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From Jest to Fest 

As shows go, this one is not always the most tasteful. Some may even find it off-putting. After all, since Jazz Fest is a great, time-honored event that has become emblematic of this city's unique heritage, why would anyone set out to create a parodic, or satiric, Jazz Festival poster? That's a good question. For now, let's just say some people have their reasons.

According to Barrister's Gallery director, Andy Antippas, it is a chance to let local artists do their own unique versions of what a Jazz Festival poster might look like. The subtitle: A Group Show Takes the Poster to Another Place, sounds unassuming, and the contents run the gamut from the inspired to the impudent. But, considering how weirdly off the mark the official Jazz Fest poster is this year (its ostensible depiction of Harry Connick Jr. somehow looks more like Warren Beatty, or maybe his phantom love child), this show makes for a refreshingly offbeat contrast.

Take, for instance, Elizabeth Fox's Jazzfest With the Locals, a pop-social realist slice of life featuring a scantily clad babe stuffing her face with a long, drippy po-boy as a tranced-out, Quintron/Miss Pussycat-like duo onstage waxes rhapsodic with a keyboard and maracas. In fact, they all seem tranced out, probably for good reasons. Succinctly simple, it's a commentary on consumer culture, local garden variety, as if Hogarth or Daumier had been reborn into the MTV generation.

No less entrancing is Julie Crozat's Jazz and Hemp Fest, a classic art nouveau poster design featuring Satchmo hitting a high note, all nicely executed in an archaic beaux-arts style like one of those old-time Orpheum Circuit playbills. Very different is Roy Ferdinand's New Orleans Crack Festival, a Harmony Street scene featuring a brother dealing dope to an old dude in a marching band outfit as other nefarious deals and a bloody corpse round out yet another twisted streetscape from our local Goya of the ghetto. And John Slade's Jazz Fest 2050 takes us back to how it all began, with a portly piano "professor" taking a hit off a big one as a fancy girl tickles the ivories with her bare buttocks.

Abstraction rears its nonobjective head in Jose Maria Cundin's Apocryphal Portrait of a New Orleans Jazz Composer, a cluster of colored blobs that resembles nothing especially human but which does evoke the abstract patterning of a modern jazz composition. A tad more Picassoid is Jim Sohr's New Orleans Music Festival, a tightly packed jumble of mutated pretzel-shaped bodies, some with a skinny neck supporting a huge eye instead of a head, amid a scramble of limbs, toes, eyeballs and breasts like a humanoid plate of spaghetti with squid sauce. An inspired effort, it captures the unique ambience of some of our more densely attended festivals. Not everything was up to such stellar standards, but this show did at least provide a few surprises, as well as allow local artists a chance to visually sound off a bit.

More surprises are seen in Monica Zeringue's new paintings at Soren Christensen Gallery. In her previous shows at Galerie Simonne Stern before its untimely demise, Zeringue seemed to be evolving her own unique style through her precise, fetishistic obsession with dolls, birds and insects in an atmosphere of psychosexual angst, among other Uptown Catholic Schoolgirl legacies. It was severe yet lush, a dream castle of fantasies behind a veil of repression. Her new work is much more stark and enigmatic. For instance, Watch is a wooden chair in a blank white setting. On the floor is a closely pruned rose bush, recently uprooted. In Transplant the chair sits with its legs in a hole in the ground, with the uprooted rose bush resting upright on its seat. It is all very spare, with a stark tone reminiscent of 1960s existentialism. Interesting, but it comes as a relief to see Air Is a Fluid, a 4-foot-square tableau in her former style, with its characteristic containers: a jar with a goldfish in 2 inches of water, another, upside down, containing a butterfly, and yet another, half filled with water, containing a wildflower. Everything is repressed yet fervent, a painterly reverie of sensual constraint.

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