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Review: The Irascible Remembered and Unseen Currents 

Abstract expressionist works and mixed media sculpture at Octavia and Callan Contemporary

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New Orleans native Fritz Bultman was one of the founders of the modern art movement known as abstract expressionism. Nicknamed "The Irascibles," its godfather was German expressionist Hans Hofmann, with whom Bultman studied as a precocious teenager in Munich in 1935. Both eventually became New York art stars, but Bultman's oeuvre is characterized by the warmer, more lyrical qualities seen in works like his circa 1974 canvas Intrusion of Blue, with its serpentine interplay of colors. Similar dancelike forms characterize some of his late 1930s works on paper. By the late 1970s, collage paintings like Banner revealed a more graphical approach, but his most classical works must surely be his 1950s-era canvases such as Trembling Prairie III, with atmospheric swatches of smoky yellows, reds and charcoal hues, or King Zulu (pictured), a pulsating carnivalesque tone poem that, true to its title, amounts to a tribute to the lyrical resonances of his Creole hometown.   William Shakespeare once wrote, "There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune." He didn't live in Louisiana, however, where tides are a dicey proposition. In her expo at Callan Contemporary, Raine Bedsole explores the fine line between fragility and survival. Her gossamer, suspended canoes seem to drip oversize tears, but the tears are glass and their skeletal structures are made of metal, signifying the steely underlying resilience of the human spirit. That elemental dualism is a constant, appearing in works such as Storm, an evocation of land liquefying into waves rendered in watercolors on antique maps, and in an impassive Buddha partially bound by ropes, and in Rain Tower, like a Tower of Babel drenched in mists and rising seas — a parable, perhaps for a state where politicians routinely undermine our chances for a more fortunate future by endlessly squabbling as relentless tides rise inexorably around us.


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