Friday, December 23, 2016

😬😬😬 My First Emoji Review

I just attended a seminar for art writers and learned about a few new tools available to art critics.   Among them, emojis used daily on social media to convey our emotions or let the world know about our activities. Of course, I am eager to try my new skills.
For example, a few pics from my last visit at the Centre Pompidou in Paris:

Otto Dix
"Portrait of the journalist Sylvia von Harden", 1929

Vassily Kandinsky
"Improvisation 3", 1909  

Piero Mansoni
"Merda d'Artista", 1961

It took me some time to select the emojis, the small pests are multiplying. Companies are seeking translators due to the expanding "vocabulary" and cultural sensitivities. Emojis were born in 1999, and are themselves considered art. The first original set was acquired by The Museum of Modern Art for its permanent collection last October.

This was my first ... and last review with emojis.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Artist Collectives

For the last exhibitions of the year, two artist collectives,  Good Children Gallery and The Front in the St. Claude Arts District offer a variety of works, from paintings to installations, videos and sound art.
The front room's wide space at Good Children is filled with Christopher Saucedo's installation for his exhibition Water Bottle Buoy, New Sculpture That Floats. Three wood coffins piled up at the entrance introduce the show. The Caribbean blue colored boxes, branded with shapes of water bottles on the sides and melting continents on the lids, remind us of a future overshadowed by rising waters and of our inescapable end. Buoys, anchors and ropes are the materials assembled to create the sculptures. The buoys are made of over-sized polystyrene bottles, a reference to the main source of the Oceans' pollution. The sculptor, modern Archimedes, turned the equivalent of his body volume into one of the buoys after dipping in a vat filled with water and engaged his close relatives to do the same. The resulting display is a family portrait of a sort. The cursed artist who lost his house during hurricane Katrina and then more of his cherished possessions to hurricane Sandy, cannot get away from water. His resulting fears are alleviated by the ropes, solidly anchored umbilical chords
which allow drifting safely with the flow.  A blanket from the Red Cross is hanging on the wall, for added comfort. Treating serious matters with a twist of humor, through the rich conceptual installation the artist communicates his ambivalence about the unpredictable and destructive element, the water we are made of and we cannot live without.
Dan Tague, famous for discovering hidden messages in dollar bills, presents new works in the back room of the gallery. The main composition is an assemblage of cuttings from diverse foreign bills, each outlined by a black skull. Flowers, stars, abstract drawings, symbols, become elaborate colorful tattoos. The message however is somber, in short, money or its pursuit = death.  "The End is Near", a stern warning spread on a monochrome black piece made with graphite is faced by "I Should be Loyal to the Nightmare of our Choice", a pledge to empty or worse, nightmarish causes, written in red. But enough said, the artist makes his point clear.

Four new paintings from Brooke Pickett are displayed at The Front, across the street. The large pieces with their skewed perspectives are vertiginous, dizzying when looked at from a close viewpoint. A symphony of colors, from emerald green to blue, red, they are taking over two rooms of the gallery.
Back, the works from three artists, Jessica Vogel Brown, Joey Tipton and Johanna Warwick, are more experimental. Unshadowed  is about light. Through infinity mirrors, videos, mixed field recordings, photographs, they open a whole new world and help us see the unseen.

on view through January 8, 2017

photographs by the author:

view of the exhibition " Water Bottle Buoy, New Sculpture That Floats" from Christopher Saucedo
detail from Dan Tague installation
Jessica Vogel Brown "Banana Finger", 2016.

Friday, September 30, 2016

The Story of Monochrome

Monochromes: From Malevich to the Present, by Barbara Rose is a reflection on the history of single-color works of art through essays by the author and three additional contributors, Gladys Fabre, Christopher Ho and Vincenzo Trione. More than one hundred and sixty photographs of artists' works illustrate the paperback, arranged by colors starting with black followed by red, blue, gold, silver, ending with white.
A short introduction goes back to the birth of monochromes, centuries ago in the Far East and includes a chronology of significant events, publications or works related to the subject, from 1810 to 2004. Rose's essay organized in nine short chapters is enlightening due to her wide knowledge. Following the four essays, selected writings from twenty six artists are  organized under six themes and feature texts from Kazimir Malevich to Carl AndreLucio FontanaArmanYves Klein,
Ad Reinhardt, Donald Judd, Anish Kapoor among others. Furthermore, its stylish blue cover inscribed with gold letters and its lavish illustrations make Monochromes a great book from content to design.
Note for the New Orleanian art lovers: a painting belonging to the New Orleans Museum of Art's permanent collection, Effect of Snow at Giverny, 1893, from Claude Monet is part of the discussion, as a landmark in the history of monochrome. Chakaia Booker ( also found in the New Orleans Museum of Art's permanent collection) is represented by one of her sculptures.
Challenging at times, the reading of the book provides a review of the full scope of the monochrome, highlighting its timelessness and universality.

photographs by the author:

John Isiah Walton "Almost Clean", 2016

Julio LeParc "Movil Bleu", 1967

Lucio Fontana "Neon Structure", 1951, for the IX Triennial in Milan

Friday, September 23, 2016

Myths and Reality

With the sounds of steel drums in the background, the visit at The Front in the St. Claude Arts District starts on a cheerful note, however Sad Tropics, the title of the exhibition, implies a somber theme. Two artists, Cristina Molina and Jonathan Traviesa, combine their skills for this show which includes videos, site-specific photo murals and a gift shop installation, filling the four rooms of the gallery.

Upon entering, faced by a huge photograph of lush greenery, the visitor feels like walking in a pristine tropical jungle. The music belongs to a four min. video, a succession of local news about outlandish situations like "Florida man asked by wildlife officials to stop spray painting birds" or "Baby pulls cocaine out of Florida woman's bra during traffic stop", snippets of the Floridian culture. A pink neon sign with the title of the exhibition completes the display. For most of us, Florida equals vacation: sun, sea, sand and fun. In the next room, a photo mural features the two artists in the nude and for backdrop, a beachy tropical paradise. Framed photographs cover their privy parts, a lighthouse for the male, a dome for the female breast and below, a very suggestive architectural structure, possible reference to René Magritte who framed the real thing in The Eternally Obvious, 1930. Across, a video of local fishes evokes a Walt Disney cartoon and on each side, eight small lightboxes covered with delicate collages of tropical landscapes line up the walls. The next big piece is a bright sun in a perfect blue sky with black and white photographs of a futuristic habitation set in the middle of nowhere. Photographs pepper the exhibition: clichéd advertisements (giant pineapple, conch shell, ...), old cars, architecture, landscapes, decayed sculptures. A few hint at spiritual life. The exhibition concludes with a gift shop, set up with flags above the entrance and all required items: t-shirts, postcards and tote bags bearing the first sentence of the book from the French ethnologist Claude Lévi-Strauss: "I hate traveling and explorers".

"Tristes Tropiques" published in 1955 inspired the show which brings us from the untamed land, named by Ponce de León "place of flowers" to mercantile Florida and its gift shops, reflecting the impact of  "colonization". The irony expressed in Levy Strauss's sentence permeates the works filled with humor, from the tragicomic video to the naked scene. Through their lighthearted exhibition, the Florida-born artists describe the fake reality of a make belief paradise thought to be the place of the fountain of youth, a long time ago.

photographs by the author

Friday, September 16, 2016

Art with Ideas

A century ago Marcel Duchamp submitted Fountain, a urinal-basin, for the first exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists in New York. It was refused but Conceptual art was born. Still engendering controversy, it has become a full fledged mean of expression for artists. NOLA CONCEPTUAL, the latest exhibition at The New Orleans Art Center in the St. Claude Arts District features the works from eleven New Orleans artists, including paintings, sculptures, installations, a performance and a video.

The gallery space is left wide open for the exhibition, setting the stage for the numerous and diverse works. The immediate attraction is a slow paced performance from Ricardo Barba featuring an actor wrapped in a white blanket and bound by the wrists to a cord hanging from the ceiling. In the name of the anonymous victims of injustice, Another One Bites the Dust (Love No Matter What), 2016, makes a powerful statement. I chose to focus on one work from each artist, drawn by subject and/or aesthetic. Starting with John Isiah Walton, I found his monochrome piece compelling: a clear glass jar filled with blue water, rocks at the bottom and syringes floating on top. Its simplicity emphasizes the message. The stones refer to the heaviness of being, the syringes to the escape from it through artificial paradises while the color is about infinity, eternity and ultimately death. In this piece, the artist rejuvenates the art of the memento mori. Among the four wall compositions from Ana Hernandez, an idiosyncratic piece related to the St. Claude neighborhood and its divisive neutral ground, They call it "The Shooting Side" can also be interpreted in a larger context. A thick green line crosses the dark brownish landscape, like a slash. Carl Joe Williams's Ladder intrigued me. The least narrative of his five pieces, it is also the most conceptual. Joan Miró incorporated the symbol in his works as a mean of escaping reality and reach the imaginary world. Williams's ladder is festive, covered with glitter and bright colors but with broken steps, like a broken dream, an escape to nowhere. Locked from Alex Podesta features two symmetrical creatures with antlers, facing each other in a passive confrontation, on wheels but static, frozen in action, without past or future, locked for eternity. Nearby, Cynthia Scott brings us into a world of fairy tales with three works inspired by well-known legends. Rapunzel Moves On is a lavish installation with its golden locks spread on the floor and antique scissors laid on top. The blond mane belongs to a now cropped haired head. The gesture of cutting is final and at the same time implies a new beginning. Rapunzel is leaving, turning her back on the "prince". The piece is a whimsical reference to women's liberation from their submissive roles. Rontherin Ratliff is somber, preoccupied by death, the carceral world and a future overshadowed by genetic engineering. His sculpture Biological Fear, 2016, relates to the DNA's double helix. Will its manipulation be used for the benefit of the human race or become another weapon? In the 9 min video from Jason Childers, physical and digital worlds intermingle to create a bizarre atmosphere filled with unrelated images and sounds where reality becomes "both meaningful and meaningless". On a lighter note, Christina Juran's Good Day is a silhouette frolicking in the clouds, oblivious of surroundings and ...happy. Across, Gina Laguna offers what feels like a forest of sculptures ( six). They can be appreciated one at a time or as an installation. Their common message is about nature and its life cycle. The numbered series of sculptures from Keith DuncanBody Brace, alludes to infirmity and suffering. The silvery replicas are witnesses of the pain endured when growing up. This can start or conclude the visit of the exhibition.

Group shows can be overwhelming, confusing, lacking cohesion. The clear labeling of the works, the short but informative wall texts and the use of the space avoid these shortcomings. The selected pieces are representative of the eleven artists, each expressing their angst, sharing their intimate thoughts through their work. Conceptual art requires the viewer's participation  and more than aesthetic pleasures, provides thought-provoking material. Challenging, it is also rewarding if one spends some time interacting with the work.
The exhibition is a landmark for conceptual art in New Orleans.

photographs by the author:

Keith Duncan "Body Brace"
Carl Joe Williams "Past"
Cynthia Scott "Rapunzel Moves On"
Alex Podesta "Locked"

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

From Berries to the Universe

            "Marking the Infinite: Contemporary Women Artists from Aboriginal Australia", a travelling exhibition, starts its journey in New Orleans. Australian Aboriginal art born some 40 000 years ago, is also contemporary, with female artists contributing to the art scene. Among them, nine have been selected for this show and their works fill the three galleries at the Newcomb Art Museum, including paintings on canvas, paper or eucalyptus bark, poles and woven installations.
            Following the introduction in the reception hall, made of a wall text, a video featuring aboriginal women in the bush and a few books related to Australian Aboriginal art, the walk through the exhibition can be overwhelming due to the number, the variety of works and above all the unpronounceable names of the artists and the remote locations they are from. However, their compelling stories unfold along the visit as one becomes familiar with styles and techniques. On the right, the side gallery is populated  by works from two sisters.  Gulumbu Yunupingu projects infinity through seriality and her starry skies refer to universality. Nyapanyapa Yunupingu also uses earth pigments on bark or paper and experiments with new media like digital files in one of her compositions while her subject, nature, stays traditional. Carlene West's works, inspired by local legends, are represented by two paintings with their characteristic colors:  red, black and white, medley of expressionism with her wide brushstrokes for the background and aboriginal dot technique for the narrative. Her paintings are also found in the main gallery where the walls are lined up with larger compositions like Bush Plum in red (2013) or black (2015) from Angelina Pwerle. With tiny dots covering the whole canvas, the two monochrome paintings depict an abundant harvest of berries and relate to the food gathering role of women. They also take cosmic dimensions when looked at from a few steps back. Regina Pilawuk Wilson, born in 1948, started to paint in 2002 and developed a personal technique inspired by fishnets, resulting in fine multicolored lines fusing to create meditative patterns. Inspired by the secret language of her tribe, Nonggirrnga Marawili 's message is expressed through  traditional media with earth pigments on bark. The gallery on the left presents three artists. Wintjiya Napaltjarri, Lena Yarinkura, well-known fiber artist and Yukultji Napangati. Napaltjarri's colored shapes, blue, red or yellow, could be described as biomorphic. They are well established symbols within the tribe, a U shape for example representing ancestral women. The works made with synthetic polymer paint on canvas, could be called series with Women's Ceremonies at Watanuma, 2006, 2007, 2010 and 2012. The characteristic juxtaposed lines from Napangati result in works easily categorized as Op art. Without a place to rest the eyes, in constant motion, the paintings recreate the infinite horizon of the desert where the artist was raised. The exhibition would not be complete without Memorial Poles. Made of eucalyptus trunks, they have a function in the afterlife, guiding the deceased to his spiritual home. Two groups of poles are symmetrically staged in the main gallery
              In the 1980's Australian Aboriginal art was proliferating in the commercial galleries of the capital Canberra, generating a controversy still ongoing. Nevertheless, the art is getting plenty of interest and the Metropolitan Museum of Art held its first exhibition of Australian Aboriginal art by women in 2010. 
Are women breaking taboos while finding the place they deserve in the art world? Marawili makes a disclaimer of a sort to the elders of her tribe, stating that: " The Yirritja painting I am doing is coming from the heart and mind. It is not the sacred Madarrpa painting".
I am not an anthropologist and just enjoy the art. The exhibition shows cohesion due to the gender of the artists and the common themes related to their tribal roles. From earth pigments to computer files, their range of media is expanding and their techniques born from centuries of traditions are evolving. The paintings from contemporary artists convey a dimension of infinity and universality  we can grasp and they should not be looked at as the remnants of a dying culture but a proof of ongoing, lively communities which have influenced and sustained the artists.

photographs by the author:

"Ganyu (Stars)", 2009, Gulumbu Yunupingu
"Tjitjiti", 2014, Carlene West
Poles and view of the exhibition

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Pink in Red

        Like a tune stuck in my head, a painting keeps haunting me. Since White Linen Night, among all the works of art I was exposed to, from the galleries, the Contemporary Arts Center, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, Black Bull of Angola, 2016, from John Isiah Walton stays on my mind.
        Why? Is it the subject? The colors? The style?  The oil on canvas is of average size (60 x 48 inches) and represents a scene from the popular yearly rodeo which takes place at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a high security prison also called Angola. During the event, inmates get to ride the animals. In this painting, the artist has captured a glimpse of the action, depicting one of the facility's resident jumping on a ferocious bull. The bearded rider flung into the air, looks fearless in his striped shirt and bright blue pants. The powerful beast is bucking, teeth exposed, nostrils wide opened, resisting the grip. The scene painted with vigorous brushstrokes is set on a pink background. Upon a closer look, it appears that the canvas is primed with pink. Pink is found mixed with the sandy ground, underlines the shapes of the actors and even seeps through the massive body of the black bull.
        Pink?... Pink is cutesy, girly, fake (" looking at life through pink glasses "). The mixture of red and white does not have the dramatic flavor of the former or the purity of the latter. Obviously, pink is not my preferred color and it took me a while to appreciate the work from Philip Guston! Pink is used largely in Pop art, murals, or neon works. Aggressive at times, it rarely generates strong emotions. It is associated with caring, compassion, love...far from this encounter between a bull and an inmate.
         The artist's bold choice has kept me wondering: how can he render the charged atmosphere, create tension, keep the rawness and the vigor of the painting using such color?  A drama in pink? How can pink become more savage, angry, violent than bloody red? The overall work is powerful with its mythological connotation. One cannot avoid thinking of  the capture of the Cretan bull by Hercules. In this scene, the artist paints a hero in action, transforms the inmate, the banished, the renegade, into a half god during these few seconds of glory.

photograph by the author:

John Isiah Walton "Black Bull of Angola", 2016
at Boyd Satellite Gallery

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Supershow at Good Children Gallery

Evil Earth System, the latest exhibition at the Good Children Gallery in the Saint Claude Art District is a solo show from the multi media artist Lala Raščić. Started in collaboration with the Slovenian programmer Marko Plahuta, the project involves data gathering, analysis and a visual representation of the resulting material through object-sculptures, videos and installations, spread throughout the two-room space. The artist born in Sarajevo obtained a Bachelor and a Master of Fine Arts from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb. She presently lives and works in New Orleans, Sarajevo and Zagreb.
The visit begins with a black and white video: Neologism, 2016, made of a succession of words starting with the prefix neo, flashing on a small sized screen during a five minutes loop: neonazi, neobank, neoludic, neomayonnaise, ..., from political to plain wacky. Prototype 7, a busy installation, follows the punchy introduction. Sixteen objects made with wood, gold leaf and glass, are scattered on a wood plank supported by two saw horses. They provide a frame to the artificial light from bare transparent bulbs diffused through their simple shapes: rectangles and circles. The crowded display is carefully staged to create a sweeping geometric abstract composition on the wall with the objects' shadows. Table 2 is a gathering of works related to concrete poetry. Constructed with the same material, wood, gold leaf and glass, the pieces display letters or prefixes on layers of glass, multiplied like a visual echo for a stronger impact. Two silkscreens are set on Table 3 , fan-like webs spread on a transparent screen, reminding of maps filled with data. Three more works complete the show in the first room. Using the  technique of  "verre églomisé", reverse painting with gold leaf on glass, the artist combines reflections of the surroundings and a single word for Neoscape, Neosphere and Neoscope. In contrast, the back room is set like an office, bare, with a few cushions on the floor in front of a wall screen and across, a table and a chair facing a second screen. On one side, the video Evil Earth Notebook produced in 2015, a succession of reflections, quotes, texts from the artist or poets along stunning views of landscapes, faced by a webpage filled with data related to the use of  prefixes around the world. This room could be called "the repository" from which the exhibition is born. A two sided leaflet is available and provides cues about the show and the works.
Provocative? Maybe. The ludic introduction engenders a list of my own neowords: neome, neocreature, neoreality, ... What means neo? "new", "recent", "revived", "modified". How were the prefixes selected? neo, pro, anti, hyper, contra, pre, post, proto? The key to all these questions is found in the leaflet's lengthy text and can be resumed in two words: Twitter and poetry. The artist is giving a new life to the words by adding a prefix and through the installation Table 1 goes full circle: objectify the words, then add shadows to the object. Words are not final. What about the title of the show? It is a new world when data can be visualized at the click of a mouse. Why evil?
Lala Raščić fills the gallery with intellectually challenging and visually pleasing works.

photographs by the author

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Order in Chaos

Can you see a link between a leaf and an iceberg, hurricanes and galaxies, the brain cells of a mouse and your ear? Referring to rules of mathematics and geometry like the Golden ratio, the Fibonacci number and fractals, Sarah House's works reflect on her love of nature and her search for its "interconnectedness" through patterns. The twenty pieces selected for the exhibition Artist Spotlight: Sarah House at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art represent a diverse sampling of her work. The ceramist favors the media due to its versatility, combining shapes and colors, sculpture and painting. After obtaining a BFA from Temple University's Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia, she was the recipient of several prestigious ceramic art residencies and graduated from Tulane University with a MFA.
In glass cases, on pedestals or attached to the walls, most of the sculptures have a "natural" look due to their earthy colors and unpolished surface. Spheres for Self-Similar or dodecahedrons for Ode to Mandelbrot are assembled to create the final work, which itself could be part of a bigger installation. Water Study 1 and 2, flat thick pieces of ceramic with an abrupt edge, appear to be made with a cookie cutter: leaves? coastlines? The title gives the answer. A series of works have a similar haptic roughness with mountains and deep valleys, creating bare, moon-like landscapes sprinkled with ocher to underline the relief. Among these, It's Alive 1 and 2 have dynamic features with the material falling from the pedestal, petrified in action, puddling on the floor.
The display is somewhat odd with a few sculptures placed at floor level in glass cases below traditional potteries from the permanent collection, and the narrow space allotted for the exhibition puts some constraints on the artist who created installations in other venues. Sarah House through her works allows us to consider the media beyond its utilitarian aspect and discover its potential for artistic expression. Following the visit, one will be looking for the universality of nature expressed through the ad infinitum repetition of primary models, varying in scale.
Can you see a link between mountains and tormented waters?

photographs by the author:

"Water Study 1"
"Ode to Mandelbrot"
"Hydro Dynamo"

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Sculptor with a Vision: Martin Payton

A recent trip brought me to the Ohr O'Keefe Museum of Art in Biloxi, Mississippi, where fifteen sculptures from Martin Payton are on display in the African-American gallery for the exhibition Rhythm and Movement, Sculpture by Martin Payton. The show is the occasion to look back at thirty years of the artist's career with works ranging from 1979 to 2011. Well-known in New Orleans for his public sculptures from Savoy, 1990-2001, along the Poydras Corridor, Damballah on the Loyola University campus to the Contemporary Art Center's ceiling, his most famous piece in the city, Spirit House, 2002, was created in collaboration with his mentor John T. Scott. After getting a BFA at Xavier University, he studied under Charles White at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles where he earned a MFA. Payton finds his inspiration in dance, music, charismatic characters, creating works heavily influenced by his African-American heritage.

From the entrance, the visitor is facing a massive piece representative of the sculptor's technique, the assemblage of  recycled industrial steel parts. Referring to the carriers of torches during the Mardi Gras parades, Flambeau, 1997, defines the setting of the room with its symmetrical imposing shape dividing the gallery in two sides, each lined up with smaller sculptures on pedestals along the walls. Abundant leaflets are available, providing a short biography, artist statement, title and one line description of each piece. At first, the layout of the monochrome black sculptures appears monotonous and the silence becomes oppressive. Mali Andante, 2009, and Stitt, 2004, characterized by simple shapes assembled to create sober and harmonious pieces, are a great introduction to a detailed visit. Stitt, one of my favorite, is like a syncopation, a curved line suspended in the air, off balance, followed by its more elaborate version Dolphy, 2007, farther down. Three sculptures in the round, T-Bar Giga, 2009, Bamana Bourrée, 2009 and Mali Andante, 2009, are laid on dark steel pedestals muddling their silhouettes. In Jarrett, 2004 and Tyner, 2001, Payton provides visual cues about musicians and their instrument, but the two compositions stay flat and static. Sorcerer, 2010, is a more elaborate symmetrical sculpture, with a body surmounted by a symbolic circle and two antennae-like appendages while Ibeji, 2004, referring to twin births is a combination of two geometric forms, masculine and feminine.
At the end of my visit, I realized that most of Payton's sculptures were two dimensional. This is somewhat confounding in view of the artist switching early from painting to sculpting due to his interest in the three-dimensional approach of the latter. Apparently, working with welded steel requires the addition of heavy bolts resulting in two-sided compositions (one "good" and one "bad" side) displayed along the walls. However, the sculptures in the round would have benefited from a better location in the center of the room, enabling the visitors to appreciate them fully.
The unique exhibition allows a better grasp of the artist's work, heavily influenced by his mentor John T. Scott and one can appreciate the constancy of subjects, media and techniques over the past three decades. Related to music, natural forces (Kilimanjaro, 1999) or charismatic leaders (Avery, 1999), all of Payton's works aim to higher goals and gain from being interpreted in the context of culture, identity and heritage.
What shines throughout the show is the artist's ability to give a soul to the dark cold metal.

 photographs by the author:

""Dolphy", 2007
"Bamana Bourrée", 2009
"Sorcerer", 2010

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

About Sculptures, St. Claude Arts District

Three sculptors showing in the St-Claude Art District ought to get mentioned before their exhibit is taken down next week: Jeffrey Rinehart, Aaron McNamee at the Good Children Gallery and Cynthia Scott at The Front.

Jeffrey Rinehart's four sculptures at Good Children are spread in the backroom, allowing a walk around them while the height of the pedestals facilitates a bird eye view. They are made of  gypsum and the pure white of the material is highlighted by the artificial grass-green they are laid on. One of them, Complex Napoleon, 2015, combines a Neoclassical portrait of the emperor crowned by the symbolic laurel wreath, resting on a pair of female limbs in a sensual pose, and a thin outstretched hand hiding his sexual organs. The idea of adding feminine features to the historical figure, questioning his gender, is provocative and fits in the Metamodernist movement which is about rewriting history, reconstructing, remixing and the creation of challenging works.

In the front room, Endless Schnoz, 2016 and Lips and Noses, 2016, from Aaron McNamee through repetition and accumulation are all about the symbolic protuberance. Organ of smell, the nose, we are told, defines character and from Cleopatra to Cyrano de Bergerac has made history. The totemic pieces are a celebration of the phallic emblem while Son/Father, 2016, a wall sculpture featuring a young hand holding a large finger/penis, rejuvenates the myth of Kronos and the Freudian father complex in this playful and irreverent version.

Across the street at the Front, Cynthia Scott's hanging sculpture takes over a large space with its shadow spread on the white walls. The intricate structure built with plastic, metal, and mesh, mainly white, has cage-like features resulting in an eerie feeling of entrapment offset by the dreamy shadow in the background. A short text from Macbeth provides the key to the work and its title Poor Players, Strutting and Fretting, 2016.

photographs by the author:

Jeffrey Rinehart, "Complex Napoleon", 2015
Aaron McNamee, "Endless Schnoz", 2016
Cynthia Scott "Poor Players, Strutting and Fretting", 2016

Friday, January 29, 2016

Seriality to Infinity

The Infinite Line written by Briony Fer and published in 2004 is a book dedicated to a fertile period in visual art, the transition from Modernism to Postmodernism during the late 1950's until 1970. In eleven chapters, she offers enlightening discussions about seriality in art, including paintings, sculptures, installations, photographs, movies, through her vast knowledge of artists and their works.
With a dedicated topic for each chapter, Fir presentation stays focused on one subject, "the power and meaning of repetition". Starting with "Picture", moving on to "Series" and "Infinity", the progression smoothly leads to "List", "Mobility", reaching "Utopia" in the last chapter. Through her presentation of artists and their works, she makes the point and her expertise confers a scholarly quality to her discussions. She features numerous female artists like Eva Hesse, Agnes Martin, Yayoi Kusama or Louise Bourgeois and refers abundantly to the Arte Povera movement and its members. Sometimes arduous to read due to the abundance of referenced material, at the same time engrossing because of it, shedding light on Minimalism and its higher mission, the book is also filled with illustrations appropriately spread along the text.
The abrupt ending leaves the future opened to the use of repetition, ultimate mean of capturing infinity, a non-existent entity, and the addition of new chapters written about artists engaged in expressing the invisible.

photographs Wikimedia:
Untitled, Eva Hesse, 1967

Monday, January 18, 2016

Adventures at the Carroll Gallery

For the new year, the Carroll Gallery on the Uptown Tulane campus features one of its own, Aaron Collier, Assistant Professor at the University. Sharing his recent adventures in painting, he is presenting twenty-one of his most recent works. The three rooms of the gallery are filled with paintings, collages and decoys in a judicious display presented by the artist himself for the opening of Something There.
Doom exudes from the large primal landscapes lining up the gallery's main room. Composed while Collier was reading the Book of Job from the Old Testament, the desolate scenery, with earthy tones and blurry shapes, evoke a threatening world in which the undefined becomes the threat itself. Revisitation, created last Summer for the 10th anniversary of the Katrina disaster, includes a wood piece retrieved from a ravaged house with foam still attached to it, like a parasite. Collier's preferred prop for his paintings is an owl, the symbol of wisdom, but also of death. In A Certain Uncertainty, the quiet bird stands guard next to the painting, serene and menacing, adding an ambiguous feeling. The compositions have no focal point and are defined by blurry lines and dark colors. The superimposition of browns and grays creates an effect of depth and subtle "lightning" in some areas of the works, keeping the viewers wandering in the landscapes. The contrast is striking when walking in the two satellite galleries. The pieces of smaller sizes radiate energy, like a promise of happiness. The vibrant saturated colors invade the space, screaming at the viewer their message of hope. Even the three owls perched on a ledge take an harmless turn, disguised in candy colors. However, the artist's message stays focused on doom as we come back to the first room before exiting the exhibition.
In his presentation, Collier refers to Gerhard Richter, Zubarán, John Singer Sargent and describes the conception of his works as an adventure starting with the juxtaposition of photographs of scenes of disasters and minutely decorated interiors. From then on, the images blur, dissolve and reemerge on the canvas, leaving "colors and compositions flow and impose themselves". Chaos versus harmony, tragedy versus happiness, the painter translates his vision of life with colors, constantly shifting between extremes.
To quote the artist: " Paint is the perfect medium for picturing paradox: painting itself is an in-between act, a simultaneous doing and undoing."

photographs by the author

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Art of Coding

Two small exhibitions are triggering deep cogitations about the relationship between art and technology. At first sight, they do not appear to have a connection, one features abstract landscapes, the other figurative pieces, but they both involve computers. B=R=I=C=K=I=N=G from James Hoff and Digital Pictorialism: An Exhibition of Images Produced With Code from James L Dean are located in different areas of the city, the former at the Contemporary Arts Center in the New Orleans Art District and the latter at Staple Goods, a collective art gallery in the Saint-Claude Arts District.
James Hoff's works fill one room on the second floor of the Contemporary Art Center in a traditional display of "paintings" lined up along the four walls. An odd addition is brought up by holes in the walls exposing wooden structures from the building itself. A closer look at the abstract works is a surprise due to the texture of the "canvas" and the consistency of the "paint". The eight numbered Skywiper are chromaluxe transfers on aluminum. David Everitt Howe wrote a detailed critique about the resulting pieces in Art Review . The title of the works are worth an explanation. Skywiper is the name of the virus which after infecting a program produces the abstract landscapes. A wall text at the entrance provides a description of the process involved: "Hoff distills the visual file to code, unearthing a subtext, underlying every image, as well as competing visual field, a linear mapping of signs and alternating color. He then infects that field with contemporary malware, in this case the Skywiper virus". More information is available about the virus and its previous use (politics are involved). The artist who relates to William Burroughs's ideas has previously experimented with viruses in music and now applies the technique to visual art and also architecture. The holes in the wall are designed according to a jpeg picture of the room infected by the virus. Contrasting with the Brooklyn's artist threatening world of viruses, uncontrolled replication, disease, corruption and ultimately destruction, Dean's works bathe in a peaceful atmosphere, filled with bunches of flowers, still lifes or calm interiors reminiscent of seventeenth Century Dutch paintings including a classic memento mori. This time, in the realm of photography, the creation of a program is the key to the production of the art. The process involves several stages described with minutia at the start of the exhibition. A very informative text written by Minka Stoyanova Reading Digital Pictorialism completes the display.
To appreciate the two exhibitions takes some background in computer technology. Did you know that bricking, the title of Hoff's exhibition, refers to "the overload of an operating system when infected with malware, which renders it useless, at least for its originally intended purposes." Nevertheless, the two artists's use of the technology as a new medium to produce visual art is futuristic and inescapable. Abstract or figurative, through the manipulation of images, art is becoming deeply involved with the world of computers and the artist may not need assistants to mix paint or prepare a canvas anymore, but will need coders, developers, engineers...
At the end, can the list of processes used to produce the art be replicated? We all heard: "My child could draw like that" Are we going to hear "My child can code like this". If you are computer savvy, it seems that you can become an artist. The use of the technology is here to stay, the resulting piece of art ultimately will define who is an artist.

photographs by the author

James Hoff "Skywiper No.52" and "Skywiper No.83", 2015
                   "Skywiper No.33", 2015
James L Dean "Haydel-Jones Plantation House in Edgard, LA"
                       "Broad Stroke Chrysanthemums"

B=R=I=C=K=I=N=G till February 28 at the CAC
"Digital Pictorialism: An Exhibition of Images Produced With Code" just closed this week

Saturday, January 2, 2016

New Perspectives, Jacqueline Humphreys at the CAC

Jacqueline Humphries, a native New Orleanian now living in New York City is back in town with her latest exhibition at the Contemporary Art Center. The artist is showing exclusively new works, created for the twenty-first century, including large abstract compositions on the first floor and a collection of her black-light paintings on the second floor.
The home-made metallic pigment mixed from aluminum powder results in Humphries's shiny silver signature found in the five paintings downstairs. Generously applied in the background of Alpha, Alpha1 and Alpha4, the "non-color" blends with green, violet or pale blue hues, while rows of black dots fill the foreground. Delicate abstract black drawings float between the two layers, bringing a narrative to otherwise monotonous compositions. The action is initiated by the viewer who activates the works when walking by. The shifting reflection of the light on the silvery coat brings life to the paintings, and the calligraphic patterns become alive with the changing perspectives. Two paintings complete the display, large canvases with the same silvery effect but more abstract expressionist than pop with their sharp lines scratched in the paint. The same concept is involved in the layout of the black-light paintings displayed in the Lupin Gallery upstairs, however the technique differs. This time, ultraviolet light activates fluorescent paint, producing psychedelic colors glowing in the dark. An awkward atmosphere fills the gallery due to the mixed message sent by the conventional display of works aligned under the spotlights and the playful brash colors fit for a Kenny Scharf's Cosmic Cavern.
The combination of Pop art, Op art, Minimalism, Abstract Expressionism in Humphries's works results in a confused message and the mixture of low and high art remains stale, lacking energy and fun.  Humphries's attempt to catch the light with the festive medium falls short of its goal with the large black dots hindering a possible visual adventure. In 2009, Humphries stated in an interview that "Post modernism is supposed to be all about appropriation and cynicism... why not appropriate an attitude of seriousness." Seriousness is taking over her black-light paintings lined up along the walls and transforms them in a conventional display of flashy works.
In the post modern era, visual artists are faced with a question: is this the end of painting? The exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery in London in 2013 The Show Is Over, gathered artists looking for an answer. Humphries experimenting with new media found her language but delivers a message that stays superficial.

photographs by the author:

"Alpha3", 2014
"Untitled", 2014
"Untitled", 2015