Tagged: installation

Dumpsta Divin’ for Pearls

by Reggie Michael Rodrigue

Dumpstaphunk.  It’s a band: a New Orleans band, to be exact.  It is headed by Ivan Neville, who descends from New Orleans musical royalty.  If you haven’t heard of him or guessed yet, Ivan is Aaron Neville’s son and a nephew to the rest of the Neville Brothers.  You could say that the Neville Brothers represent a hefty brick in the foundation of contemporary New Orleans music.  They, along with Dr. John, are the progenitors of  a mix of soul and funk that typified Crescent City music in the 70’s and the 80’s.  The Neville Brothers’ legacy flows through Ivan’s Dumpstaphunk: a heady, sweaty, stanky (this is no typo) fusion of musicians and musical styles that coalesce under the banner of funk.  It’s dirty music for a good time in a downtown dumpster, and it typifies the aesthetic of New Orleans.  Pick up two, three or four pieces of funkiness, slap ’em together and make some magic.

You may be wondering why I’m going on about Dumpstaphunk.  Isn’t this an art blog after all!?!  Yes it is!  However,  the aesthetic of Ivan Neville’s band has much in common with the multimedia installation/group exhibition/mindf*!k I’m about to school you on.  Its title is “Constant Abrasive Irritation Produces the Pearl: A Disease of the Oyster.”  The irreverently reverent title comes from a quip rebel comedian Lenny Bruce made about the state and function of artists in repressive societies.  Bruce correctly identified that, for the powers that be, artists generally represent a disease on the body politic, even though they typically bring beauty, truth, meaning and/or fresh perspectives into the world.

The exhibition is currently running at the residence/speak easy/restaurant/exhibition space known as The Pearl in the St. Claude Arts District of NOLA.  Jay, the owner, in conjunction with curator John Otte, decided the Bruce quip would be the perfect title for an unconventional group exhibition at the Pearl (wink-wink, nudge-nudge), which is a satellite space for this year’s Prospect New Orleans 2 Biennial.

Walking into the Pearl in the midst of  “Constant Abrasive Irritation Produces the Pearl: A Disease of the Oyster” is like walking into the visual equivalent of Dumpstaphunk.  The place is loaded to the rafters with old junk, modern technology, personal mementos, home furnishings, a bar, a kitchen and a ton of art that either jumps out and grabs you by the eyeballs or sinks into the miasma of it all in the warm and woozy darkness of the space.  Every nook and cranny is chock-full of funky goodness, so much so that it’s difficult to differentiate what is art and what is not at times.  There are exhibition cards that accompany each piece of art, but like everything else in the Pearl, they tend to be consumed by the overwhelming profusion of it all.  The things that do pop-out from the din are the videos, which are deployed on walls, in the bathroom, behind doors, on the ceiling, on screens and television sets, over a jacuzzi and even inside a trash heap.  It’s as if the television program “Hoarders” were presenting a “very special” edition devoted to psychotic art collectors, and it is pure unbelievable, unrestrained f*!king New Orleans genius of the highest caliber!

The artists participating in the exhibition are Adrina Drina, Johnathan Bouknight, Susannah Bridges-Burley, Elliot Coon, John Curry, Dawn A DeDeaux, Lee Deigaard, Jessica Goldfinch, Kim Phillips, Courtney Egan, Margaret Evangeline, Fereydoon Family, Jessica Goldfinch, Dave Greber, Brain Guidry, Sally Heller, Kathleen Loe, Aristides Logothetis, Jenifer Odem, John Otte, Anastasia Pelias, Michele Schuff, Gary Stephan, Paige Valente, and Dalona Wardlaw.

It’s truly difficult and unfair to point out individual artists’ works that surpassed others in the exhibition since the whole crew deserves acclaim.  However, a few noteworthy pieces come to mind.   Unfortunately, I couldn’t spend the enormous amount of time I needed to get all the details of the exhibition down the night I visited.

So, here’s a haphazard and incomplete list of the art that struck me.

First and foremost, Courtney Egan’s video projection of flowers blooming in the Pearl’s bathtub.  OMG!  This piece is STUNNING! It is a poetic marriage of technology, nature and site specificity that will forever be running in one corner of my mind for the rest of my life!

Aristides Logothetis’ mixed media collages, referring to money and guns and shrink-wrapped in plastic, are chilling and discreet reminders of the darkness, violence and insatiable greed and desperation lurking in the shadows of the city.  Conversely, Lee Diegaard’s small scale fauna-related videos in the hallway and behind a door were a surprising treat.

An oval video showcasing a continuous and wavy reflection of leaves in water that was being shown in the barroom was mesmerizing.  I believe Dawn Dedeaux produced this one, but I’m not entirely sure.  A truly exquisite and unusual abstract painting involving crystals and torn canvas (I don’t know who completed it) was also in the barroom along with a powerful “chevron” painting from Brian Guidry.  An edited version of the 70’s nature program “Wild Kingdom” by Guidry is also on display.  The artist deleted all the human speech from the program which focuses on Jane Goodall’s African gorilla research.  The editing underscores the unnatural and stilted behavior of humans in a natural setting.

In the side yard, a really powerful and anxiety-inducing video by a performance artist was on view.  In the video the white artist exposes himself through a chain-link fence to a crowd of black people in what I believe is South Africa.  They begin to write on his body.  Some of the writing is hopeful and inspirational, while others are vindictive and malicious.  While viewing, I was wondering if a shanking was about to go down, but that never came.  In a city like New Orleans, where black and white people work and play so closely together, yet are still so far apart in many ways, the video really hit home .  We still have a long way to go in terms of racial equality, and there are no easy solutions, reparations or punishments to hand out.  The video posits that what is required is a sincere willingness to open oneself to another in the face of fear and any illusion of separateness.

Anastasia Pelias’ three channel, schizophrenic video mash-up of her favorite oyster shucker consoling her while shucking after the BP oil spill is anything but reassuring.  It’s proximity to the kitchen gives one some pause about what’s going on in there.  Jennifer Odom’s white sculpture beside Pelias’ film looks like a barnacle encrusted cushion devouring a stool.

Last but certainly not least, is Dave Greber’s insanely clever video which satirizes the fact that many people want to cover-up the horrors of the BP Oil Spill and forget about it.  In this giddy video, a cadre of smiling people dressed in white walk hand-in-hand on the post-spill beach while flowers bloom around the video’s edges.  It called “Join Us Today.”

In the rush of my night in the St. Claude Arts District, in the chaos of the short time that I spent at The Pearl, I lost track of many things.  I didn’t have time to make sense of all the chaos.  However, looking back on “Constant Abrasive Irritation Produces the Pearl: A Disease of the Oyster,”  I see a microcosm of everything that I love and hate about New Orleans, everything that time forgot and the future has yet to reveal.  This exhibition is an artistic crossroads and nexus point from which all the currents of the Crescent City flow.  It’s a monumental achievement housed in a dive bar and a love letter to the city written on faded and crumbling walls.  Long live the dumpstaphunk!  May we find the pearls of wisdom in it every time we dive in! Abrasions, be damned!

The exhibition began on Saturday October 22, 2011 and will remain open on Saturdays and Sundays (5 pm – 9 pm) and by appointment. In addition, The Pearl will serve as a gathering place for the public throughout the Prospect 2 run. Tapas, drinks, coffee and tea will be served every Saturday and Sunday 5pm – 9pm. Additional Sunday night Pearl parties to be announced.

Pearl Lounge

639 Desire St. (Royal and Desire)
New Orleans, LA
*** I’d like to thank artist JJ Wilson for his assistance with this video!  He did a great job editing a train wreck of a video that was mighty wonky due to my video ineptitude.  Learning curves – gotta love ’em!
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In the “Blink” of an Eye: William Pope L.’s “Blink” in Prospect.2

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.

WNFG in “Parallel Play” at T-Lot

WNFG

“Mind The Gap”

site specific installation: plexiglass, spray paint, construction adhesive, plywood

2011

on view in the group exhibition “Parallel Play” at T-Lot, 1940 Saint Claude Ave., New Orleans, from Friday, October 14 at 6:00pm – Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 10:00pm

Author’s note:  To read a review of “Parallel Play” at T-Lot, go to the previous post titled “Our Backyard Kicks Your Backyard’s Ass: ‘Parallel Play” at T-lot” here on “louisianaesthetic.”

Natalie McLaurin in “Parallel Play” at T-Lot

Natalie McLaurin

“Casing”

resin and fabric/readymade

2011

Natalie McLaurin

“I Thought You Were a Plastic Bag”

media withheld

2011

Natalie McLaurin

“Excellent Scissor Skills”

media withheld

2011

Natalie McLaurin

“What I Left and Gave Away NYC>NOLA”

media withheld

2011

on view in the group exhibition “Parallel Play” at T-Lot, 1940 Saint Claude Ave., New Orleans, from Friday, October 14 at 6:00pm – Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 10:00pm

Author’s note:  To read a review of “Parallel Play” at T-Lot, go to the previous post titled “Our Backyard Kicks Your Backyard’s Ass: ‘Parallel Play” at T-lot” here on “louisianaesthetic.”

 

 

Stephen Kwok and Dave Greber in “Parallel Play” at T-Lot

Stephen Kwok and Dave Greber

“Alt”

wood, sand, digital projection, video projection (missing at the moment this pic was taking) and items donated by viewers

2011

on view in the group exhibition “Parallel Play” at T-Lot, 1940 Saint Claude Ave., New Orleans, from Friday, October 14 at 6:00pm – Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 10:00pm

Author’s note:  To read a review of “Parallel Play” at T-Lot, go to the previous post titled “Our Backyard Kicks Your Backyard’s Ass: ‘Parallel Play” at T-lot” here on “louisianaesthetic.”

Our Backyard Kicks Your Backyard’s Ass: “Parallel Play” at the T-Lot

by Reggie Michael Rodrigue

On a bright and breezy Sunday afternoon – the day after the opening of the Prospect New Orleans Biennial to be exact – my wife and I made our first visit to T-Lot, a Prospect 2 Satellite in the St. Claude Arts District.  If you don’t already know, T-Lot is a little different than most art spaces in the city.   It’s actually a little different than most art spaces on the planet.  That’s because T-Lot is the only space that I know of that encompasses studio spaces and 8000+ square feet of backyard in the shape of a “T” that can converted into exhibition space.   This ain’t ya mama’s art gallery!  It’s more like your insane cousin’s! You know: the one who’s always trying to build rocket ships out of grain silo parts in his backyard and smells like cheetos and red bull … and oooooh, this so makes the difference!

We were there to see the exhibition “Parallel Play,” the second annual installment of communal T-Lot madness in which members and a select group of their fellow New Orleans peers blanket the entire compound with art.  The “front desk” was an unmanned folding table laid out on gravel in the “neck” of the T.  We walked a little further into the yard, and found T-Lot members Stephen Kwok and Natalie McLaurin hanging out on a set of bleachers under an avocado tree that occasionally sent an avocado or two to dive bomb the surrounding area.   Apparently, Kwok and McLaurin were gallery sitting for the day, and they took turns assisting us graciously throughout our stay there.

We were told by them to go back to the “front desk” and avail ourselves of the exhibition list/numbered map.  There was quite a lot to see, and it was scattered all over.  To follow the list meant criss-crossing the lot over and over again, but that didn’t matter because it was like some demented scavenger hunt for art that was pretty kooky and fun.  The adjacent neighbors only added to the fun, playing accidental DJ for us while we checked out the art.  A stream of funk and rap bounced into the T-Lot from their yard.  Natalie McLaurin said they didn’t mind their neighbors, and their neighbors didn’t mind them.  They both liked to party:  T-lot’s neighbors are Mardi Gras Indians.  In fact, we missed the big party/opening they had the night before.  Another unfortunate thing was the fact that some of the art was not fully functional because they involved performances or video projections that weren’t possible to duplicate in the light of that day. It was made clear to us that “Parallel Play” requires a little bit of shadow play as well.  We were sad to hear the news, but there was still a whole lot to enjoy.

Surprisingly, the piece that my wife and I enjoyed the most was a piece that wasn’t complete when we saw it!  Stephen Kwok and Dave Greber created an alter titled “Alt” that was a ziggurat with terraced sand pits installed in a tent.   The artists littered the thing with LED tea lights (all but one of them were out by the time we got there).  There was supposed to be a video projection by Greber at the top of it, but that was missing.  What was left behind though were “offerings:”  loose change, a coffee mug, ink pens, a note book, condemns, an empty aluminum can, a hammer, a cigarette lighter and an empty cigarette pack, etc.  Kwok and Greber left instructions in the tent for visitors to leave an “offering” on the alter, something that they felt they could part with.  The whole set up was both pathetic and incredibly awesome at the same time.  It was also quite beautiful just as it was.  My wife and I spent quite a bit of time perusing the sand pits, looking for interesting “offerings” and wondering about the people who left them behind.  For me, it felt like ancient history and the present had collapsed into this piece, into one moment of classical elegance and contemporary abandonment.  I spent a little bit of time wondering what it looked like the night before with all the LED’s a glow and one of Greber’s colorfully schizophrenic videos burning on top of the alter.  The thought of it, and it made me smile.  My wife left an old, empty bottle of Nasonex for posterity.

Kwok had some other smart things on view in the two-story studio all the way at the far end of the “T.”  Kwok knows that sometimes it’s the simplest things that make the biggest impact, and with “FFF” he makes that point.  It is a sculptural installation of three white pedestals  topped with three different forms of cream: powdered creamer, moisturizing cream and heavy whipping cream.  God only knows why this was so interesting, but it was, and my wife was shocked to see the whipping cream atop one of the pedestals tremble when she walked.  What was so surprising to me was how such an austere conceptual piece made us feel like kids in kindergarten: “Kids this is cream, C-R-E-A-M!  Can you say cream?” Another great piece by Kwok was “Results, ” a white long-sleeved shirt decked out in countless homemade pinback buttons with various images and symbols on them.  It seemed like the entire world was buttoned to this shirt, and I thought it was an appropriate symbol for the kind of lives we lead today with not only our hearts but the world hanging on our sleeves.  Lastly, Kwok  presented a video called “Fixed” from his website.  It is a grid of staring competitions involving Kwok, recorded over video chat.  It’s proof that when we humans acquire great technology, ultimately it gets put to the silliest uses – sometimes rightly so.

Hannah Chalew presented a handful of works, all concerned with overgrowth and/or derelict spaces.  A topic close to every New Orleanian’s heart.    Her sculpture “Odin St. Takeover Part II” stood triumphant on its stilt legs, the paper house on top of it seeming to succumb to the elements of time and nature.  With Chalew, nature always has the upper hand.  She drapes an entire wall in the studio with handmade vine camouflage.  A couple of exquisite drawings of derelict spaces line the walls.  A beautiful collage/painting/wall sculpture titled “Intertwined”  delineates the planes of two houses with Chalew’s handmade “vines” without ever giving the viewer a glimpse of the homes themselves.   A lone  “vine” crosses the gulf between the two invisible houses.  Also on view outside is an arbor titled “Relict Landscape” which is made of actual vines planted in the ground and completed with a bench on which viewers can sit and peer out from under the arbor.  Chalew is branching out – literally.

Sadly, I felt the work of Natalie McLaurin deployed in the studio space and outside didn’t compare to the work I’ve seen from her in the past.  She offered two  sculptures of hardened clothing made possible by dipping them in resin.  These sculptures also had lights inside of them that we missed out on.  They hung from trees.  Inside, McLaurin offered some perfunctory drawings that suffered in comparison to Chalew’s which were near.  A sculpture of a cast of legs in jeans and sneakers and topped off by a paper bag stood near Mc Laurin’s drawings.  It made me yearn for one of the artist’s similar pieces with handmade bird wings instead.   One piece that could have worked was a piece of black fabric with mutliple, linear cuts across it.  It suffered from a poor presentation on another sheet of fabric.  I think if it would have been on a hard surface like a wall, it would have read better.  There was another installation of McLaurin’s concerning  what McLaurin left or gave away during her move from New York City to New Orleans, involving small sketches of these items placed in plastic sheets.  This piece lacked something in presentation as well, and I lost interest pretty quickly.   I was a little dejected.  All the poetry of the last work I saw from McLaurin was drained from this work.  What was worse was that she was being such an amazing host to us!  I felt like a heel and still do as I write this, but I gotta call ’em like I see ’em.  So sorry, Nat.

Another disappointment was Angela Berry’s sculpture “Biology of the Everyday,” a wooden and cement DNA strand that had about as much life as a neglected coat rack, although it did look like some kind of playground device from the 50’s that could poke a child’s eye out.  Other playground-looking sculptures faired a little better, but not by a whole lot.  James Goedert’s mutant ladder wasn’t so visually exciting.  It was simply a wooden ladder with one extremely long side that still didn’t manage to get one very far up in the air.  Yet, it’s title provided a good punchline: “So Long for So Little.”  Aah, conceptual sculpture jokes!  Katie Lerin’s “WARP//WEFT” was a jungle gym disguised as a weaving loom, or so it looked.  It was just OK.

I really dug Z Bhel’s “Wooden Army,” a mix of free-standing paintings of people on luan.  There was a pothead in the army, and everybody knows potheads are good for a laugh.  I imagine they must have been fun in the middle of all the  people who gathered on opening night.  I can imagine people bumping into them and apologizing to the sculptures.

Amanda Cassingham presented a performance in the form of a pamphlet advertizing the opportunity for the viewer to receive a cookie through the mail for a payment of $3.14 if they feel they “deserve” it.  This tongue in cheek offer was just ridiculous enough to pique our interest.  We snatched up a “Special Offer” pamphlet and plan on testing this capitalist/ social experiment soon.

I came to the conclusion that Jason Childers is the newest incarnation of Mr. Wizard.  His sculpture “XY, ZX,YZ”  is two squares made of thin lumber slats bisecting one another.  One is vertically oriented while the other is horizontal.  What looks like a low-rent, DIY minimalist snooze turns out to be an ingenious sculpture that is also a contraption of daVinci-like proportions.  The center of the sculpture is occupied by a shaft connected to ropes which are also connected to the lumber slats that form the squares.   Childers assembled the sculpture without the use of nails or glue.  He simply cranked the shaft in the center, and the tension exerted on the ropes pulled the squares together to form the final sculpture.  Who says art isn’t a science and science isn’t an art?  It’s sure not Jason Childers.  Granted, it took an explanation for me to even give this thing a second look, but I love it now!

Another artist who blew me away was Elizabeth McLellan, who presented a few large-scale drawings on paper on one of the fences in the back yard. Using charcoal, sediment and natural pigments, she conjured a world of decay and apocalypse that, despite the subject matter, was beautiful to behold.  In the drawings old homes and streets succumb to epic dust clouds in a mix deft representation and sublime abstraction.  Stunning!

My wife and I almost missed the last piece of the show, a prismatic and mirrored tour through an alleyway the follows the side and back of the two-story studio.  The piece is attributed to WNFG and is titled “Mind the Gap.”  I have a suspicion that WNFG is referring to the treachery of trying to walk down the alley which included a one to two foot drop on one side.  Whatever, the case, it was a great little installation that cocooned us in color, light, sky, dirt and images of ourselves, and was the perfect end to our visit to the T-Lot.

There were other pieces of art at T-lot that were OK. There were pieces that were completely missing.   I’ll leave all of these to rest.

On the whole, exploring T-Lot’s adult playground was a fantastic experience, and yes – their backyard definitely kicks your backyard’s ass – unless you have one of those giant pools with a light show and a volcano or something!  Then, you win.

“Parallel Play” is on view  at T-Lot, 1940 Saint Claude Ave., New Orleans, from Friday, October 14 at 6:00pm – Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 10:00pm

“The Crave” at The Front on the Prospect New Orleans 2 Biennial Opening Night

On view in the backyard of The Front in New Orleans, some of The Front’s artist members created “The Crave:” a ramshackle geodesic dome made from PVC, visqueen and god knows what else.  The title comes from combining the words “cave” and “rave.”  Inside “The Crave,” there was an air conditioner, and two sloppy sculptures: one looked like a vase of flowers made from refuse and one looked like a ring of stalagmites.  There was a video projection going on inside “The Crave” that looked like dirty water washing up (from what I could tell), and there was musical accompaniment supplied by a DJ right outside.   The first phrase that popped into my head upon experiencing it was “underground disco oil spill”, … and that’s me in at the end of the video laughing nervously after I backed up into someone for the sake of art!