Goodbye Letter: Megan Roniger at The Front

Tasia Kastanek reviews Megan Roniger's "New Works" at The Front.

Megan Roniger, Untitled, 2015. Letterpress type drawer and paper. Courtesy the artist.

Megan Roniger
The Front
4100 St. Claude Avenue
March 14 - April 5, 2015

Megan Roniger’s cut works are the art equivalent of a memory keepsake box. Recycled lockets and picture frames introduce a personal tone, while paper silhouettes of New Orleans’ cultural icons—a steamboat, a streetcar, oyster shells, and a porch swing—lend a sense of place. In one piece (all works in the show are untitled), Roniger uses a letterpress type drawer with its built-in wooden compartments as a shadowbox for her flattened forms; an image of a carousel horse rides above scattered acorns on the left side while a Matissean female nude reclines above a hanky-waving hand to the right. The many compartments separate the forms and disrupt any sense of narrative. Here Roniger seems more interested in shapes and colors than anything else.

In another piece, Roniger creates a collage of images within a tri-fold picture frame. Against orange, blue, and black, white silhouettes of a streetcar, a lighthouse, and a blossoming iris overlap across a shallow stage. In a multi-part hanging work, pages with New Orleans-themed text frame a series of five metal lockets. Trailing down the page, lines of text mention the Spanish influenza, a Zulu parade, and the “smells and sights of Dryades street,” like a free-form poem. Just as her paper forms emerge and dissipate across frames and colored backgrounds, the fragments of sentences leave much of the story to the imagination. This isn't the most inventive use of paper we’ve seen from Roniger over the years, and her newest creations may read as too sentimental for viewers unaware of their context. The exhibition is dedicated to her late grandmother who passed away last fall, and Roniger, a native New Orleanian, is also in the process of preparing to leave her hometown. In this light, the works seem as much a generous love letter to the city, and her experience growing up in it, as a productive way of working through how she’ll want to remember it when she’s gone.

MEGAN RONIGER, Untitled, 2015. Assorted lockets and paper. COURTESY THE ARTIST.