In Mikhail Bulgakov's novel The Master and Margarita, the devil and his big black cat arrive in Moscow during Joseph Stalin's reign of terror. The diabolical duo are shape-shifting tricksters who wreak havoc among Moscow's elite. At a time when Stalin caused many people to abruptly "disappear," they cause other people to disappear, throwing the political class into chaos. Lately, many things in the local art scene also have disappeared mysteriously. For instance, Alex Podesta has long been known for his lifesize sculptures of bearded men in bunny costumes, so it was shocking to see a Podesta show sans rabbits. His new sculptures at the Front featuring peculiar devices manipulated by disembodied hands (pictured) are intriguing, but ghosts of bunny men still haunt the room.
Both he and Lala Rascic were included in the Spaces exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Center. In early April, the entrance to the gallery was suddenly walled off by a movie company, causing the show to abruptly "disappear" for 10 days. The artists say the only advance notice came from the movie crew. Many artists responded by making their work disappear from the show. Rascic staged a "flash mob" protest in the gallery, a performance she repeated at this Front expo. Adding to the angst, some of the artists' families had made plans to visit New Orleans to see the CAC show, which had disappeared from view. It has since reopened, but the controversy continues. CAC director Jay Weigel says it was the result of "misinformation," misunderstandings and having to rely on movie revenues to supplement declining donations. But movie shoots that disrupt programming can cause some funding sources to disappear as well, because such practices make institutions less likely to qualify for major foundation grants. Bob Snead, an Antenna Gallery artist and treasurer of the Press Street nonprofit literary and visual arts collective, says some St. Claude galleries now qualify for foundation grants the CAC has a hard time attracting. — D. Eric Bookhardt