Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Review: Lightfall/For Display Only and Modern Swamp

Posted By on Tue, Aug 11, 2015 at 4:03 PM

Marie Antoinette and her Executioner by Susan Bowers.
  • Marie Antoinette and her Executioner by Susan Bowers.

Most modern art galleries are tidy, well-lighted spaces. Sometimes referred to as "white cubes," they show art in orderly arrangements that contrast with the messy processes that occur in the studios where artwork is made. But in the experimental galleries on St. Claude Avenue, where artists often hang their own shows, the lines between studio and gallery are sometimes blurred. At The Front, Maria Levitsky's large black-and-white prints of architectural subjects are pristinely presented at the outset, but the next room can be disconcerting as similar subject matter appears in strategically cluttered arrangements that evoke the contents of an obsessive photographer's attic, or maybe afterimages stashed in the back of the brain. Most compositions are boldly abstract, sometimes featuring montages that highlight the underlying geometry of urban environments in ironic ways, but some are presented like oversize snapshots with serrated edges, or interspersed with boxes of old camera parts and other ephemera that highlight the nature of photographs as ongoing processes of perception rather than as static, or precious, objects.

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Monday, August 3, 2015

Y@ Speak: One Twitter, That's It... Er

Posted By on Mon, Aug 3, 2015 at 12:00 PM

Let us reflect on a week in which Morris Bart and Sidney Torries capture the nation's attention, people try not to spill wine or sweat over some art, and Gov. Bobby Jindal declares he has the powers of The Internet.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

YAYA's new Arts Center offers views and much-needed space

Posted By on Wed, Jul 1, 2015 at 5:28 PM

The balcony at the new YAYA Arts Center, with a viewing window (left) that looks down onto a glass studio. - JEANIE RIESS
  • The balcony at the new YAYA Arts Center, with a viewing window (left) that looks down onto a glass studio.

In its 26 years as an arts education program, YAYA (Young Aspirations/Young Artists) has grown from a single-school operation to one that serves New Orleans youth across the city.

On June 30, after breaking ground last September, YAYA got its first, official, custom-built home on Lasalle Street in Central City. Harmony Neighborhood Development, Bild Design and Landis Construction Company all helped build the two-story arts center, which is complete with classrooms and glass and ceramics studios.

“I'm most excited about a new phase in programming that has more of a community impact,” YAYA operations coordinator Lesley McBride told Gambit. “This is the first time that we've been in a purely residential neighborhood. Previously we were on Barronne Street downtown, and then off Conti and Carrollton in Mid-City. So this is the first time that we've been in a true neighborhood where we can service the people that are directly at our doorstep.”

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Monday, June 22, 2015

YAYA Arts Center to open June 30

Posted By on Mon, Jun 22, 2015 at 5:49 PM

Volunteers break ground on the New YAYA Arts Center last September. - JEANIE RIESS
  • Volunteers break ground on the New YAYA Arts Center last September.

After breaking ground on a new space last September, the arts education program YAYA is ready to open its doors for a grand opening Tuesday, June 30.

The 27 year-old nonprofit provides free arts education and entrepreneurship programming to New Orleans youth ages 13 to 25, and the new arts center at 3322 LaSalle St. puts all of the program's amenities under one roof. There are classrooms and gallery space, in addition to a glass studio and ceramics studio which can both be rented out for public use.

The studio is located within walking distance of 10 schools, making it accessible to kids who want to learn how to paint, draw, sculpt and more. 

"We see the Arts Center as another example of the vital role arts and culture plays in New Orleans, and the development of our young people," YAYA CEO Gene Meneray said in a statement. "We're especially excited to be located on LaSalle St, an area steeped in unique New Orleans music and Mardi Gras Indian culture. We've seen how art transforms communities, we also believe communities transform art, and believe this Arts Center is another step in growing our city's justly celebrated artistic expression."

The grand opening, which starts at 10 a.m., will feature remarks from New Orleans City Councilmembers LaToya Cantrell, Jason Williams and other city officials. 

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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Review: Katrina Andry's Initiating Cause and Effect at Jonathan Ferrara Gallery

Posted By on Tue, Jun 9, 2015 at 1:49 PM

When I Grow Up: The Ascribed Black American Dream, by Katrina Andry
  • When I Grow Up: The Ascribed Black American Dream, by Katrina Andry

The great jazz musician Sun Ra claimed to have come from Saturn to lead black people to their true home on another planet. He was still earthbound when he died in 1993, but his belief — that black folk might as well be from another planet as far as many Americans are concerned — still resonates today.

Superficial stereotypes distort everyone's perceptions of each other, but for African-Americans the ghetto casts a long shadow no matter who they are. Lately many black artists have created their own caricatures of those negative cliches as a way of critiquing the critiques — a strategy that pervaded last year's 30 Americans expo of leading black artists at the Contemporary Arts Center. So much emphasis on one approach risks appearing redundant, but New Orleans native Katrina Andry's unusually large, briskly acerbic yet startlingly original woodblock prints are in a class by themselves.

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Thursday, May 28, 2015

"Who needs neighbors when we've got brunch?" New Orleans artists respond to Airbnb

Posted By on Thu, May 28, 2015 at 3:00 PM


Over Memorial Day weekend, a Coney Island-style stand-in popped up on a porch on Royal Street in Bywater. The art piece featured two Bywater caricatures on a satirical billboard: "Welcome to the Bywater, where the vacation never ends!" Artist Caroline Thomas, who paints Mardi Gras floats for Royal Artists, created the piece and posted photos on Facebook. The spread went viral. Meanwhile, dozens of people — including many out-of-town visitors — posed for photos, gawked at and talked about the piece outside her home.

And her neighborhood is full of those visitors. Most of her block offers a room (or entire home) on Airbnb, she says. She counted 140 Airbnbs within her neighborhood, compared to just a handful of apartments for rent listed on sites like Craigslist.

"We noticed over the past six months a definite shift in the neighborhood," she says. "Big packs of tourists where you see 20 people going down the street with rolling suitcases and you’re like, ‘What’s happening?’ … We walk outside and people are taking constant photos of our house. At first it was charming, then you start to feel like an animal in a zoo."

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Review: EN MAS': Carnival and Performance Art of the Caribbean

Posted By on Wed, May 13, 2015 at 10:24 AM

From Marlon Griffith's Positions + Power.
  • From Marlon Griffith's Positions + Power.

Have you ever had a dream in which you came home and everything was in its usual place, but all the furnishings, even the clothes in the closet and the food in the refrigerator, were totally unfamiliar? This EN MAS’: Carnival and Performance Art of the Caribbean show at the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) may induce a similar sense of disorientation. Featuring performance art staged in six Caribbean and Caribbean-influenced countries during the 2014 Carnival celebrations, EN MAS’ explores new Caribbean art incorporating social or political content mingled with the familiar Carnival masked revelry. Even the title is a play on the familiar phrase “en masse,” substituting “Mas,” the Caribbean slang term for Carnival.

Conceived by New Orleans-based, Guadeloupe-born curator Claire Tancons, EN MAS’ initially was inspired by an unusual synthesis of Carnival and modern art that arose in Trinidad, where artists such as Marlon Griffith became famous for issue-based performance art like his Positions + Power installation (pictured) at the CAC. Based on the domestic spying apparatus of the modern surveillance state, and augmented by sinister props, the installation’s eerie video projections suggest Afro-futurist science fiction. A local, Krewe du Vieux take on a similar topic would probably seem more nihilisitic if not obscene, but here Griffith conveys a sleekly creepy vision of a techno-futurist dystopia.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Avant-garde musician "Timeghost" on performance, hypnosis and industrial Louisiana

Posted By on Wed, Apr 22, 2015 at 4:08 PM

The most memorable live show I attended in 2014 was by a band called Timeghost, a one-person act who took over the room with a mix of sound, mood, virtuosity and spectacle. Even by the standards of a town renowned for immersive musical performances, Timeghost was intense.

The show had elements that, if described, might sound alienating, but which within the context of the performance brought the audience and the performer closer, evoking empathy rather than horror. This special dynamic hinged on the earnestness with which Timeghost set about its work and an extraordinary otherworldly atmosphere created over the course of the set.

Afterwards I felt exhilarated and strangely emptied, as if purged of something. It was, I think, what undergoing brainwashing might be like. I cannot recommend it strongly enough. You really, really, really ought to see Timeghost when it returns here on Tuesday, April 28.

I "spoke" with Timeghost electronically about music, altered states, and New Orleans.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Music Box returns with "Roving Village" music and events series

Posted By on Wed, Mar 4, 2015 at 2:40 PM

The Music Box village on Piety Street in Bywater featured playable musical structures built by artists and musicians. Swoon's Dithyrambalina, left, inspired the village. - CHERYL GERBER
  • The Music Box village on Piety Street in Bywater featured playable musical structures built by artists and musicians. Swoon's Dithyrambalina, left, inspired the village.

New Orleans Airlift
, the group of artists behind The Music Box musical architecture installation, will take those musical structures to sites throughout New Orleans for performances, artist talks, workshops and other events. "The Roving Village Residencies" will feature all new musical houses from April 3 through May 10.

The first residency, "The Music Box Roving Village: City Park Presented by The Helis Foundation," will feature an opening performance from free jazz artist William Parker, Alex Ebert of the Magnetic Zeros, Quintron, Leyla McCalla, Rob Cambre, Marion Tortorich of Sweet Crude, and Cooper Moore. The performances are 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. April 3-4.

The Music Box village opened in 2011 as sprawling shantytown of musical architecture, from a wooden floorboard "piano" (Ranjit Bhatnagar's floorboard piano "Noise Floor" inside "Nightingale House" by Serra Victoria Bothwell Felsand) to Quintron's weather-controlled theremin, "The Singing House." The site hosted performances from Quintron (and his "Shantytown Orchestra"), Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore, Andrew W.K., Helen Gillet, Aurora Nealand, and the late bounce artist Nicky Da B (whose mural now adorns the fence at the site's previous home on Piety Street), among many others, who utilized the unique instruments built into the structures to create elaborate, ambient arrangements.

New Orleans Airlift was founded by Delaney Martin and Jay Pennington (aka DJ Rusty Lazer), and the Roving Village's artist-builders include works from Martin as well as celebrated street artist Swoon, Taylor Lee Shepherd, Nina Nichols, Darryl Reeves, Andrew Schrock, Klass Hubener, Michael Glenboski, Ross Harmon, Frank Pahl, Matthew Ostrowski, Rick Snow, Lindsey Karty, Jonah Emerson-Bell, Rainger Pinney, George Long, and Justin Rabideau.

Public open hours at the "Roving Village" sites will be from noon to 6 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through May 10 at City Park. There will be closing performances at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. May 8-9.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Review: Palimpsest

Posted By on Tue, Mar 3, 2015 at 5:46 PM


Hindsight has a way of offering a new view of human experience. Life in the moment can be a hustle, sometimes exhilarating but often oscillating between frantic and boring. Collage artists enjoy an Olympian perspective that enables them to utilize the symbols and icons of the past for their own purposes, and Michael Pajon excels at mining rich veins of vintage pop culture for any transcendent epiphanies they might contain. Like his Chicago mentor, Tony Fitzpatrick, Pajon is big on vintage Americana fraught with euphemistic irony, but his mystical Hispanic DNA seems well adapted to the swampy voodoo vibe of his adopted hometown. In this aptly named Palimpsest series, his collage drawings explore how myths represented in vintage pop culture live on in the present.

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