Ashley L. Voss visits Philip Gould’s recent exhibition at LeMieux Galleries, which includes photographs of abandoned nightclubs and dance halls in South Louisiana.
332 Julia Street
April 29–May 27, 2017
I imagine eager couples mingling beneath the glow of flashing fluorescent lights, while, in the distance, notes of an accordion are accompanied by the sass of a snare drum. The dance-hall building transforms into a music box pulsating to the rhythm of a band inside. The urge to move is irresistible. But in Philip Gould’s Ghosts of Good Times series, the grass parking lot is empty—the party has relocated. Gould’s photographs, recently on view in an exhibition of the same name at LeMieux Galleries, depict abandoned South Louisiana nightclubs that were once bustling with Cajun and zydeco music.
The exterior of a rectangular building divides the horizon in Hamilton Club at Dawn, 2017. Silhouettes of spindly trees are defined against an ombré sky—lavender transforming into champagne pink, a toast to what little remains of the night. The scene is empty of people. Isolation is emphasized by the pronounced white of the building, a stark contrast to its colorful surroundings. A misleading invitation, a sign reading “Hamilton’s Place,” is fastened above the now shuttered entrance. There is no evidence of the club’s vivacious history. Only nature is privy to the memories that linger within the shadows. The building’s lone presence hearkens to a time when dance halls were prevalent throughout the region. To highlight the passing of time, Gould displays photographs he took years ago, when the clubs were bustling with activity, alongside images that show their current deserted states.
A whisper of sexual energy graces an interior in Holiday Lounge, 2017. Curved booths glide against a wall in a repetitive rhythm beneath the allure of wooden cut-outs of bikini-clad women. Music vibrations seem to linger behind stains in the paisley-patterned wallpaper. Dust and old air conditioners are reminders of the vacant establishment’s past popularity. But Gould, embracing the resilient spirit of Louisiana culture, reminds us that the music has not faded. Although now dormant, these venues—and Gould’s photographs—serve as vessels to carry on a proud and important regional legacy of dancing and nightlife.