Art Fly: St. Claude December Openings

Installation view of ALASKA Project's "AS ABOVE-SO BELOW" at Good Children Gallery, New Orleans. Courtesy the artists.

Editor's Note

There are only a few weekends left in 2012. Using yours to see some art? Pelican Bomb's trusty art fly, Rachel Gorman, reports from St. Claude:

It was a night of Big Picture Issues at St. Claude Avenue’s Second Saturday in December. The exhibits at Antenna, Good Children, and The Front ask gallery-goers to consider life, interconnection, and how in the face of death one finds ways to carry on (answer: humor … and liquor, for some). This Art Fly might be a little later than usual, but what’s a few extra days when you’ve just gotten back from the ends of the earth, right?

I started my night at Antenna’s newest show “End of Days (as seen on TV),” a cheeky response to the oft-referenced prophesies about an imminent apocalypse (the Mayan version now just days away). Running through “January 6th (or the end of the world)” as they put it, the show features a variety of artists’ wildly diverse reactions to doomsday predictions. Some works deal abstractly with the nature of prediction. Blown-up images from the late Alexander Leydenfrost’s Illustrations from Pageant Magazine Article A-Bombs Blast U.S. City, 1951, features reproduced pages ripped from a sensationalist mid-century magazine and grounds current fears of future Armageddon by pointing out the absurdity of past prophecies. Natalie McLaurin focuses on the content of apocalyptic visions themselves, mockingly referencing the beasts of the Bible’s Revelations with her brightly colored, cartoonish prints, along with a stuffed sculptural work that looked rather snuggly if only it weren’t covered with so many eyeballs.

Amanda Cassingham-Bardwell, SHTF, 2012. Installation of found objects and video. Courtesy the artist.

SHTF, 2012, by Amanda Cassingham-Bardwell was perhaps the most straightforwardly serious piece of the night: a life-sized replica of what one might find in a small but well-stocked bomb shelter. It features a lawn chair and television surrounded by large stores of brand-label food products punctuated by weaponry and liquor. Because of its visual complexity, looking at SHTF is like playing a very grim I spy game, hunting in its details for visual indications of threat and violence. The empty lawn chair also asks viewers to engage—to contemplate themselves seated within the shelter’s space—but its bleak message was undercut during the Saturday night opening by the energy of the art crowd partying outside the exhibit space. It turns out gallery-goers aren’t the type to take the threat of Armageddon sitting down. I took a page from their book and moved on to the next show.

At Good Children, “AS ABOVE-SO BELOW” presented works from the Australian artist-run space, ALASKA Projects, as a part of a cultural exchange between the two galleries. Sebastian Goldspink, one of ALASKA’s representatives at the show explained to me that the theme of the opening was “interconnection” meant to stress the idea that “we are all made up of atoms, everything is the same,” and more specifically, that New Orleans and Sydney, Australia have a lot in common. He pointed out Biljana Jancic’s Untitled, 2012, as an example; her site-specific strip of aluminum foil suspended like a jump rope invoked both the crescent shape of New Orleans and the shape of the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Sebastian went on to explain that as a financial and creative constraint, his team had only allowed themselves to show work that would fit into one suitcase. Even the luggage itself had been used in a piece: Bridie Connell’s Queens Cross (The Golden Mile), which was set up with tea candles and St. Teresa iconographies like an on-the-fly shrine for a traveling salesman. Checking out Connell’s work, I was reminded of the traveling I still had yet to do. I packed up my things. It was time to head to the next gallery.

The final opening I toured was at The Front, where I found Mike Drake’s show “Billions and Billions” in the back of the gallery. Suspended in the middle of the room like a huge, glitter-covered barbell were two copper-colored lobes facing one another, their concave sides connected by a network of small silver branches reaching towards one another and converging into a center stem. The piece looked organic enough to represent any number of biological materials—related brain synapses or hopelessly entangled jellyfish were a few of the possibilities that came immediately to mind. Mike explained to me though that the two sides of the piece actually represented an expanding universe. The glitter-covered stems echoic of the branching effects found in nature and the “sexy cosmic geometry” of an exploding star. Talking to Mike, my Second Saturday’s journey had come full circle: starting with future destruction, it ended with a big bang.

Natalie McLaurin, Don't be such a Nostradamus domesticated beast , 2012. Multimedia. Courtesy the artist.

Editor's Note

What’s next on the horizon for this cosmic dancer? Only time will tell. Catch you in 2013, New Orleans! Unless those old Mayans were right after all…