Tagged: NewOrleans

NOLA Heat in Miami: Arthur Roger Gallery at Art Miami

The Art Miami Pavillion, picture courtesy of galerist Arthur Roger and the Arthur Roger Gallery

There are many great galleries in New Orleans; however, Arthur Roger Gallery is THE gallery at the center of NOLA’s art scene.  It holds a roster of artists that encompasses some of the greatest New Orleans and South Louisiana artists, ranging from masters such as Willie Birch and Ida Kohlmeyer to emerging artists such as Troy Dugas and Dave Greber.  Internationally acclaimed artists such as John Waters and Robert Pollidori are also part of the gallery’s roster.

A couple of days ago, I was surfing the digital seas of Facebook, and I came across a status update from galerist Arthur Roger of the Arthur Roger Gallery.  He was posting about heading to Miami to participate in the Art Miami Fair.  The wheels started turning in my head: “Wouldn’t it be great to get an inside view of the Art Miami proceedings from an insider such as Roger?”  I quickly composed an email to Roger, inviting him to contribute whatever media of the event he wished to post here on “louisianaesthetic.”  He agreed to contibute, and the pictures in this post are the results.  Feast your eyes on the Art Miami experience through the lens of NOLA’s foremost galerist, and enjoy!

Striking the gallery booths in the Art Miami Pavilion, picture courtesy of Arthur Roger and the Arthur Roger Gallery

Installation view of the Arthur Roger Gallery booth in the Art Miami Pavilion, picture courtesy of Arthur Roger and the Arthur Roger Gallery

Installation view of the Arthur Roger Gallery booth in the Art Miami Pavilion, picture courtesy of Arthur Roger and the Arthur Roger Gallery

Installation view of the Arthur Roger Gallery booth in the Art Miami Pavilion, picture courtesy of Arthur Roger and the Arthur Roger Gallery

Installation view of the Arthur Roger Gallery booth in the Art Miami Pavilion, picture courtesy of Arthur Roger and the Arthur Roger Gallery

It’s lookin’ pretty hot up in there, Arthur!  Thanks for the pics!

To find out more about the Arthur Roger Gallery, please follow the link here.

To find out more about Art Miami, please follow the link here.

Addendum:

From the website http://www.arthurrogergallery.com:

“Arthur Roger Gallery is very pleased to be a part of Art Miami this year. At Booth A4, we are exhibiting works by Luis Cruz Azaceta, Richard Baker, David Bates, Jacqueline Bishop, Douglas Bourgeois, Dawn DeDeaux, Lesley Dill, James Drake, Troy Dugas, George Dureau, Lin Emery, David Halliday, Ida Kohlmeyer, Whitfield Lovell, Deborah Luster and John Waters. The exhibition will be on view from November 30 – December 4, 2011 at the Miami Art Pavilion located in the Miami Midtown Arts District.”

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Objects in the Rear View Mirror Are Closer Than They Seem: Prospect Lafayette

 

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.

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!

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.

Electric Tigers and the Nature of Digital Awe: Dave Greber’s “Peekaboo”

Dave Greber

still from “Peekaboo Tiger”

Video and mixed media construction

2:30 min HD video (ed. 10)

2011

Photo courtesy of Dave Greber and Arthur Roger Gallery

Dave Greber

still from “Peekaboo – Small Window”

Video and construction

15 min HD video (ed. 6)

2011

Photo courtesy of Dave Greber and Arthur Roger Gallery

Installation view of “Peekaboo”

Photo courtesy of Dave Greber and Arthur Roger Gallery

Installation view of “Peekaboo”

Photo courtesy of Dave Greber and Arthur Roger Gallery

Dave Greber’s solo exhibition “Peekaboo” will be on view at the Arthur Roger Gallery, 432 Julia Street New Orleans, Louisiana 70130, until Thanksgiving 2011.  For info, call 504.522.1999.

by Reggie  Michael Rodrigue

What do you get when you cross the jungle imagery of famed 19th century painter Henri Rousseau, the Vietnam War, Louisiana swamps, 1980’s aesthetics, maybe a little of the 18th century poet William Blake’s “The Tiger,” new age mysticism, quantum mechanics and 21st century digital video techniques?  You get artist Dave Greber’s video installation “Peekaboo,” which is currently running at Arthur Roger Gallery.

Greber’s installation inhabits a tightly edited space.  The walls are painted jet black.  The exhibition title is painted in a font similar to the blammoriffic ones that are meant to accentuate onomatopoeia in comic books.  Greber has a fondness for flags, and in this case, he strings them from the ceiling.  They echo the exotic foliage present in Greber’s videos, which are housed in irregular wooden frames.  Together the flags and videos add a sultry flavor to the minimal surroundings.

In the videos, Greber presents his own twisted version of the imagery of the French painter Henri Rousseau.  “Le Douanier,” as he was called (a derogatory nickname given to him because he actually was a customs toll collector as well as a “naive” artist), painted some of the most fantastical paintings of the post-Impressionist/early Modernist period.  In Rousseau’s best works, we are transported to lush, tropical jungles, resplendent with exotic foliage and flowers.  Incongruous odalisques luxuriate on chaise lounges, and tigers prowl and pounce on their prey.  However, these hyper-images of abundance are delivered in a flat style that belied that fact that Rousseau was untrained.  Rousseau’s naive style was ridiculed by many until such canonical Modern masters as Picasso, Matisse, the Delaunays, as well as the Surrealists, recognized his genius.   Considering Greber’s penchant for over-abundance, flatness and exoticism in his own work, it easy to see why he is also attracted to Rousseau’s paintings.

Greber has stated that he chose to address Rousseau’s jungle paintings in an attempt to strike out in a new direction.  In the past, Greber has focused on imagery and techniques used in commercials and contemporary media to fuel his video satires.  With “Peekaboo,” Greber moves away from satire, to address history (the “garden” variety and the “art” variety), Imagist poetics, the intersection of nature and technology, and what  Greber terms as “the manner in which metaphysical beings manifest and interact within our dimension.”   This idea of “manifestation” ties in with the hallucinatory figures that pop-up in Rousseau’s paintings, and it also supplies the subtext for Greber’s exhibition.  The title “Peekaboo” comes from the children’s game that plays on a baby’s inability to master the concept of object permanence.  In Greber’s videos, animals and people “manifest.”  Yet, they also disappear into thin air or are obscured by elements in the visual space in front of them.

In “Peekaboo Tiger, ” the largest video in the installation, the face of a roaring tiger is obscured by a swarm of dots, surging electrical currents , flames and breezy palm fronds.   It looks as if it is the lost lovechild of a Def Leppard album cover and the throne scenes from “The Wizard of Oz.”  I also, couldn’t help but think of the Romantic poet William Blake’s “The Tiger” when viewing it.   “Peekaboo Tiger” is definitely “burning in the night” and displays a “fearful symmetry.”  The dots that meander across the tiger’s face also called to mind subatomic particles.

The smaller videos in “Peekaboo” depict two hyper-landscapes and a man peeking out from behind a thicket of jungle foliage.   The landscapes are beautiful, surreal and oddly meditative with flocks of birds passing through, disappearing and reappearing inside certain aspects of the landscape such as a full moon or a body of water.  The water reflects the sky, but the sky strangely reflects the water as well.  Occasionally, a mysterious explosion sets off in the distance.  These occurrences resemble the footage of jungles erupting into flames during the Vietnam War.  Strange, gassy, balls of light appear, hover and disappear over Greber’s landscapes as well.   In Louisiana, the gaseous balls of light that appear in the swamp at night are known as “feufollets.”  Local folklore has it that these luminous balls of gas are actually the departed souls of people who lost their lives in the swamps.  They are said to lead foolish interlopers to their own watery graves.  Within “Peekaboo – Small Window,” a man stands silently in the water observing the phantasmic wonder of it all.

And wonderous it is!  Greber has concocted a Romantic mental/digital landscape in “Peekaboo” that, despite all of my efforts, really defies explanation.  It is pure and sublime visual/aural poetry that incorporates elements across time and across genres into a formidable yet succinct installation.   It transports viewers to a world that is pregnant with infinite possibility and awe for nature.  “Peekaboo” is also a celebration of our own technological prowess as a civilization moving through history in a universe which operates beyond the illusion of time and dichotomy.   In the end which is the beginning which is the end, we and our technology are just as much a part of nature as the tiger “burning in the night.”  I think Greber would agree:  we all manifest from the same source.

*** Author’s note:  To see a video of Greber discussing his work, click here.

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.”

Elizabeth Mclellan in “Parallel Play” at T-Lot

Elizabeth McLellan

“Untitled”

sediment, charcoal and natural pigment on watercolor paper

2009-2011

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.”