Thanks largely to the St. Claude Avenue arts scene, New Orleans is now considered a global leader in experimental, artist-run art spaces. Yet while the spotlight was elsewhere, the Downtown Arts District has not been without ferment. For instance, the Octavia Gallery's expansive new Julia Street location in a superbly restored 19th-century building has got to be one of the most impressive new exhibition spaces in the region.
The gallery's current Home
group expo is also impressive with its array of work by top-rank Louisiana-born New York art stars like Lynda Benglis, Keith Sonnier and Rashaad Newsome. Interspersed with a number of ascendant NOLA artists, Home
is a Whitman's Sampler of varied visions ranging from Regina Scully's ethereal, Coltrane-esque tone poem, Phases of Sunlight
, pictured, and Bryan Guidry's mystical Delta Dawn
canvases, to Tameka Norris' provocative "identity portraits" and Rukiya Brown's haunting doll sculptures that blend Mardi Gras Indian and Nigerian beadwork traditions. Ron Bechet's Evidence of Resilience
charcoal drawing evokes Jackson Pollock but was inspired by the shorn locks of the Blessed Sacrement nuns who founded Xavier University -- and that's about as experimental as it gets.
More surprises abound at the Boyd Satellite Gallery's uber-eclectic Sputnik 1
group show where Shawne Major's visionary baroque beadwork confections share space with Joan Duran's stark abstract paintings and Audra Kohout's surreal shadowbox explorations of the mysteries of the human psyche. This is the space formerly occupied by the superb Heriard-Cimino Gallery prior to Jeanne Cimino's return to her art consultancy practice in San Francisco, and while still a work in progress, there is no doubt that many eyes will be watching this Satellite to see where it goes next. Something similar might be said for other recent arrivals on Julia including the Foundation Gallery, L'Entrepot and the capacious new space called The Shop, all of which promise to bring some interesting new twists to the Downtown Arts District.
Home: Mixed Media Group Exhibition
Through Sept. 28
Octavia Art Gallery, 4532 Magazine St., 309-4249
Sputnik 1: Mixed Media Group Exhibition
Through Sept. 3
Boyd Satellite Gallery, 440 Julia St., 581-2440