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Review: Queen Selma and The Raw and the Cooked 

New work at Scott Edwards Gallery and Barrister’s Gallery

click to enlarge mother_by_william_rhodes--g.jpg

Selma, Alabama was known as the Queen City of the Black Belt from antebellum days through the civil rights movement. Bypassed by the interstate highway system, it has struggled economically in recent years despite its storied past. Moscow-born, New Orleans-based photographer Roman Alokhin has documented Selma since 2008, but the most striking thing about his pictures, made with traditional film cameras, is how they almost look like they came straight from the pages of the great news magazines of the 1960s. In Under the Edmund Pettus Bridge, a group of African-Americans contemplates the span made famous by Martin Luther King Jr. and the violent police response to the Selma-to-Montgomery, Alabama marches of 1965. Like the other images in the show, the tone is austere yet lyrical. Scenes of high school marching bands, funerals, men playing checkers and the like create a subtly haunting portrait of a stately place of faded grandeur and tiny shanties, a classically Southern small city seemingly caught in limbo between past and present.

Most of America never celebrated Carnival, but working-class folks of all races pursued their flairs for psychic expression via folk art. This quest for the carnivalesque defines the current show at Barrister's Gallery with colorful visionary paintings by Baltimore's Morgan Monceaux and his "Becoming Visible" black artists collective. A former homeless veteran, Monceaux found fame with fanciful history paintings. Another collective member, Gloria Garrett, creates vibrant domestic scenes with lipstick and cosmetics. William Rhodes' box sculptures, such as Mother (pictured), convey the fraught psychic complexity of inner city life. These Baltimore works are complemented by a number of noteworthy pieces by local peers, including John Isiah Walton's psychodramatic portrait Mama's Last Freakout; Dennis Holt's chillingly elaborate Buddhist funerary portrait of Hurricane Katrina martyr Henry Glover; and Bruce Davenport Jr.'s obsessively monumental ink on paper marching band wall mural with a cast of thousands.

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