Following in the wake of the Contemporary Arts Center's epic series of Nola Now exhibitions that ran from last autumn to last month, one might reasonably ask how the Ogden Museum's newly minted Louisiana Contemporary survey show would set itself apart from those massive excavations of recent regional art that appeared just across the street. Although this show is large, featuring more than 80 works by more than 40 artists, it manages to highlight some surprisingly underexposed talents while presenting veteran artists in an interesting new light. Curated by Rene Paul Barilleaux of the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas, Louisiana Contemporary was culled from more than 600 works by nearly 200 artists from all over the state, and it reflects the importance of contemporary visual artists to this city's identity as a global leader in cultural innovation.
Perhaps because New Orleans is a profoundly humanistic city, its longstanding flair for abstraction may seem surprising, but it also is true that local abstraction tends to be unusually sensual, as we see in the pristine compositions of well-known artists like Aaron Collier, Anastasia Pelias, Deborah Pelias and Wayne Amedee. Less well-known but no less pristine is the work of Covington artist Ken Tate, whose pop abstractions fairly crackle with prismatic gestural electricity, or the canvases of University of New Orleans undergrad Dixie Kimball, which channel original abstract expressionism with startling efficacy even as Amite artist Mik Kastner's spidery kinetic sci-fi sculpture Hoodwink is in a class by itself. Outstanding mixed-media works by Adam Mysock and Hannah Chalew and videos by David Sullivan (pictured) and Courtney Egan round out the impressive roster of subjectivity. More explicitly humanistic concerns appear in the eerily psychological work of Isoko Onodera and Jessica Goldfinch as well as in photographs by Angela Berry, Zack Smith, Maja Georgiou and Kevin Kline among others. While the show is in many ways a mixed bag, it qualifies as an auspicious beginning for an ambitious new undertaking by Ogden. — D. ERIC BOOKHARDT