It is said that the most successful art reflects the zeitgeist — the spirit of the times — in which it was created. Expressionism reflected the rise of psychology and the subconscious just as pop art reflects the mass-media imagery that increasingly surrounds us. Postmodern art attempted to make academic theories seem edgy if not sexy, but former University of New Orleans art instructor Christopher Saucedo took a counterintuitive approach based on weights and measures: He got his kicks from cubic displacement in his obsessively deadpan output of sculptures and prints. While postmodern theory focused on power structures and media spectacles, Saucedo obsessed over how much volume his school-aged children displaced in barrels of water. He had no idea this was in any way prophetic, at least not until Hurricane Katrina's floodwaters filled not only his barrels but the rest of his Gentilly home. This trial by water followed a trial by fire — his brother, a New York fireman, died in the aftermath of 9/11 attacks in 2001. After Katrina, Saucedo moved his family to his native New York just in time for his new home in Rockaway to be flooded by Hurricane Sandy.
Saucedo is still obsessed with weights and measures, but his history with cubic displacement has become indelibly personal. His new work probes the inner life of his subjects in stylized go-cups, gallon jugs and five-gallon bottled water containers that exude the iconic resonance of personal mythology — as we see in his print Red Cup Formation, a pop rendition of plastic cups with an aura of martyrdom. In Fluid Volume (Scrovegni Guilt), bottled water and other containers sport saintly halos, and in Red Cup (Inversion), plastic cups do backflips as if possessed by poltergeists. A hanging wire mobile of stylized cups, cans and bottled water containers turns out to be a "self portrait" (pictured), in a work that might be said to speak volumes. Saucedo speaks at an artist talk at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14.