Bunny Matthews' Black and White exhibition of paintings and drawings marks his first foray into the top echelon of the local gallery world. Much of the work reflects what we have come to expect of his larger colored pencil and ink drawings, but there are some surprises. Most notably, his roughly eight-by-15-foot magnum opus, Nin't Wardica, conveys a vision of a Lower 9th Ward apocalypse that somehow melds Picasso's Guernica with his familiar Vic 'N Nat'ly characters, which have long graced local newspapers as well as Leidenheimer bakery delivery trucks. And while the notion of a Picasso-Matthews hybrid might seem doomed from the outset, this mural-size extravaganza not only works but works amazingly well. Rendered in sepia acrylic on Tyvek, it transposes the pathos of Guernica to the far funkier environs of the 9th Ward while commemorating the memory of the hundreds who died when the floodwalls collapsed. Most other drawings are breezier even if the topics are not, for instance, a drug dealer extracting an eye from a user who fell behind on his debts. Other more elegiac subjects include a portrait of James Booker in a turban titled The Bayou Maharajah, one of the maestro's more grandiose monikers. All in all, it is a show that presents Matthews' vision in a bold new light.
Also new is the elegant Martine Chaisson Gallery on Camp Street. Housed in an antique building that is a fine example of adaptive restoration, its walls hold a number of Hunt Slonem's flamboyantly gestural paintings of birds, rabbits and occasional human exotica, sometimes arranged in a vintage salon style, perhaps a nod to the two 19th-century Louisiana plantation houses he occupies when not working in his New York studio. The works themselves are representative of his oeuvre and make for a dramatic premiere of a striking new art space. — D. Eric Bookhardt
Bunny Matthews: Black and White
Through Sept. 11
Arthur Roger Gallery @ 434, 434 Julia St. 522-1999; www.arthurrogergallery.com
Hunt Slonem: Fanciful Fauna
Through Sept. 25
Martine Chaisson Gallery, 727 Camp St., 302-7942; www.martinechaissongallery.com