Benjamin Morris reviews the open call exhibition “Monster!” at a new gallery inside of the restaurant Kebab.
2315 St. Claude Avenue
October 11–November 7, 2014
Far from being released from their cages only at Halloween, monsters are everywhere, all around us, all the time. Such is the claim of the “Monster!” exhibition at Skewer Gallery, a new side gallery housed in the restaurant Kebab along the St. Claude Avenue corridor. An exhibition of approximately 30 pieces, this show invites viewers to reconsider their notion of what constitutes the terrible and the ghastly.
Gleaned from an open call, the work is expectedly uneven—sometimes bad—yet charmingly diverse, ranging from children’s Crayola imaginings of three-headed and googly-eyed creatures to far more adult visions. Monica Rose Kelly’s Interdependence is an unsettling rendering of an oil field in an anonymous degraded landscape filled with afflicted species, evoking the monstrosity of industrial machinery. Dotting her chilled palette are flocks of carbon dioxide molecules flapping away into the horizon, above scores of drowning hands grasping out of the waters for help.
Bart Everson’s Scary Monster offers a view on the tiny monsters that we rarely ever heed or acknowledge as such—a photographic close-up of a beetle in all its disconcerting detail. Such microphotography is not new, of course—the film Microcosmos popularized the genre nearly 20 years ago—but its effects are refreshing here. Sean Clark’s piece in the show asks its audience to consider monstrosity in viral form. An illustration of HIV, in which gruesome cells with open jaws and tongues swallow the incoming morsels of the virus like food, the piece upends the question of which microorganism in this mortal battle is the monster and which is the prey. It feels especially frightening now, as each day brings new developments in our current Ebola scare.
Furthering the exploration, monstrous spaces and objects, too, get a nod, both in haunted buildings (Ross Peter Nelson’s The Haunting) and gruesome implements. Ross Luuz’s Revolution, a pen and watercolor depiction of a guillotine, echoes the moody, atmospheric bombed-out cathedrals of the British artist John Piper in a surprising visual dialogue. Even harmless local monsters make an appearance in the show, with Anthony DelRosario’s outsize Carnival masks installed on two mannequins: a pleasing reminder of just how normal to New Orleans the otherworldly is.
But for all the re-imaginings, nothing satisfies like a good-old-fashioned beast. Occupying pride of place in the gallery is a whale whose name is shorthand for fear, obsession, and ultimately, doom: Eliot Brown’s White Whale Piñata, rendered in eight feet of papier-mâché—complete with harpoon ready for piercing. Gazing into its lidless, accusing eye, we’re reminded that of all the creatures that are out there, the most terrifying of all are the ones that gaze back at us in the mirror, no matter what kind of costume we wear this Halloween season.
“Monster!” at Skewer is open during restaurant hours at Kebab Friday to Monday, 11am to 12am. Proceeds from the auction of White Whale Piñata will benefit Books 2 Prisoners, an outreach program that provides reading material to inmates in four states in the Gulf South.