DC Comics’ storied superhero supergroup Justice League of America will become Justice League of Louisiana, sort of. On Wednesday, Feb. 20, the publisher will unveil its series of covers picturing League members hoisting every U.S. state flag, including Louisiana's. DC offered Gambit the first glimpse of the issue.
The latest series re-launch, written by Geoff Johns and illustrated by David Finch, begins with the 40-page issue No. 1 — the cover recalls Joe Rosenthal’s iconic image of U.S. troops raising the American flag on Iwo Jima, but with League members Catwoman, The Green Lantern and Green Arrow raising the Louisiana flag. Finch is a former Marvel Comics artist who helmed DC’s Batman: The Dark Knight, which wrapped 15 issues before he began working on the latest Justice League series.
You can find the issue at Crescent City Comics (916 Freret St., 504-891-3796), More Fun Comics (8200 Oak St., 504-865-1800), BSI Comics (3030 Severn Ave., Metairie, 504-885-2550) and Media Underground Comics (4953 W. Napoleon Ave., Metairie, 504-301-2435), among others.
For more comics, read this 2010 Gambit cover story on Louisiana's comic cottage industry.
Whether the objet d'art is a rug, a dress or an interior, if Doug and Gene Meyer designed it, it's likely to feature a graphic, jarring-yet-subtle interplay of color. "It's a real discipline," Gene says of the color selection process. "We don't like anything to look too pretty."
It's fitting that the multitalented brothers chose the sprawling Longue Vue House and Gardens (itself a multidisciplinary collusion of murals, landscape architecture, paintings and interior design) as the site for a retrospective installation. The opening reception is from 6 p.m.- 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31 at Longue Vue (7 Bamboo Road; 504-488-5488) and the installation will be on the site through March 31. The brothers shared a few words about color, design and what the installation holds in store for visitors.
They Call Me Baby Doll
For decades, the Baby Dolls were among the more enduring mysteries of New Orleans’ African-American Carnival celebration. Women dressed in vintage baby bonnets and short, frilly skirts showing off their legs and strutting their stuff were fixtures in Zulu parades for ages, but by the 1960s they began to fade away, possibly due to emerging concerns about negative stereotypes. By then, few recalled their history or cared. In recent decades, the Baby Dolls experienced a modest revival that became more robust after Hurricane Katrina, but it took a new book, The “Baby Dolls”: Breaking the Race and Gender Barriers of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Tradition, by Kim Marie Vaz — and this subsequent Presbytere exhibition of images, costumes and memorabilia — to finally put it all in perspective.
In Vaz’s telling, they were pioneering feminists. The first such group, the Million Dollar Baby Dolls, were not only the first all-female Mardi Gras marching society, they also played by their own rules. Founded in 1912 by black sex workers at the unofficial Uptown red-light zone in response to a Carnival celebration at the then-legal Storyville district, they reportedly decided to call themselves “baby dolls” because that’s what their pimps called them, and their little girl costumes were more revealing than anything women dared to wear on the streets at the time. Proud of their prowess, they even tossed dollar bills as throws.
The early Baby Dolls could be a raucous lot compared to their modern counterparts, as some of the older depictions made clear, even as their baby costumes cast their bawdy shenanigans in high relief. Their influence was such that they eventually spawned many “respectable” copycat groups, and in the oldest known photograph, a circa 1932 procession (pictured) there is no way to tell if they were sex workers or imitators. As with so much of this city’s history, the available historical documentation only underscores the depth of the underlying mysteries.
They Call Me Baby Doll: Mixed-media exhibition on Carnival Baby Dolls
Louisiana State Museum, Presbytere, 751 Chartres St., (504) 568-6968
As the massive state and VA hospital projects take shape on one end of Tulane Avenue, new businesses from local entrepreneurs are cropping up along other parts of this central but badly-faded corridor.
A new example is Trèo (3835 Tulane Ave., phone n.a.), an upscale bar now in the works from the owners of Finn McCool’s Irish Pub.
Trèo will specialize in craft cocktails and serve a menu of small plates while its second floor will be converted into gallery space available for exhibits, classes and events. The building is now under renovation and Trèo should be open by the summer.
America has always been many things to many people. It was beautiful, bountiful land that promised wealth and freedom to people who had neither, and it was tainted by slavery, oppression and genocide directed against its native inhabitants. This raucous mix of high ideals and base motives was oddly reflected in 19th-century traveling carnivals and medicine shows, which these Beautiful Possibility banner-like paintings by Alison Pebworth evoke. Collectively they allude to a condition dubbed “Americanitis” by the seminal psychologist William James. A nervous ailment brought on by rapid change, it inspired the invention of patent medicines to treat it. Reflecting clashing circumstances and cultures, Pebworth’s collagelike images mix past and present to suggest aspects of Americanitis for us to decipher as we may. One titled Remarkable Tricksters, Made in America features P.T. Barnum, Br’er Rabbit and Karl Rove, and another features a Native American totem interspersed with Mickey Mouse, Betty Boop and Wall Street bulls. In Greatest Show on Earth, an old-time circus ringmaster stands atop a power plant cooling tower flailing a whip at a looming tsunami in an apt summation of our approach to climate change. A whimsical installation, these works effectively evoke America’s colorful complexity.
At the Front, Bywater artists Jonathan Taube and Imen Djouini dealt with the related issues of borders and displacement by erecting a crude earthen barrier just inside the gallery entrance. Neatly excavated from a rectangular cavity behind the building, it blocks the approach to a wall with some big graphic depictions of North Korea, Palestine and the Arizona-Mexico border. An exploration of the romance of landscapes characterized by border conflict, Djouini and Taube’s minimalist project bluntly yet eloquently reminds us that migration remains a charged and complicated issue, and that human aspiration knows no boundaries but is constrained by dreams and mirages.
Through Feb. 3
Beautiful Possibility: New works by Alison Pebworth
Antenna Gallery, 3718 St. Claude Ave., (504) 298-3161
Rampart: Positive + Negative: Installation by Jonathan Taube and Imen Djouini
The Front, 4100 St. Claude Ave., (504) 920-3980
For more than 30 years, Chandra McCormick and Keith Calhoun have been the most dedicated documenters of African-American life in Louisiana, especially in New Orleans and their native 9th Ward. Partners in art and life, their photographs have recorded the vanishing lifestyles of the countryside as well as the seemingly timeless traditions of New Orleans’ second-line parades, Carnival, church rituals, marching societies and social aid and pleasure clubs. Based in the Lower 9th Ward, they assembled a massive portfolio that covered almost every nook and cranny of life in our African-American community, but Hurricane Katrina inundated their neighborhood, as well as their home and studio. When they returned, the muddy mess of most of their negatives was frozen to prevent further deterioration, but the damage was irrevocably done. Or was it?
This Faces of Treme series documenting the rich street life of America’s oldest black neighborhood features a vivid assortment of views from negatives that survived undamaged as well as some that did not. And therein lies a surprise, because the storm ravaged emulsions of negatives that often seemed beyond redemption sometimes turned out to be, with tweaks, surprisingly eloquent, imposing a surreal, post-apocalyptic quality on their subjects, so the show alternates documentation with near abstraction. Among the former we find Calhoun’s Treme Social Aid and Pleasure Club: Henry Youngblood, 1986, a pristine documentary view of a classic Treme procession scene. McCormick’s Pink Pride, Trombone Shorty (pictured), also from 1986, is very different — a color abstraction where the scene has become an amorphously diffuse nimbus like a clouded, yet eloquently surreal and dreamlike, mirror. All comprise a priceless record of the street life — including portrait studies of great musicians and local characters — that made Treme the national treasure it is today — as the photographic duo who documented this and other vital African-American communities became its recording angels.
Through Jan. 26
Faces of Treme: Photographs by Chandra McCormick and Keith Calhoun
McKenna Museum of African American Art, 2003 Carondelet St., (504) 586-7432
In art, there is a point where romanticism and magic realism intersect. In photography, that point, or place, is southern Louisiana and adjoining regions. It’s a legacy that was epitomized by legendary New Orleans photographer Clarence John Laughlin, a self-proclaimed “extreme romantic” who became America’s first surrealist photographer in the 1930s. He died in 1985, but his legacy lives on today in an array of Louisiana photographers including Josephine Sacabo, and extends slightly west to Beaumont, Texas, where Keith Carter has long pursued his dreamily localized form of magic realism. Both employ a hybrid of digital techniques and archaic processes and both are featured in shows at A Gallery for Fine Photography. Sacabo’s photogravure expo, like her recent book, is titled Nocturnes, but there also are some exciting new images where her baroque feminine mysticism takes a taut new turn. Inspired by the late Brazilian author Clarice Lispector, arguably the Latin American writer most attuned to psychological issues, works like Geometry of Discord, Beyond Thought (pictured) convey something of the confluence of circumstance and emotion that can lead to intuitive flashes of epiphany. There is a near constructivist formalism about these dynamic new works, a nod perhaps to Lispector’s Ukrainian birth before emigrating with her parents to Brazil as a child in the 1920s.
Keith Carter’s Natural Histories series lives up to its name in images made using archaic lenses that take us through a looking glass into a parallel universe where feral humans and decorous animals all occupy a whimsically Darwinian wonderland. They may originate in east Texas, but Carter’s images delve into the rich recesses of mythology and the human psyche to explore the common threads of human and animal attraction in forms ranging from the luminous blue wings of the Morpho moth to the mating games of formally attired humans in archaic bal masques. All appear as artifacts, reminders that we are products of the same earth with all of the beauty and animal urges that implies.
Natural Histories: Photographs by Keith Carter
Nocturnes: Photographs by Josephine Sacabo
A Gallery For Fine Photography, 241 Chartres St., (504) 568-1313
PhotoNOLA is the New Orleans Photo Alliance’s big annual event, and although its official festivities only last a few days, many of its more than 50 photography exhibitions run through December, and some go through January. (Visit www.photonola.org/exhibitions for the list.) It’s too much for most people to see, but an exhibit of prints by Photo Alliance members at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art provides a sampler. Most of the work is consistently interesting, but the edgy, art history-inspired collaborative pieces by Epaul Julien and Elizabeth Kleinveld can be startling. Their emblematic Ode to Van Eyck’s Arnolfini Marriage (pictured) is mostly true to the Renaissance original but with a modern multicultural twist. Also be sure to check out the splendiferous Louviere + Vanessa retrospective while you’re there.
A different interplay of past and present appears in the Octavia Gallery’s Contemporary Antiques expo, where local masters of archaic photographic techniques such as Debbie Fleming Caffery, David Halliday, Josephine Sacabo and Euphus Ruth share space with hundreds of Instagram photos arranged salon style, covering the walls. These works offer a contrast between the instant gratification of digital technology and the aura of depth and presence associated with the much slower and more labor-intensive photo techniques of the past. Photography was originally seen as an alternative to painting, which the soft-focus lenses of the 19th century often suggested, but in more modern times paintings became much sharper, sometimes almost photographic. Lake Roberson Newton’s Painter’s Choice series of abstract photographs at Staple Goods blurs the boundaries between the brush and the lens. Prints with titles like Baltimore, Palermo or Memphis often possess the mysterious presence of ciphers that playfully link photographic immediacy to the legacies of modernist painters in a circular continuum of influence.
Through Jan. 5
Contemporary Antiques: Group exhibition curated by Franke Relle
Octavia Art Gallery, 4532 Magazine St., (504) 309-4249
Through Jan. 6
Currents: Group exhibition by New Orleans Photo Alliance members
Ogden Museum of Southern Art, 925 Camp St., (504) 539-9600
Through Jan. 6
Painters’ Choice: Photographs by Lake Roberson Newton
Staple Goods, 1340 St. Roch Ave., (504) 908-7331
More than any other medium, photography is about time and time’s relationship to light and circumstance. In the hands of three Southern photographers, the results are often poetic. Deborah Luster’s early works, on view at Arthur Roger Gallery, predate her more famous images of Louisiana prisoners and crime scenes, but the same insightful whimsy illuminates views that include rural children posed with captive eels or dressed in their Sunday best amid fields of billowy cotton. Here the street corner magic tricks of characters like Damien and Listine, pictured, coexist with a colorful array of personalities who appear as living and breathing stories rendered in flesh — memories flash frozen in time.
Ted Riederer created the art installation Never Records, which for one month served as a recording studio and record store archive of the pressed vinyl projects. New Orleans was the fourth iteration of the project, following New York, London and Ireland. Previewed here in Gambit.
Riederer opens a show of paintings and performance events at Jonathan Ferrara Gallery. "Your love never survived the heat of my heart" opens Saturday, Dec. 1. And it includes a performance of "Drums and Roses" at 7 p.m. The video above is "Drums and Roses" event at a San Francisco gallery in 2010.
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