The St. Claude Arts District often is considered a post-Hurricane Katrina phenomenon — and it is, mostly — but this show illustrates how deep the experimental Marigny/Bywater art scene's roots really are. Curated by Beau Tardy and Michael Fedor, both veterans of Fedor's former (1987-1990) Marigny-based Galerie Avant Gout, it also includes works by Pati D'Amico and William Warren, whose Waiting Room Gallery in Bywater was active from 1997 to 2008. Both spaces catered to emerging artists, a focus that continues in this show. Tardy, who worked for MTV in New York for years, was inspired by mass media's fixation on erotic titillation as we see in GotCha (pictured), his manipulated image of a woman in a vortex of flashy graphics like TV ads that inspire salacious thoughts based on nothing more than subliminal suggestion. The paintings by his French counterpart, Louis Jean Gorry, are far more graphic, but his style is as raw as scrawled subway graffiti. Somehow slick is more insidious.
Fedor's intricately surreal collages look like something an absinthe-inspired French Quarter Max Ernst might have created, a sensibility complemented by D'Amico's mystically tinged canvas The Medium, among others. In 2008, she and partner Warren moved to Water Valley, Miss., where the omnipresent kudzu inspired him to paint humanoid vine critters like Kudzu Blues Man, a wavy gravy exercise in animist pointillism in the form of a vinous Delta musician. Throw in Margaret Meinzer's adjacent expo of pop-expressionist dreamscapes and it's a weirdly wonderful show in the grand St. Claude tradition of ad hoc epiphanies by artists with eternally youthful attitudes. It's a sensibility that resonates neatly with French digital artist Nicolas Sassoon's Green Waves, a vast surround-sound and light environment of choreographed pixels in motion at the May Gallery in Bywater, and Irish artist Jane Cassidy's electronic music-video composition at Parse Gallery. Both of these sublimely ethereal shows at two of the newer art spaces in town extend a long local tradition of experimental art in unlikely places. — D. ERIC BOOKHARDT