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Review: Raw at Stella Jones Gallery 

Antonio Carreno’s paintings expose New Orleans’ Afro-Caribbean roots

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These days, New Orleans' shared history with Haiti is much better known than its Spanish Caribbean heritage, so it may come as a surprise that when Louisiana was a Spanish colony we were governed by officials in Havana, Cuba, not Spain. That island history came to mind when viewing Antonio Carreno's abstract paintings at Stella Jones Gallery. A native of the Dominican Republic, Haiti's neighbor, Carreno infuses his work with something of their shared island's metaphysical aura, as seen in Senses (pictured). Here mystical markings reminiscent of Voodoo and other symbols punctuate crimson blood and hibiscuslike swatches radiating out from verdant green glades and deep azure pools amid a misty veil of atmospheric slate and gold in a composition that recalls both tropical nature and the turbulent history of the Caribbean. Amid the more subdued hues of works like Endless Night are some related motifs that not only evoke indigenous mysticism but also the Afro-Caribbean rhythms that define our musical heritage from Louis Moreau Gottschalk to Mardi Gras Indians and Allen Toussaint.

  Also on view is a selection of works by New Orleans native and pioneer abstract expressionist Ed Clark, who along with Norman Lewis came to symbolize black America's contribution to an idiom viewed by many as a visual version of modern jazz. These among other accomplished works are part of the lead-up to the Stella Jones Gallery's 20th anniversary show in August featuring classic paintings and sculptures by Elizabeth Catlett, Romare Bearden and Richard Dempsey as well as some of the younger artists they inspired.

  After years of semi-nomadic existence, the internationally celebrated Music Box village of musical shanties now has a permanent Bywater home. A production of the nonprofit New Orleans Airlift (www.neworleansairlift.org), the Music Box project still relies on Kickstarter campaigns for its funding, but its new permanent address will provide it with a foundation on which to build.

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