It’s the last weekend to catch "Something Here from Somewhere Else" at Good Children Gallery. Before it's gone, Emily Wilkerson reviews.
"Something Here from Somewhere Else" showcases 13 psychologically demanding works by five artists working between New Orleans, Los Angeles, and New York. Carefully arranged by curators Srdjan Loncar and Sesthasak Boonchai, the works prompt the viewer to place him or herself within spaces and places both unknown and familiar, be they homes, hotels, or murder scenes. As the title infers, the exhibition’s centripetal force is the interaction between (and relationships found within) spaces and their visitors or inhabitants. It is this phenomenological theme that brings the distinct practices of both the artists and curators into seamless display, despite their varied subjects.
Perhaps the works that most draw the viewer in upon entering are two from Deborah Luster’s Tooth for an Eye: A Chorography of Violence in Orleans Parish series. These large circular prints of an empty room and an open sidewalk, respectively, document homicides in the city. Their blatantly simple imagery invites the viewer to envision the crime using the factual details Luster provides in her wall labels, drawing him or her into life-changing events. Situated among Luster’s works, the scale and detail of Maria Levitsky’s “photographic fictions” from her Treme Mystery House series lure the viewer into two-dimensional and simultaneously sculptural spaces. Shot in the Louise Arsene Vitry House, the images Levitsky uses in these pieces are often taken in the same room from a different angle, placed together to create fictional panoramic views and further manipulated by cutting out elements, such as light fixtures or planters, and affixing them on top of the photographs. Lingering among Levitsky’s and Luster’s black-and-white works, Stephen Hilger’s grandiose color prints of the notorious and now-demolished Ambassador Hotel become nostalgic beacons of fame, death, and emptiness in the room, recalling the site’s history as the setting for the Academy Awards, the nightclub Cocoanut Grove, as well as the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.
Eric Graham’s small, square paintings punctuate the conversation among the collection of photographs, shifting the viewer’s gaze through an abrupt change in both scale and material. Graham’s oil on linen works are intimate renderings of corners, windows, and doorways, in which shadows and light theatricize these splices of space. The still, focused environment of the front gallery sharply contrasts the dimly-lit, loud back room that holds Katherine Newbegin’s Cleaning Up, 2010-2012, a video of a New York sanitation worker narrating details of homicide and suicide clean-up jobs. The imagery of the video is similar to Luster’s in its indistinctness—views of ordinary rooms, a photograph of an unidentified woman, a cleaning machine, or a bottle of cleaning liquid. Where Luster’s works are in dialogue with their informative labels, Newbegin’s video relies on a voiceover to provide gruesome details for the viewer to associate with the subjects under examination.
Abandonment, erasure, and the derelict dominate the imagery and sounds of the real and imagined spaces filling Good Children Gallery—all prompting viewers to question their perceptions of and associations found within the spaces presented in the exhibition and those of the unconscious. One is pulled toward the walls for close examinations, swept into alternative life portals, and prompted to uncover memories, fictions, and truths, becoming at times both interlocutor and subject.
"Something Here from Somewhere Else" on view through August 5, 2012 at Good Children Gallery, 4037 St. Claude Avenue in New Orleans. The exhibition is open Saturday and Sunday, 12–5 pm.