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Review: black artists at Stella Jones in HERstory, plus paintings by Keith Duncan 

Genre paintings at a group expo of art stars and at CANO Creative Space

click to enlarge beasley_.phoebe_-_fine_china_--g.jpg

in the 21st century we have quick access to information, but many of us have less and less time to make sense of it all. There also is less time for the ordinary rituals that traditionally held lives and families together. Depictions of such everyday acts, called genre paintings, went out of style ages ago but recently have made a comeback. The HERstory show at Stella Jones Gallery features work by blue-chip black artists — with a number of genre scenes in which women play a prominent role. Phoebe Beasley's Fine China (pictured) is an alluringly stylized view of an affluent family around the dinner table. The familiar family trappings all are present, but the cool yet charged body language suggests a short story where intrigue and ironies play out just below the surface. Wayne Manns' Grandma's Biscuits is a vintage view of a family having breakfast. Much earthier in tone, its powerful brushwork would make it look at home in a museum, so it's startling that his regular exhibition space is actually Jackson Square. Works by art stars including John T. Scott, Elizabeth Catlett, Gordon Parks, Faith Ringgold, Samella Lewis and Barbara Chase-Riboud round out this diverse and eloquent expo.

  Keith Duncan's genre scenes at the Creative Alliance of New Orleans (CANO) gallery include two series with different perspectives. Initially, the smaller works are reminiscent of cliche New Orleans postcard scenes from a glossy tourist brochure — until you notice the homeless and impoverished people woven seamlessly into the imagery. Duncan's major masterpieces are his two almost wall-size paintings, Wedding Reception and Funeral Repass — complexly ribald works like modern Creole versions of the often hilarious yet quintessentially human interactions immortalized by maestros ranging from Pieter Brueghel the Elder to Thomas Hart Benton and Archibald Motley. It's amazingly evocative, flamboyantly painted stuff.


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