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In the 1960s and '70s, Joan Didion and Walker Percy anticipated a looming disintegration of American life and culture that never quite came to pass. What we got instead was global warming and localized natural and technological disasters we have come to know all too well.
Hurricanes, floods and oil spills have had a bracing effect on the art of Krista Jurisich, whose flair for reconfiguring chaos into distinctive collages and mixed-media concoctions is evident in works like Dipstick/Slick, a kind of Aquarium of the Americas scene where deep-sea monsters, test tubes, corporate clowns and consumer products share space with fish. In Pass the Buck (Hell Money)(pictured), the eyes of various corporate and institutional agencies are everywhere, but the clowns of chaos run rampant as monetary malfeasance and militant idiocy go high tech and ordinary folks have to scramble to keep up. These works comprise an eloquent sequel to Jurisich's pictorial quilt-like tapestries inspired by the devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent resurrection of the city and its culture. They also suggest that states of emergency are becoming the new American way of life.
Although every New Orleanian experienced a Katrina odyssey of sorts, Justin Forbes lived firsthand what many only saw on TV. After days in the Superdome, he and his girlfriend ended up in Denton, Texas, where they made a new life and got "right with God." If his pre-K paintings resembled an insider's view of hipster life not unlike a localized update of Jack Kerouac's On The Road, the work in this new show is similar yet somehow different. The crazies and riffraff that populate his paintings are much the same, but his no longer feels like an insider perspective. Here a sense of new beginnings is palpable, and it will be interesting to see where this new odyssey takes him. — D. Eric Bookhardt
The Theatre of Cultural Strata: mixed-media works by Krista Jurisich
Through May 2
Halcyon Days: paintings by Justin Forbes
Through May 8
Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, 400A Julia St., 522-5471; www.jonathanferraragallery.com