Pin It
Favorite

Review: Ritual and Ruin showcases haunting Civil War-era photomontages 

The exhibition at Cole Pratt runs through Sept. 19

click to enlarge tobinporterbrown--g.jpg

What is it about the Civil War? It killed more Americans than both world wars and Vietnam combined, yet the stark realities of that horrific conflict often are veiled in mystery. Although neither side understood what we now call "human rights," only one side fought to own humans like livestock. The wealthy often have avoided warfare, but in that conflict only one side exempted rich slave owners from the draft. My father's Confederate ancestors faced a dire choice: Fight for the planter oligarchy or abandon home and head north. Those grim realities were glossed over in gauzy romantic fantasies such as Gone With the Wind that gave the old South a hold on the popular imagination for generations — until more realistic accounts like 12 Years a Slave came along. This Ritual and Ruin show of Civil War-era images on panoramic metal plates montaged with David Knox's photography explores the shattered yet surreal dreams the Lost Cause left in its wake.

  Civil War photographs often are striking for the dramatic intensity that attends those living on the edge of annihilation. In 7 Kings, a group of army officers poses atop a battle-blasted earthen ziggurat as ironclad gunboats patrol the troubled waters below. The figures are stiff as statues, but their surroundings seem to crackle with the foggy fury of war. Harbingers of the Last Judgment depicts a dugout where dazed troops slouch warily as ghostly white horses graze a pock-marked field and a stately mansion rises in the distance. In The Ordination of Tobin Porter Brown (pictured), a drummer boy and a broom-wielding slave guard an ornate gateway to a street reduced to ruins as an army general and his wife pose placidly behind a picket fence. In all of these panoramic collage prints, the figures and landscapes are hauntingly real, but their dreamy composition reflects what Joan Didion called "a memory haunted landscape" where souls sundered by war's unholy madness must contemplate and try to make peace with their fate.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Pin It
Favorite
Submit an event Jump to date

Latest in Art Review

More by D. Eric Bookhardt

Spotlight Events

  • Once on This Island @ Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre
    616 St. Peter St. http://www.lepetittheatre.com

    • Fridays-Sundays and Mon., Sept. 25. Continues through Sept. 29
    • 1 going/interested
  • Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play @ Art Klub
    1941 Arts St. http://www.artistinc.org

    • Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m., Thu., Sept. 28, 8 p.m. and Thu., Oct. 5, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 7
  • Suspiria @ Prytania Theatre
    5339 Prytania St. http://www.theprytania.com

    • Fri., Sept. 29, 10 p.m., Sat., Sept. 30, 10 p.m. and Mon., Oct. 2, 10 p.m.
  • Urinetown @ University of New Orleans
    Robert E. Nims Theatre, Performing Arts Center, St. Anthony Drive off of 2000 Lakeshore Drive http://www.theatre.uno.edu

    • Fridays, Saturdays, 7:30 p.m., Sun., Oct. 1, 3 p.m., Sun., Oct. 8, 3 p.m. and Oct. 12-14, 7:30 p.m. Continues through Oct. 8
  • Treme Fall Festival @ St. Augustine Church
    1210 Gov. Nicholls St.

    • Sat., Sept. 30

© 2017 Gambit
Powered by Foundation