"Approach them carefully, they're very aggressive." No, it wasn't a cage of tarantulas, this was an art gallery and the assistant gallerist was offering practical advice. New Orleans photographer Mark Glaviano's stark color photographs of young men and women suspended from hooks, oozing little rivulets of blood, are indeed aggressive, literally lending a new level of gravitas to body piercing. Like much of the modern primitives movement, this is patterned on ancient rituals, and while the process is said to require practice and preparation, a lot of what we see in this Pain Tribe series looks colorfully chaotic. Amore (pictured) is emblematic, as troll-like figures hoist a gagged man with a mohawk in a dramatic tableau like something from a punk production of Satyricon. Similar scenes abound, along with occasional moments of levity when nubile women with buzz cuts coquettishly cut up with riding crops. Hey, girls just wanna have fun. Glaviano's Modern Ritual photos take us to a netherworld where anthropology meets pain at its most rapturous, as the spirits of the tribal past return with a vengeance.
The tone could not be more different in Ken Matsubara's ethereally beautiful, yet no less unsettling, mixed-media works. Like futuristic magic lanterns from a high-tech alchemist, Matsubara's silvery bell jars come to life with floating forms of young men and women seemingly washed away in tsunami tides in Sleeping Water — Mekong Delta. Here they recall the drowned figures in local film collective Court 13's great video Glory at Sea. Others resemble magic mirrors, or large animated Daguerreotypes in works such as Storm in a Glass, where the water in a tall clear glass sloshes from side to side in a self-contained mini-tsunami — and once again we are reminded we are living in times when the old gods suddenly can become quite restless. — D. Eric Bookhardt