Maricela Murillo visits an exhibition at Jonathan Ferrara Gallery that turns art history on its head.
Jonathan Ferrara Gallery
400A Julia Street
June 1–July 30, 2016
Stepping into “Art Hysterical” at Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, which was curated by the gallery’s director, Matthew Weldon Showman, feels at first like stepping into a European museum. Two groups of what, from afar, appear to be classic paintings are arranged salon-style across the flat white walls at the front of the gallery. But on closer inspection, the works reveal themselves to be surprising re-creations by artists who are currently based in New Orleans. In a group of photographs by E2 (Elizabeth Kleinveld and Epaul Julien), the artists transform the white men and women who traditionally look out blankly from dulled canvases. Now women of color stare defiantly into the viewer’s eyes, the subjects’ modern makeup contrasting sharply with their antiquated dresses. A black Olympia is tended to by her white servant, and, in another reversal, a man sits naked next to two women in suits in Ode to Manet’s Déjeuner sur l’herbe, 2011.
On the opposite wall, Generic Art Solutions (G.A.S.) have similarly taken art historical works and put them in a contemporary context. The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, 2013, no longer features the holy figure dressed in flowing folds of fabric; she’s replaced by a homeless man, asleep or unconscious, about to be beaten by a police officer in uniform. G.A.S.’ work explicitly addresses issues plaguing the modern world such as wealth inequality and the abuse of authority.
In one painting, Nora See reimagines Vincent van Gogh’s riff on the Baroque motif of memento mori, which are reminders of death that painters included most notably in still lives. See’s skeleton poses playfully at a windowsill with a cigarette. Adam Mysock’s works, all the size of paperback books, are painstaking copies of canonical American paintings—the only difference being the addition of a snow globe-like flurry of white falling from impossible places in the canvas. Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks café and Thomas Cole’s The Oxbow now have their own snowstorms. Overall, “Art Hysterical” stays true to its name—tipping the sometimes stuffy world of art history into the chaos of the 21st century.
Maricela Murillo is a rising junior at Tulane University. This past spring, she participated in Pelican Bomb’s internship program with local undergraduate students.