of people in transitional moments of rumination are studies in Uptown existentialism. But Louisiana Imagism lives on in Krista Jurisich's socio-political fabric art, below, as well as in the work of Alan Gerson, whose creepily lovely still life paintings suggest the work of exiled Dutch Masters on mars.

But a pivot between pop abstraction and polemical postmodernism appears in the work of Peter Halley, left, whose recent paper studies hew closely to the grid-like schematics that he employed during his neo-geo insurgency in New York in the late 1980s, an art historical milestone that, with his thoughtful published writings, make him something of a philosopher king among painters.

The more playful side of UNO postmodernism appears in the tartly prankish paper currency-based prints of Dan Tague, as well as in the no less tartly prankish paper currency-based sculpture of Srdan Loncar. But a synthesis of postmodernism and imagism appears in Jessica Goldfinch's anatomically anomalous shrinky-dink holy cards such as ST. MARIAM WITH CHILD, right, as well as in Daphne Loney's CANDY DREAMS, above, part of her ongoing inquiry into the psychic correspondence between religious icons and animal trophies expressed in steel and Lucite.

H x W x D: Thirty Years of MFA at UNO
Through March
UNO St. Claude Gallery, 2429 St. Claude Ave., 280-6493; www.uno.edu
(Expanded from Gambit Weekly)

A Sign of the Times...

Seen at Barrister's Gallery:

Lawn Jockey's Revenge

Oysters and Hot Sauce

Eye-Con: Paintings by Scott Guion
Through April 6
Barrister's Gallery, 2331 St. Claude Ave, 525-2767;
www.barrister's gallery.com

Monday, March 16, 2009

Seen at the CAC: Courtney Egan's Early Spring

Courtney Egan's Early Spring is a video-sound installation at the Contemporary Arts Center, where sounds from other installations tend to blend into the overall aural ambiance. Using the floor as a screen for the projection of her hallucinatory flower compositions to a drone-like and beat-heavy musical accompaniment broadcast by low-fi speakers, Egan takes the viewer into the space of Digital Animism, an expression she coined to describe her unique approach to digital animation as nature spirituality. Through April 5

Villere at Ferrara, Rucker at Roger

As much as abstract art can be said to be "about" anything, Sidonie Villere's new CAMOUFLAGE series suggests something of life's tensions and contradictions. Made up of canvas, paint, gauze, porcelain, string and wax, these ethereal white-on-white mixed media concoctions are mostly minimal but with occasional baroque flourishes. Building on Villere's past references to the contours of soft skin and hard earth, they may evoke a social dimension, an interplay of blending in and standing out, even as they seem to reiterate those associations of geology and biology, of deserts and beaches, of fabric and bandages, that resonate within the depths of our collective memories.
WITH AND WITHOUT, top, is a series of five rectangular panels wrapped in white gauze. They almost hark to Donald Judd's iconic minimalist sculptures, but their varying dimensions and porous white surfaces give them a more personal and tropical aura. Two feature smaller panels pressing forward against the gauze like pregnant flesh against soft fabric, so where Judd was unyielding, Villere individuates and personalizes related forms, adapting them to a more fluid
and feminine environment. Similar strategies appear in DISCIPLINE, left, a series of minimal, flat white ceramic vessels that, wrapped in white cord, radiate a frisson of contradictions. Villere's pristinely post-minimal works suggest those unspoken mysteries that express themselves in so many extraordinarily ordinary ways.

Longtime Loyola art instructor and part time musician/songwriter, Steve Rucker, is fascinated by nature. His STORM SONG VARIATIONS features 45 colorful ceramic abstractions, each supported by three black steel legs. Spiraling within the gallery like the outer bands of a hurricane, they possess elements of beauty and menace. But rather than depicting rampaging elements, they suggest their inner spirits as they seem to march relentlessly like apocalyptic horsemen, nightmare riders from the storms of myth and memory. ~ D. Eric Bookhardt
STORM SONG VARIATIONS: Recent Drawings and Sculpture by W. Steve Rucker
Through March 28
Arthur Roger@434, 434 Julia Street, 522-1999; www.arthurrogergallery.com

CAMOUFLAGE: New Paintings and Sculpture by Sidonie Villere
Through March 28
Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, 400a Julia Street, 522.5471; www.jonathanferraragallery.com

Susan Burnstine Interview

The NOLA Photo Alliance's Ann Marie Popko interviews Los Angeles based photographer Susan Burnstine. The 2008 PhotoNOLA Review Prize winner illustrates that the movement toward surreal, atmospheric photo-pictorialism extends far beyond the Gulf South, where a number of the leading practitioners of the idiom are based.