It looks as experimental as anything you might see on St. Claude Avenue, but this Studio 527 expo involves some very established local art veterans. Bob Tannen, a co-founder of the Contemporary Arts Center, is represented by his Zen-like drawings and improvised sculptures of balls — baseballs, basketballs and the like. He views them as the ad-libbed signifiers of the inner games imposed by the physical world, the evolutionary instinct to adapt and prevail — the basis of the earliest ball games. Executed quickly, they suggest the fleeting gestures on which destiny often hangs.
Rashida Ferdinand's Lullaby is a wall of reproduced pages from a letter her grandmother, a Lower 9th Ward resident, wrote describing the ravages of hurricane flooding — but the year was 1965. A contemporaneous photo of her appears in multiples on an adjacent wall. Throw in some of Ferdinand's surreal clay sculptures, like gourds birthing divas, and the result is shrinelike, an evocation of fleshly transcendence as well as a reference to a tragedy endured with dignity and forbearance.
Clifton Webb also had a role in founding the CAC. His nearly human-size Afro-futurist sculptures suggest atavistic fertility figures from the birth of the Earth that evolved into the near-holographic forms seen here — time-traveling totems, in effect.
The Market Street Power Plant, a massive, 19th-century hulk that once burned coal and then natural gas, stands today as a ruinous cathedral of graffiti and rust. Tina Freeman's photographs capture that but also something else, a lingering human presence like a collective aura of the souls who toiled there amid the coal bins (pictured) that powered the generators that lit the city. There, dark bituminous rocks were transformed into light amid a residue of soot and sweat, a residue reminiscent in some ways of Anselm Kiefer's densely layered paintings. These images convey the sedimentary gravitas of a vast gothic burial vault enlivened by whimsical traceries of graffiti.
NEW WORK by Rashida Ferdinand, Tina Freeman, Bob Tannen and Clifton Webb
Studio 527, 527 Julia St., 388-3128