We have been riding such a wave of euphoria over the Saints' suspenseful and successful march to the Super Bowl that we may need to restore some equilibrium by acknowledging other, more Gothic, sensibilities. The I Wish I Was Dead Biennial at Barrister's is a compact yet pithy vision of what happens when things fall through the cracks, go bump in the night or make a hard landing in the Twilight Zone. Assembled by New York curator Martina Batan, these works reflect the worldview of St. Claude corridor expressionism regardless of whether they originated in Bywater or Gotham. In this vein, Sally Ann Glassman's Kali Na Gig painting of Kali, the Hindu goddess of creative destruction, sets a bracing tone. The title is a play on the Sheila Na Gig type of female gargoyle found on the upper reaches of old Irish churches, where she boldly displays her private parts in a gesture said to repel evil spirits. Here Kali assumes that fateful posture, spreading her cobalt legs to reveal the formidable fiery chaos within.
Compared to that, Brock Enwright's weird graphite on woven paper piece, Haunt, seems tame, or at least it did until I found out he was the guy who ran the designer kidnapping service in New York that staged false abductions for a fee. (He gave it up after it became popular with S&M fetishists, who loved being kidnapped but had all sorts of other demands.) Clearly, these are not your usual art school graduates. Take Lillian Butter, a creator of charmingly repulsive ink drawings who was underground for so long that she wasn't allowed back into the U.S. after visiting family in Canada. Others have stories too convoluted for casual conversation. In this context, Nikki Crook's painting Corseted Girl (pictured), a portrait of a Victorian woman attended by a maid with a bird skull head, seems only mildly disconcerting. In art as in life, everything is relative. — D. Eric Bookhardt
I Wish I Was Dead Biennial: Works by Unsettled and Unsettling Natures
Through Feb. 6
Barrister's Gallery, 2331 St. Claude Ave., 710-4506; www.barristersgallery.com