The Acadiana Center for the Arts Senior Curator Brian Guidry and His Curatorial Assistant Carolyn Scalfano Faulk setting up for the exhibition “Reconfigure: Transformations of the Body”
The Acadiana Center for the Arts Lobby with a sculpture installation by participating “Reconfigure: Transformations of the Body” artist Lisa Osborn
A view of the Acadiana Center for the Arts from Jefferson St. at the onset of Artwalk
Meditation on the Streets: Elaine Botts letting “the world hurry by” on Jefferson St.
An Artwalk crowd on Jefferson St.
Artwalk in full swing at the Acadiana Center for the Arts entrance
“Reconfigure: Transformations of the Body” participating artist Lisa Osborn flexing her artist muscles before Acadiana Center for the Arts Senior Curator Brian Guidry, Lafayette artist and Creative Economy Summit Founder Emee Morgan and a friend
“Reconfigure: Transformations of the Body” participating artist Jonathan “JJ” Wilson
“Reconfigure: Transformations of the Body” participating artists Natalie McLaurin, Ben Fox-McCord, Michael Pajon, along with Pajon’s friend and artist Shawne Major
Love Birds: Artist Shawne Major and poet/activist Jonathan Penton
Artist and Creative Economy Summit Founder Emee Morgan talking shop with “Reconfigure: Transformations of the Body” participating artist Chyrl Savoy
Acadiana Center for the Arts patrons in the Main Gallery
A view of “Reconfigure: Transformations of the Body” from the 2nd story bay window of the Acadiana Center for the Arts
A view of “Reconfigure: Transformations of the Body” from the 2nd story bay window of the Acadiana Center for the Arts
The title wall of the “Doodle Virus” exhibition at the Acadiana Center for the Arts
Installation of the “Doodle Virus” exhibition at the Acadiana Center for the Arts
Acadiana Center for the Arts patrons enjoying and buying the 250+ 4″ x 6″ works for sale in the “Doodle Virus” exhibition. All proceeds go to the Visual Arts Curatorial Department of the Acadian Center for the Arts.
Artist Ernie Fournet talking to a patron in the midst of his exhibition “It’s Not Easy Being a Cop”
I hope you enjoyed this visual tour through Lafayette’s art world … and dear reader, you can look forward to individual reviews on many of the exhibitions of the night in the near future!
by Reggie Michael Rodrigue
Can an achievement be both a triumph and a trip back into the darkness? This is a question I’ve been mulling in my head for the past week as I’ve been thinking back on my participation in the installation of “Prospect Lafayette” at the Acadiana Center for the Arts. The exhibition is a satellite of the Prospect New Orleans 2 Biennial currently running until January 29, 2012.
According to Prospect New Orleans curator Dan Cameron, the exhibition is meant to be a historical overview of some of the work that was included in Prospect New Orleans 1 and Prospect New Orleans 1.5, as well as a showcase for a video by the Icelandic, multimedia artist Ragnar Kjartansson who is showing in the biennial for the first time.
The first iteration of Prospect New Orleans in 2008, as far as artistic achievement goes, was an unequivocal success by all accounts. It included a blockbuster roster of more than 80 international and local artists. It single-handedly put New Orleans on the global art map, along with providing the city some much-needed inspiration after the ravages of Hurricane Katrina. Unfortunately, the business behind Prospect New Orleans 1 wasn’t so successful: the biennial accrued over one million dollars in debt and a mess of political infighting among its board members which lead to a postponement of the second full installment until this year. Prospect New Orleans 1.5, a city-wide move to showcase new and old local New Orleans artists and their work, was instituted to mitigate the situation and continue the momentum of the biennial. Today, the Prospect New Orleans Biennial is back on track and “in the black” financially; however, it is making waves in a much more concentrated form.
This doesn’t mean that the biennial isn’t expanding in other ways, however. “Prospect Lafayette” is a testament to this notion. After a visit to the Acadiana Center for the Arts, Dan Cameron was impressed enough with the location to ask the ACA to participate in Prospect New Orleans 2 as a satellite. Such a lateral move out of New Orleans is a first for the biennial and a monumental coup for the ACA. Cameron has stated that the ACA is one of the most impressive and significant art centers in the state. Personally, I couldn’t agree more – not only in regards to the facility itself, but also because of its curatorial efforts headed by Brian Guidry.
I’ve had the privilege of working as a preparator under Guidry for about a year- and-half by now. Thanks to this, my experience of the curatorial side of the arts has been one of immense learning, care, intuitiveness and innovation that I don’t believe I could have received anywhere else. During my time at the ACA, I’ve been part of a curatorial team that has put together some of the most impressive, articulate and awe-inspiring exhibitions I’ve ever seen. These exhibitions have also been some of the most idiosyncratic ones I’ve had the pleasure to experience as well. More often than not, an exhibition in the Main Hall of the ACA is about visual abundance, unconventional presentation and curatorial experimentation that seems to mirror the rich visual and cultural landscape of South Louisiana itself. In the midst of all of this, somehow, the integrity of the work is maintained and even enhanced, which is paramount to any curatorial practice.
When it came to preparing for and installing “Prospect Lafayette,” we on the ACA curatorial team had to change our usual game plan. We typically begin planning our exhibitions with a profusion of work. We then whittle the exhibition down to it’s final form from there. Due to the budgetary restrictions that have gone into effect for the Prospect New Orleans Biennial this year (along with other issues such as plain-old timing and the fact that despite the smaller scale of this year’s biennial, it’s still a logistical juggernaut for all involved), we received a smaller amount of work than anticipated. This time around, we’d have to use everything we received in order to fill the exhibition space. This isn’t to say that what we received wasn’t worth inclusion, though. It just meant that we had to make it work with what we had, which can be as much if not more of a challenge than dealing with a surplus. The consensus was that we needed to treat the space as it would be treated in the major, cavernous galleries of New York City in respect for Cameron’s roots there – to give back to Cameron the same way he has given to New Orleans and Lafayette. We also faced a new challenge this time which we’ve never faced before: installing three separate videos in the exhibition.
The video for international superstar, Ragnar Kjartansson is receiving top billing in “Prospect Lafayette” as it is the debut of the artist’s work in the Prospect New Orleans Biennial. A video bay complete with black walls was put together for his work “Death and the Children,” a black and white video in which Kjartansson attempts to confront a gaggle of young summer camp students while impersonating Death. The artist’s impersonation is incredibly hokey, especially because it is evident that his scythe is made of paper. One of the children actually calls him on it. They follow and taunt him with irreverence and glee. At one point they call Kjartansson an “elf with a stick.” It’s not the deepest piece of art I’ve ever seen, but it makes for entertaining viewing and points to the naivete’ of the children and their inability to take death seriously, even in a graveyard.
Prospect 1.5 is represented by a handful of artists including Regina Scully, Jonathan Hicks and Tameka Norris. Scully presents two wonderful gestural abstractions. She is primarily interested in the hybridization of natural and man-made forms. Her works here call to mind the fusion of water with the movement and fragmentation of the city, and they have somewhat of a map-like feel. Scully manages to conjure all of this through a build up of tick-like brush strokes which seem to dance, slide, and skip across the canvas in a variety of hues atop an underlying pictorial structure.
Jonathan Hicks won top honors in my book with his triptych of performance based photographs. Hicks appropriates artist Robert Longo‘s iconic “Men in Cities” images to his own end. He realized that if he molded himself into the twisted poses of Longo’s “men,” the reading of the images would shift due to the color of his skin: he is African American. With this, Hicks was more than prescient. Upon my first contact with these pieces, the first thing that came to my mind was that they were images of a victim being shot to death, an inherently stereotypical meme that runs through our society and, apparently, my head. In pictures such as these, Hicks reveals the deeply engrained racism and prejudice hiding under the surface of his viewers. Another tip-off that these images are concerned with race is Hick’s choice of tie color in each photograph: green, red or black. Together, these are the colors of the Pan-African Flag, and Hick’s incorporates his tie colors into his titles so that the viewer doesn’t miss the point. Stunning, mind-expanding, and filled with pathos, these works of art are the real “stars” of the exhibition.
Tameka Norris’ “Post-Katrina Sunset” is the other video on display in the main space. In it, Norris wears a wrap around her head reminiscent of the headgear of the archetypal mammies of the Old South and African women. She struggles to stay afloat in a body of water while carrying a plastic bin. Her plight is accompanied by a violinist playing an anxiety-inducing solo on the nearby shore. As the title suggests, all the while, the sun sets on the grim scene. Norris seems to be commenting on the helplessness of the poverty-stricken African American population of New Orleans which suffered immensely in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. It is mythologized that Emperor Nero played a lyre while ancient Rome burned. I couldn’t help but draw a parallel between the figure of Nero and Norris’ violinist. Norris’s analogy is a metaphor for the perceived insouciance that African Americans felt from the white majority of the nation, especially as it pertains to the government, in response to the horrors of Katrina. “Post Katrina Sunset” is a devastating indictment of the intersection of racial prejudice and negligence in America.
The largest piece in the exhibition is from New Orleans own Willie Birch. His monumental black and white triptych “We Come This Far by Faith” commands and towers over a side wall of the gallery. It depicts an African American congregation, it’s original church in ruin due to the ravages of Hurricane Katrina and the new church the congregation built after the fact. It’s an impressive and articulate marriage of history and artistry. Yet, I was left yearning for Birch’s unframed, expansive paintings on paper of dancers and musicians in Congo Square which somehow feel more powerful, expressive and empowering than this work. The other large sidewall in the main gallery is anchored by Los Angeles artist Gaijin Fujita’s “Saints,” a painting of a fantasy mascot/kabuki warrior Fujita created in response to being overwhelmed by the devotion of New Orleanians to their beloved football team. Fujita brings together the traditional icongraphy of Japan and the visual language of Los Angeles street culture in his work, and “Saints,” despite being a nod to New Orleans is no different. The painting is visually impressive, but it lacks a certain amount of feeling in it’s slickness.
The rest of the main hall is rounded out by works from Fred Thomaselli, Navin Rawanchalkul, Paul Villinski, Danish art stars Superflex, Bruce Davenport, Jr., Dawn DeDeaux, and Robin Rhode. Drag art phenom Kalup Linzy’s “Keys to Our Heart” video is on view in the ACA’s Vault due to it’s “adult” content. The video is a black and white, soap operatic romp through the lives of four characters involved in a love quadrangle. Race, sexual identity, and the human desire for love and companionship are explored in the video. Linzy himself plays one of the female characters and provides the voice overs for all of the ensemble members. The artist has stated that soap operas have been a major influence on his work because watching them brought his family and his community together when he was a child. As such, the drama played out in “Keys to our Heart” is as over-the-top and stilted as any episode of “All My Children” or “As the World Turns.” Unfortunately, the conceit falls a little flat, making a passionate quest for love and understanding a bit of a comical farce.
So, we at the ACA got our piece of Prospect pie with some high-wattage artists to boot. Yet, there’s something about this exhibition that gnaws at me. Despite the occasional moments of excitement in some of the pieces such as the pomp and festivity of Bruce Davenport, Jr.’s fifteen-foot parade drawing or the grace and inventiveness of Paul Villinski’s “Boxed Birds” made from vintage LP’s, this exhibition is haunted. It’s haunted by disaster: the natural, the cultural and the financial kind. These specters of disaster taint everything. The show on the whole is a bit sullen and austere in tone and presentation, especially when compared to the liveliness of previous exhibitions. It seems to me that the life has been sucked out of the hall, and no matter how I look at it, this feeling doesn’t subside for very long. It doesn’t help that there are a lot of things in this exhibition that I like, yet very few that I love. I felt a little hope for a different perspective while I listened to Dan Cameron speak about the exhibition in the hall during his gallery talk on Friday, November 18. He brought a personal touch to the exhibition and filled us in on more of the history and connections these works share with the biennial.
However, as I write and reflect on “Propsect Lafayette” today, it’s as if the dark hand of recent history has laid the exhibition hall bare, and we are all exposed as well. It’s as if the whole exhibition is an extrapolation of Robin Rhode’s spare post-Katrina photograph “St. Bernard Parish.” This photograph is the true heart of “Prospect Lafayette.” When we at the ACA received “St. Bernard Parish,” it was unframed and without any means of support for hanging. We made a shelf for it, and protected it behind a sheet of plexiglass. Now, this image silently presides over a trip back into darkness. It’s a strange and foreboding journey for an exhibition that is meant to celebrate the history of the most momentous artistic achievement in Louisiana’s history. I suppose it was foolish to think that Louisiana’s more unpleasant history and death itself could be cheated in an exhibition like this. After all, the major impetus for Prospect New Orleans was the need for the city to recover from the devastation and despair of Hurricane Katrina. With “Prospect Lafayette,” the horror of recent history and the cold hand of death hover over this trip back in time and are closer than they seem. They whisper in one’s ear, veil one’s eyes, cut to the quick and make a home in one’s bones, even as the celebration of Prospect New Orleans 2 just begins to take flight. I suppose the gnawing I’m feeling is my inability to fully reconcile between the two modes – to find a comfortable place to rest my mind amidst the triumph and the bleakness of the recent past. Maybe that’s the great lesson and blessing of “Prospect Lafayette?” To vacillate between joy and despair is to be open to all that life has to offer until one stops and begins to see the world for what it really is: a great emptiness pregnant with possibility.
Now, can I get a “Laissez les bons temps roulez?” This is Louisiana after all, and no matter what, it’s always the appropriate response – whatever trip one is on.
by Reggie Michael Rodrigue
Our friends, my wife and I were returning to the Good Children Gallery from a surreal, hallucinatory and mind-altering visit to the Prospect.2 Satellite exhibition at the Pearl, a St. Claude residence/speak easy/artistic petri dish. We were making our way through the darkened streets of the St. Claude Arts District. On their own, these streets take on a dream-like life in the dim embrace of the night. The side streets off St. Claude Avenue are tight, cluttered and poorly kept. Yet, the houses are painted in a kaleidoscope of celebratory colors which one can dimly make out under the streetlights. Colored lights installed on porches and inside living rooms and bedrooms add a festive, yet lurid glow to the surroundings. On streets like these, one can imagine meeting the love of a lifetime, a killer, God, or the Devil himself. Our trip to the Pearl only served to heighten my awareness of all the nocturnal beauty and danger that surrounded us. I felt like a cat. My senses were taut as violin string and ready to vibrate at the slightest provocation.
We were in the midst of making a right onto St. Claude Avenue, when we saw it. My friends, Brian Guidry and Emee Morgan, and my wife were openly wondering what all the fuss was about. We could see something slowly creeping up the avenue toward us, followed by the deep blue strobe of police lights. What felt like instantaneous recognition took hold of me. Unfolding before us was artist William Pope L.‘s performance of “Blink.” I started shouting and blurting out all I knew about the performance so that they would realized the significance of what they were seeing. I thought we would just drive past so I shoved my smart phone into Emee’s hands, instructing her to film the performance because she had the ideal drive-by vantage point from our car. Luckily, our driver, Brian, decided to stop the car – right in the middle of an intersection! It was a moment of pure frenzy, exhilaration and anticipation. We jumped out of the car, and Emee started shooting the video above.
A group of people emerged from the inky night like a team of sled dogs bursting forth from behind a black curtain. They were towing a black, used ice cream truck, which Pope L. has used in previous performances. The truck actually still works; however, the artist decided to have his volunteers tow the truck through the city to make an artistic point. After the team of volunteers towed the truck past us, we could see the slide show of images projected on a screen, mounted on the back of the truck. We were left with an image of a carousel horse followed by an image of a street car. A police car slowly followed “Blink” back into the depths of the night. All that remained before us was a line of traffic and memories of a lonely parade float throwing hope and inspiration to a city in need of it.
Pope L. specifically conceived of “Blink” as a performance/installation for the Prospect. 2 Biennial. Beforehand, he put out a call for New Orleanians to send him pictures in response to two simple questions: “When you dream of New Orleans, what do you dream?” and “When you wake up, what do you see?” Pope L. received over 750 images to be put into the ice cream truck slideshow which is meant to act as a magic lantern for the city through the entire run of Prospect. 2. It’s final destination is a site on the campus of Xavier University in Mid City. First, the volunteers had to tow it there from the performance’s starting point in the Bywater District, however. The volunteers spent the entire opening night towing the truck across the city – a herculean task if ever there was one.
Pope L. is an internationally recognized multi-media artist who deals with issues of racial identity, human rights, class and consumerism. He has gone on record, stating that “Blink” is about celebration, struggle and community. Watching the performance drift by us that night, I couldn’t agree more. I felt all three in my bones that night. I would have felt them without seeing “Blink,” after all, these are the major themes of New Orleans itself. However, being there that night – being fortunate enough to see it with my own eyes – both amplified and solidified these ideas and feelings in my mind and my soul. “Blink” left an indelible mark on me that I think I will carry for the rest of my life.
William Pope L.’s “Blink” is on view at 3520 Pine Street in the Xavier University Arts Village until the close of Prospect.2 in January.
Acrylic and Oil on Canvas
33″ x 40.5′
on view in the exhibition “Hit Refresh” at Good Children Gallery, St. Claude Arts District, 4037 St. Claude Ave., New Orleans, LA 70117 until December 4, 2011 when the exhibition will be “refreshed” with new curation and altered installation
*** Author’s note: In order to read a full review of “Hit Refresh,” please see the earlier post titled “‘Hit Refresh’ at Good Children Gallery: Too Much of a ‘Good’ Thing” on this site.
by Reggie Michael Rodrigue
Author’s note: Please see the earlier post “Prospect New Orleans 2: Digging for Gold in the Crescent City (Part 1)” on this site for the beginning of this story
Our visit to the Ogden Museum of Southern Art was complete, and the afternoon was turning into the evening. Time was not our friend at the moment. My wife and I made a b-line for Julia Street which is the main thoroughfare through the traditional Arts District in NOLA where most of the blue-chip galleries are. The promise of Arthur Roger Gallery, Gallery Bienvenu and the Heriard-Cimino Gallery dangled in front of my nose. I especially wanted to see what was inside Arthur Roger Gallery: An exhibition of photography and sculpture by famed film-provocateur John Waters and the multi-media art of rising New Orleans art star Dave Greber who has his roots in the St. Claude Arts District as a member of the Front Gallery. Alas, we got to Julia Street and every gallery was closed. All we could do is look through the windows and doors of the darkened and vacant spaces and sigh.
Throughout all of this, my wife was becoming increasingly hungrier and suffering from a headache. To be honest, I was dealing with one too, but I was medicating myself with regular doses of ibuprofen, regardless of whether I had food in my stomach or not. I’m stupid that way. In my jacked-up mode of thinking, art takes precedence over the well-being of my stomach lining. Anyway, I love my wife unconditionally, but she has a tendency to not take care of herself when the time is right, which would have been in the lull between arriving in NOLA and waiting for entrance into our hostel. We were in a dilemma. I figured the only easy way to obtain food for us was to sit down at a restaurant in the area we were in or somewhere in the French Quarter because the next destination was the St. Claude Arts District, and I’ve heard that it’s a notoriously difficult place to find a meal, especially since I was unfamiliar with the area. However, we also had to find a way to get down to the Prospect New Orleans 2 Visitors Center quick so that we could get onto a shuttle to St. Claude. For some reason, I felt that with every minute that passed, the chances of getting a map and a shuttle from the center seemed to dwindle.
We decided to hail a cab from Julia St. to Rampart and Esplanade. $10 later, we arrived only to find that the Prospect New Orleans Visitors Center had just closed ten minutes earlier. A couple from Houston was stranded there as well. They were talking to some guy who I thought was a volunteer. He was on the phone with somebody, telling them about our predicament. That’s when we learned that we could have boarded a shuttle from the W Hotel in the Arts District – the f*#king district we just left! Thanks CAC volunteers!!!
Just as I was about to blow a gasket, Stephanie Patton and Brian Guidry drive by and spot us. Both are artists who divide there time between NOLA and Lafayette. Both of them are also close friends to my wife and myself. They end up making the block and picking my wife and I up to whisk us to St. Claude. Patton and Guidry both had openings at their respective galleries on St. Claude that night. I felt really bad about leaving the Houston couple behind, but all of a sudden, time and space began to bend. We were in warp speed and couldn’t quibble about the misfortune of strangers.
We arrived at Stephanie Patton’s gallery, the Front, which is a co-op run by a handful of NOLA artists. Most of the galleries in the St. Claude Arts district operate in the same way with member artists taking on the duties of being the galerist and curator for the exhibitions as well as producing the art. On display in the gallery was Patton’s solo exhibition “General Hospital.” The exhibition is a poignant and funny visual exploration of the healing process which necessarily needs to take place after tragedy strikes. Inside the gallery, viewers are treated to some of the most well-crafted objects on display at P.2. Pills, a door, a pair of angel wings, a large curvilinear spiral and handmade lettering which spells out “Friends Forever” are hung exquisitely on the walls. Each object is made from either mattress covering or white, vinyl leather that has been upholstered. However, the centerpiece of the exhibition is Patton’s 1 hour and 50 minute long video of the artist squeezing lemons, making lemonade and then stuffing the used rinds with cotton batting and sewing them up so as to make them “whole” again. The whole video is based on the colloquialism “making lemons into lemonade” or turning tragedy into triumph, and it is riveting. As far as exhibitions go as a whole, “General Hospital” was the best/most well thought-out one I saw on my trip to P.2. The proof came in the fact that Patton had sold four pieces from the exhibition. Two now belonged to gallerist Arthur Roger and a well-respected collector from Los Angeles.
Also on view at the Front, was a strange group project from the co-op members that staked it’s claim on the back yard. They called it “The Crave”: a combination of the words cave and rave. It was a hastily built geodesic dome made of PVC pipe, visqueen, and god knows what else that housed an air conditioner, some really DIY sculpture that looked like refuse turned into a vase of flowers and a ring of stalagmites, and a watery video projection. Musical accompaniment was provided by a DJ right outside of it. The first thing that came to my mind was the phrase “underground disco oil spill.” I found out that this was the second version of “The Crave.” The Front members had actually built another one that had been destroyed by 40 mph winds the week before. The whole thing was ridiculous, but well appreciated.
Next up, we heard that a local BBQ entrepreneur had set up shop in front of the Good Children Gallery across the street. It was definitely time to eat! My wife and I made our way over there like white lightning. The food was looking good, but he didn’t have anything to drink, so while my wife waited on our BBQ, I made my way to a local convenience store to buy some water. I got a little bourbon while I was there, too! *** For future reference, if any of you ever want to impress this critic, giving me bourbon is a great place to start.*** So I returned to the sidewalk before the gallery just in time for the BBQ to be ready! My wife and I found a spot next door on a stoop to eat, and we tore into our food like rabid wolves! It was like BBQ from Heaven!
After our stoop BBQ, I noticed that there was something going on right beside us between the stoop and the gallery next door. Surprise! A pop-up gallery had just popped-up in the garage right by us while we were eating! It was the Rusty Pelican Gallery, owned and operated by the couple who owned the stoop we were just sitting on. I walked into the garage-come-gallery to find a wonderland of mechanical and light sculptures made from old rusty metal, incandescent lights, doll parts, and other assorted detritus. There were also some really good paintings and drawings inside. My wife and I were so impressed, we bought 2 really cool, metal scull, refrigerator magnets to remember the place.
Next, we entered the Good Children Gallery. It was a zoo inside! St. Claude had hit its stride by this point, and the place was filled with people. This made it really difficult to document the work there, but I managed for the most part. Each individual piece from the Good Children co-op members was good, but they could have stood to have more breathing room for the disparate works on display. The exhibition seemed cramped and disjointed. That’s the ever-present problem with group shows in small spaces. I’m sure the amount of people packed intot he place didn’t help either. But there were some pieces that stood out for me. Artist Lala Rancik takes top honors for her comic black and white, split-screen video of herself doing slapstick in an antique domestic setting. Srdjan Loncar provided a funny piece about a fictitious business which “fixes” broken things by covering them with photographs to make them look fixed. The artist duo Generic Art Solutions displayed two of their light boxes which incorporate somewhat holographic pictures of policemen in what I thought was riot gear. These images reminded me of the Ring Wraiths in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. They pack a punch and are unbelievably menacing, despite having a strip club marquee feel to them as well. Brian Guidry’s lone painting in the show was an abstract, hard-edged, precisionist master stroke as well, which separated it from the pack.
After our visit to Good Children, my wife and I took a trip with Brian Guidry and artist Emee Morgan to the Pearl, a home/speak easy that had been converted to an art venue as well. We arrived at the intersection that the Pearl is located on, and Brian said jokingly while pointing to various residences, “It’s not this mansion, or this one, or this one! It’s this place with all the junk and the weeds!” Indeed it was, Brian! Indeed it was! We walked up a set of old wooden stairs into an ante-chamber overflowing with art and junk. It was dark and it was hard to distinguish one from the other. Occasionally, I would find an exhibition card that announced that what I was looking at was art. Once, I got further into the Pearl, the things that stood out from the miasma of it all were the videos which were all over the place. It felt like the house/speak easy/gallery was somewhere between dead and alive. It was dreamy and unreal, yet so in-your-face! Most of the place was only lit by ambient light coming from colored lights and the video projections. The place seemed to be an endless maze of sights and sounds, some comforting some creepy, some downright gut-wrenching. It was everything I needed from the biennial but I didn’t know I needed. The work was crammed into this space, lost among all the domesticity and the junk, but it didn’t matter because it worked as a whole. You could even get a drink there and order some food from fully stocked kitchen! It was amazing! It said everything one needs to know about New Orleans in the 21st century, and I loved it! I was so impressed with it, that a took a video of the whole spectacle from the front door to the back yard, and I’ll be posting it soon! Some of the highlights for me were Coutney Egan’s film projection of flowers in bloom in the bath tub inside the bathroom, Brian Guidry’s edited video of an episode of “Wild Kingdom,” Dave Greber’s video of ridiculously happy cult members on the beach after the oil spill, Lee Deigaard’s peekaboo videos in the central hallway, a video of a white South African artist making himself vulnerable to the black South Africans who congregate around him on the streets of what I think is Johannesburg, Anastasia Pelias’ devilishly clever three channel video that turns the consoling words and rhythms of her favorite oyster shucker into a psychotic, post-oil spill rant and a weird little installation in the middle of the Pearl that involves some kind of monster sculpture behind a window – I think!?! No matter, in THIS cramped space, it all worked and became a seamless gesamtkunstwerk that is a triumph, and a credit to all involved. I left the pearl with my mind blown wide open, which is good because it made me ready for what happened next.
As we pulled up to St. Claude St on our way back to Good Children, we saw IT … and IT was like vision, a dream within a dream. The minute we saw IT, we stopped in the middle of the intersection, and abandoned our vehicle. IT was a black truck being pulled by a team of people down St. Claude Avenue, emerging out of the darkness into the surrounding light from the street lamps and neon signs. I’ve never seen anything like IT. This was artist William Pope.L’s “Blink.” As it moved by us, I could barely take a breath. Once the truck was past, I could see the slideshow of images that had been mounted to the back of the truck: a selection of images curated from images that had been sent to Pope.L from New Orleanians responding to the questions “What do you dream, when you dream of New Orleans?’ and “What do you see when you wake up?” It was incredibly moving, and I’ll never forget the experience.
Emee left us to return to a friend’s house to sleep. She was exhausted from a full half a week of assisting with interviews of art insiders for Joy Glidden’s PBS show “Art Index.” We promised each other we’d meet up for coffee the next morning.
After all was said and done … after all the openings … and all the spectacle … after all the art talk … after midnight, Brian Guidry, Stephanie Patton, my wife and I made our fumbling way down to the Lost Love Lounge for some excellent Vietnamese food and drinks (we got lost on the way there). Some of the Good Children and the Front artists met us there. We met the “Sex Ponies” while we were there. They were a group of Amazonian women wearing skin-tight vinyl, corsets, horse-bridles with long ponytails dangling off their rears and mohawk manes. They canoodled with the patrons. At one point, the chef got one of the buttons on his shirt caught in one of their tails. There was also this girl dressed in 1940’s garb doing jigs, “dropping it like it’s hot,” and pole dancing very poorly to the music on the jukebox. The funny thing was that the music was generally down tempo, if not depressing. One of the songs she was dancing to was Johnny Cash’s cover of the NIN classic “Hurt.” Only in New Orleans …
We left the Lost Love Lounge hung over from the whole day but at peace with what we accomplished. Brian and Stephanie returned us to our hostel, and we said goodnight. I turned the key to the lock on the front door of The St. Vincent Guest House. It didn’t work. Another guest was with us: the staff had neglected to give him a key to the front door. We felt a little defeated. Then, another guest who had been staying there longer walked up and helped us. “You have to pull the latch while you turn the key, ” he said. We walked in, said our “thank you’s” and retired to our room to dream dreams of Crescent City Gold in complete exhaustion and satisfaction.
Author’s Note: Stay tuned for Part 3: Coffee Talk, sunday in the T-LOT, Staple Goods, running out of steam in the Quarter and what it all meant. Plus in-depth reviews and pics and videos of all the P.2 Exhibitions I’ve seen so far!