Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Finding Home

It takes a collection of memories and all kind of materials to rebuild "home". For the exhibition Expanded Media at the Carroll Gallery on the Uptown Tulane University campus the five selected artists include Anita Cooke, Mark Grote, Rontherin Ratliff, Nikki Rosato and Sadie Sheldon.
At first, the narrative piece from Sadie Sheldon overtakes the room with its huge brownish wave along the wall facing the entrance. In The Flood, 2013, a female figure steers a boat tossed by the storm. The materials used to build the work, tarp, heavy canvas and weathered metal, allude to an industrial world of shipyards.The resulting composition is a scene full of drama.
Close by, four recent "boxes" from Ratliff inspire various emotions but are all about loss and rebirth. Reconnecting with the past through found objects is the artist's specialty. With a variety of materials, from feathers to old telephones, playing with light reflections, he creates a faded world, desolate, abandoned, where life stays in suspense. The works of Mark Grote are displayed in one room, appropriately so. The brightly colored objects could take over the muted colors of fellow artists's works. The wall sculptures become fun toys, leaving the imagination run wild. Smaller but characteristic pieces of each artist are found in the next room and the visit proceeds with the "maps" from Rosato who transforms roads, interstates into the blood vessels of otherwise transparent silhouettes. Anita Cooke's pieces complete the show. Built with material like bicycle tire tubing, duct tape, felt, electrical parts, vinyl polyester ruffle yardage... they result in disciplined, minimalist compositions.
Looking back at the title of the exhibition, the materials used by the artists are so diverse that it becomes irrelevant to try to identify them. Transcending the media, each artist develops his/her own language, inspiring melancholy with Ratliff, humor with Grote, or drama with Sheldon. Refusing to abandon the debris left by the disaster, they built their practice around them, linking past and future, conceptualizing the objects and in the process giving them a new life.
With this show, the gallery has succeeded in making us aware of local artists with a well-balanced display of their works. Ten years ago, Katrina brought a lot of destruction but taught them a lesson that cannot be learned in art schools.

photographs by the author:

"Vulnerable Embrace", 2015, Rontherin Ratliff
"Not Your Mother's Apron #2", 2009, Anita Cooke
"The Flood", 2013, Sadie Sheldon