Taylor Murrow reviews the Prospect.3 show "Totems Not Taboo" at the Newcomb Art Gallery.
"Totems Not Taboo" Tulane University
Newcomb Art Gallery
October 25, 2015-January 25, 2015
There is an underlying darkness in the works at the Newcomb Art Gallery. A radiant heap of costume materials that would make some New Orleanians salivate, Andrea Fraser’s Um Monumento as Fantasias Descartadas is a brightly colored collection of abandoned headpieces, capes, jester hats, shoes, and masks gathered from the streets of Rio de Janeiro after Brazilian Carnival. Lifeless without bodies to invigorate them, the refuse sits as a mammoth reminder of the jubilance that once gave each item purpose and the solemnity that takes hold after the nationwide party is over. Bits of Fraser’s vibrant mountain of feathers, lace, and sequins are reflected in the neighboring prismatic sculptures of Monir Farmanfarmaian, whose intricate mirrored mosaics interpret ancient Persian design with a modernist perspective. The aesthetic connections in this collection of Prospect.3 works—the most obvious of any venue—make the search for deeper relationships even more tantalizing and elusive.
In an adjacent room, rendered in black cord and dripping strings of black beads, Hew Locke’s The Nameless is a mythological procession rich with old world symbols. Chilling clues—skulls, assault rifles, monstrous and ghoulish figures—paint a grim picture of a world dancing its way to destruction. Some of the figures look poised for battle, standing on skulls or atop gnarling beasts; one masked figure is playing a wind instrument with an AK-47 tucked under each wing. Grotesque and beautiful, no leader emerges in this nameless group—only an endless procession meandering through a starry night. While their destination is unclear, there is a simultaneous sense of triumph, mourning, and the determination to endure. Ebony G. Patterson’s large mixed media pieces bring the color back, but are equally jarring. Bursting with glitter and strips of floral wallpaper, her works address the androgynous splendor of men in Jamaican dancehall culture. Adorned with gems and a flash of various prints and textures, these men lie in a haunting paradise of sparkling fields, eyes closed as if lost in a dream, or drifted into the endless sleep of death.