Friday, December 12, 2014

Sampling at the Contemporary Arts Center

Be ready to spend a few hours at the Contemporary Arts Center to discover or rediscover twenty-four artists from far places like China, South Africa or closer to home Louisiana, gathered for Prospect.3: Notes for Now. The works were selected by Frank Sirmans, the Artistic Director of the biennial (now officially a triennial), due to their power to incite a reflection on "the everydayness and the strangeness of the world around us, to bridge fissures in the past-present and to imagine the possibilities of an interconnected future".
The three floors at the CAC are filled with paintings, videos, photographs, installations, and the visit can start or end anywhere. Each artist is assigned an area, with the exception of Analia Saban whose works are randomly dispersed throughout the exhibition. I started in the oval room where Yun-Fei Ji's wall paintings depict a modern tale of population displacement and urbanization on a backdrop of droughts, starvation, pollution and political corruption. On the second floor, two geometric abstract painters set across each other initiate a conversation. McArthur Binion's paintings are characterized by monotonous colors and labor intensive repetitive marks on the canvas. They represent erasure and rebirth through delicate compositions, legacies of the menial work.  Hayal Pozanti on the other hand, transforms the dullness of technology into a new language of organic shapes, bringing life and fantasy to a boring reality. Following these, Douglas Bourgeois's figurative paintings seem easy to interpret. Like a magician, he transports common souls into a perfect world of artificial happiness and transforms their dreary surroundings into fantastic landscapes. Next, Sophie Lvoff and Lisa Sigal are focusing on the local scene, respectively with photographs and through architectural adventures.
Tank, 2014, Glenn Kaino's installation is attracting visitors with corals in clear water glowing in a bluish light. A lengthy wall text describes the work and provides a cue to the title. The cumbersome technology required to keep the corals alive undermines the project which is focused on the oceans' pollution, especially by the military, a subject somewhat off the exhibition's theme. The show gets back on track with Joe Ray's work, a thought provoking juxtaposition of symbols followed by the images from Thomas Joshua Cooper, a photographer of light.
Among the four videos displayed (two on second and two on the third floor) Mohamed Bourouissa's Temps Morts, 2009, held my attention with its depiction of grey, fuzzy, pixelated Paris's outskirts, reflecting the malaise of marginalized populations. On the same floor, one can see Felliniesque photographs from Pieter Hugo, staged scenes by Pushpamala N., the Cyndy Sherman of India, or the installation from Manal Al Dowayan, a historical view of a culture born from the oil boom.
Leaving through the first floor, one cannot miss the installation from Lucia Koch, giving a new outlook on the street through colored glass. The works selected to represent Theaster Gates in the hall include Civil Tapestry-4, 2011, an accumulation of fire hoses previously used during civil unrest, and two monochrome paintings made with tar and rubber playing with the light reflections.
The number of works and artists make such exhibition challenging for the viewer. Political with Charles Gaines, poetic with Thomas Cooper, feminist with Pushpamala N., epic with Yun Fei-Ji..., but one realizes that the works have been selected carefully to fulfill the goals clearly stated by the curator.

photographs by the author:

"The Family Drone", 2014, Hayal Pozanti
"TC/0168.13 (Anthropophagst Wading in the Artibonite River", 2014, Firelei
"Mood Disorder", 2014, Lucia Koch