The Front is the result of a fateful series of collaborations in 2007 between local artists and New York activist Paul Chan, the artist/activist responsible for the 2007 production of Waiting for Godot performed outdoors in the Lower 9th Ward. The project is everything co-op galleries are supposed to be: freewheeling places where art and ideas are bandied about with little regard for the art market. While most St. Claude area galleries also fit that description, The Front may be more miscellaneous than most. So it's no surprise that Korean artist Yoonmi Nam's Book of Rocks, Flowers, and Birds is not really a book but a series of ink drawings inspired by a 17th century Chinese painting manual, or that the drawings reflect her "transitional existence" between Eastern and Western cultures. Even so, it's hard to know what to make of these deftly circumspect studies, except to say her Chrysanthemums ink drawing on mulberry paper is sublime.
The dislocations escalate in Jeremy Drummond and Hoang Pham's Counter Cartographies series, where continents and nations are sliced, diced and reconfigured into alternative topographies that resemble maps of the world as seen through a kaleidoscope or spun through a food processor. Ethnicities and nations can seem fixed in our minds, yet these whimsically conceptual geographies remind us of the fluidity of continents and DNA over time. All lands and peoples have undergone migration; they are where they are because they moved there from elsewhere.
More miscellaneous is the Precious Horshes expo curated by Dave Greber. These emerging artists' works emit occasional sparks, but the standout is Jacob Edwards, whose gut-wrenching ink drawings (pictured) are demented in the grand expressionistic manner of Ralph Steadman and Ronald Searle at their darkest. In a very different vein is the five-panel multi-channel video by David Webber, a kind of electronic ballet of everyday things reduced to abstract swirls of vertiginously rotating colors. It's all oddly painterly and hypnotic, effects lyrically reinforced by an electronic music soundtrack Webber concocted on his homemade synthesizer. — D. Eric Bookhardt
Book of Rocks, Flowers, and Birds; Counter Cartographies; Precious Horshes: Mixed Media Group Exhibition plus Video by David Webber
Through Nov. 7
The Front, 4100 St. Claude Ave., 920-3980; www.nolafront.org