Saturday, September 21, 2013

All Flavors in the Saint-Claude Art District

Since last week-end and for the month to come, Staple Goods gallery located in the Saint-Claude Art District offers a show curated by Brenda Hanegan, one of the three featured artists. In some circles, it is "passé" to paint bouquets of flowers. Brenda Hanegan proves this wrong with her luxuriant ginger flowers, their sensual shapes and colors growing exuberantly beyond the thick boards made of Times-Picayune comics on Bristol vellum. Trough  a poetic association, the artist relates the  tropical plants' yearly cycle of renewal and decay to the city of New Orleans and its decadent lusciousness. The conventional representation of the flowers with a Southern twist, gives the paintings an air of old and new, a symbolic way of expression  that will pass the test of many fashions.
The four woodcuts from Laura Richens inspired by quotes or poems from the philosopher and psychologist William James, are colorful illustrations of his idea of cosmic consciousness. Human Hearts, 2013, also inspired by a quote from Aleksandr Slozhenitsyn, with its violent red-orange and convoluted shapes reflects the confusion between good and evil in an expressionist language contrasting with the calm, serene blue and green landscape of Island in the Sea, 2013.
Across, the works from Kelly A. Mueller offer another view of nature. The pieces are more narrative, filled with stories about a fertile land inhabited by fantastic creatures, a world born from the artist's subconscious where dreams and reality intermingle. Old maps, newspapers, instructional manuals provide a background for the wild landscapes and bring a touch of reality. Donated or found quilts furnish the frame for the stories set in an exotic world. A small gallery filled with works set up in an harmonious display.

Further on Saint-Claude Avenue, The Front gathers an interesting mix of local and guests artists, starting with a series of works from Bonnie Maygarden lining up the walls of a room which has been filled with surprising installations in the past (tons of earth, barrels of water or Jumper most recently). The compositions with minimalist geometric shapes are defined by their fluorescent yellow, bright orange or black and white colors.  The artist works with unconventional synthetic material like pleather and paints with pop, unnatural colors provoking an ambivalent reaction in the viewer, a mixture of attraction and repulsion enhanced by the pieces' haptic quality (several visitors asked permission to touch the works and I could not resist "feeling"! ). Without a focal point, the empty dreamy landscapes of peaks and valleys appear endless and come alive when the viewer walks back and forth. With common materials, unnatural colors, the artist found a way to reach an immaterial world.
The visual adventure is followed by a more intellectual quest with Nikita Gale's installation, a challenging work aimed at bringing up a reflection on the diversion of history through words and images. With her white helmet, the conceptual artist points out the twisting of events and facts in the process of vulgarization of history, to fit groups and their bias. Her three videos and the texts on the walls converge to develop the idea, taking as an example the acceptance speech delivered by Halle Berry when awarded the Best Actress Oscar.
 Dave Greber, a video artist, uses his media to immerse the viewer in a cartoonish world full of trepidation.  The sound effects and the images produce a dynamic and punchy message, funny?... maybe I missed part of it, but I found the work "very cool".
Ratss from Andrew Brehm is using an old technique, masked actors, to tell a story delivered through a video to fit the taste of the time.
In the backyard, the installation from Carl Joe Williams concludes the visit with a series of colorful totems arranged on a game board drawn on the grass. The search for universality brings the artist to mix music and visual art. His musical composition playing in the background animates the group of sculptures, combining rhythm in colors, shapes and notes.

The vibrant Saint-Claude Art District may require a visit twice a month! Good Children, Antenna,..more.

photographs by the author:

"Three Graces Oleander", Kelly A. Mueller
"Untitled", 2013, Bonnie Maygarden
"Gr8@wakening!, Dave Greber

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