In an elegant suite of fabricated bronze sculptures, David Borgerding marries cool material sophistication with an invigorating sense of dynamism. His works have a distinct musical quality about them, with long, lyrical lines punctuated by shorter staccato rhythms. Working together in concert, these elements play visual variations on the themes of ascension and expansion, as forms rise outward and upward, seemingly unbound by the strictures of gravity. The forms recall the abstracted organicism of Constantin Brancusi's and Isamu Noguchi's works, yet for all their biomorphic allusiveness, Borgerding's works do not directly reference representational objects. "The forms that I enjoy," he explains, "don't make me think of anything literal; they're just forms that have the mysterious ability to stir my soul, and when combined together, they come to life as a whole."
The recipient of a career opportunity grant from the prestigious Joan Mitchell Foundation, Borgerding earned a Masters of Fine Arts degree from Savannah College of Art & Design. Enthusiastically reviewed in publications such as ARTnews and Sculptural Pursuit, his works have drawn the attention of important collectors throughout the United States. Working in his New Orleans studio, Borgerding begins each piece with a sketch or cardboard model, which he alters and perfects during a process of compositional improvisation. A sense of intuition and play lingers in the completed works, which the artist finishes with a polish and patina that complement the warmth of their earth-toned palette.
As the works' shapes flow into one another-sometimes perched as if on a razor's edge, other times appearing to float above their bases-they frequently elicit reactions of wonderment from viewers, who are apt to marvel that such intricately balanced compositions are physically possible. Through a singular integration of technical prowess and creative inspiration, Borgerding manages to counterweight the sheer visual drama of his compositions with a parallel undercurrent of serenity. The sculptures' planes are predominantly Cartesian, with horizontal and vertical lines enlivened by judicious use of the diagonal. The familiar, reassuring quality of this spatial orientation imbues the works with a deep sense of rootedness and security, even as their kineticism and asymmetry energize the viewer's imagination.
Individual and cultural identity are as tightly interwoven as the meticulously entwined beads, crystals, and semi-precious stones in Key-Sook Geum’s extraordinary sculptural objects. In Dream a Dream, her third solo exhibition at Callan Contemporary, Geum uses her signature materials and techniques in poignant new ways. Following on the heels of her work with historical and contemporary sartorial forms (dresses, vests, jackets, and robes), the South Korean artist is now revisiting her heritage by reinterpreting traditional Korean garments from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897). The jackets and coats that cap these garments—called Jo-go-re, Jik-lyung, Jang-eui, Dang-eui, Jang-ot, and Du-ru-ma-ge—are elegant shapes with inherently sculptural properties. Their arms stretch out in broad, horizontal gestures, as if greeting the viewer with a welcoming embrace. Geum renders these vestments in a delicate web of faceted beads, amber, and Swarovsky crystals, held together within a net of intricately cut, bent, and twisted wire. With their eye-catching sparkle and the interlocking shadows they cast under directional lighting, the sculptures marry sumptuous visual glamour with thematic resonance.
Geum’s works figure prominently in private, corporate, and museum collections around the world. A professor at the College of Fine Arts, Hongik University (Seoul), she has in recent years completed major commissions for corporations such as Argo Group and Royal Caribbean International. The works in Dream a Dream, while specific in their cultural origins, are conceptually universal; they suggest the human form but do not literally depict it. They are open: porous not only to air and light, but also to the viewer’s imagination and projection. “Various implications are possible,” the artist explains, “according to the viewer’s aesthetic, philosophy, values, and family traditions. While I was working on this show, I dreamed of the lives of the people who wore this style of dress in earlier days: their thoughts, their efforts to make a better life and a better society for coming generations.” In the glittering, dewdrop delicacy of Geum’s sculptures, a respect for the past points to new ways of seeing ourselves: “a message,” she suggests, “of optimism and hope for the future.”
In his first exhibition at Callan Contemporary, John Folsom examines the landscape of the Southern swamp as a quiet space of meditative solitude. Culled from images gathered at Okefenokee Swamp in South Georgia, this new body of work represents the area as ethereal space brimming with folkloric myth and peaceful contemplation.
Inspired by the position of swampy landscapes in classic monster movies, these snap shots of an otherworldly setting leave an indelible mark. Drawing deeply on the primitive flora and fauna of the setting, Folsom leaves the palette neutral and somber, enhancing the introspective effect. The reflective nature of the waterways cutting through the landscapes tugs at memories, causing personal narratives, Southern mythologies and family histories to become individually projected into the visual space.
The effect of the dozen new large-scale works is transformative; the pieces loom, pulling the viewer along, through channels draped in Spanish moss as landscapes disappear or barely float on the surface. Punctuated splashes of green meeting the yellow undergrowth of the water breathe life into the setting as the eye moves ever forward. Trees, haloed and obliterated by the use of white pigments seem to hover on the edge of perception. One does not look at the pieces as much as enter them.
Folsom's practice demonstrates this narrative potential of landscape images through the intersection of painting and photography. His multi-tiered process begins with travel and documentation. Full digital images are broken into grids; then each tile is developed individually onto digital pigment print. The image is reassembled and adhered to a wooden panel, evidence of the grid remaining in the completed piece. He then paints on the surface of the photographic paper using traditional oils and seals the work with a wax finishing varnish.
Folsom is a mixed media artist born and raised in Paducah, Kentucky. He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Cinema and Photography from Southern Illinois University. Folsom's work has been exhibited extensively throughout North American and can be found in many institutional collections including the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, South Carolina. His work was most recently acquired for the private collection of Jon Stewart.
"My new series, Creeper Lagoon, is an attempt to present the space of the swamp as a cultural construct," he says. "Devoid of indigenous life, the images presented here become a space of potential where the viewer's reference and experience fill in the gaps to create a personal narrative. My fascination with these spaces has grown with continued photographic exploration of the American coastal south."
In Folsom's work, the swamp is a microcosm, rich with primitive flora and fauna, but also abounding with stories of swamp monsters, swamp gas and white alligators. This exhibition seeks to present the territory as a beginning from which an enterprise of contemplation and projection can be launched. In this way, the swamp is dependent upon the viewer's experience and interpretation to find its place.
JAMES KENNEDY systems RECEPTION Saturday April 6th 6-9-pm
Like the fabled “music of the spheres” that enchanted medieval philosophers, the sublime geometries of James Kennedy’s systems embody a perfected sense of balance, order, and harmony. Working with mixed media on eucalyptis-wood Masonite, Kennedy applies layer upon layer of thinned-out acrylic paint, building up the washes to impart a texturally sensual, chromatically nuanced surface. Then, using blades and other tools, he incises lines into the paint and, more deeply, the panels themselves. The deeper lines cast subtle shadows, adding to the surfaces’ topographical character. Pinpoint dots, another visual trademark, lend further texturality and heighten the series’ architectonic feel.
Born in Northern Ireland and educated in painting at the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh, Kennedy now lives in Manhattan. His work has been exhibited widely, featured in major art fairs, and acquired into prestigious collections around the world. His paintings at Callan Contemporary are part of an ongoing series called SPATIAL, in which mathematical and musical elements come together in invigorating equipoise. Highly sophisticated and meticulous in technique, the works flow from a decidedly improvisational approach. “For all of their organized scheme, there’s actually no pre-planning,” the artist relates. “They aren’t complete until there is a balance to the spatial resolution of the painting, where every line and gesture is somehow in harmony, and the piece is held together no matter how complex it is.”
The exhibition’s title derives from the “systems” Kennedy creates to resolve compositional relationships. Notably, the lines, shapes, and proportions that make his paintings so visually gratifying, serve a purpose that is both formal and expressive. He views each element, in a sense, as an individual or character in an overarching narrative, which he calls “the journey of the line.” It is a narrative that unfolds not in words, but in the reductivist language of abstraction. Elegant, intricate, and conceptually rich, Kennedy’s works invite viewers into a contemplative inner space, in which serene forms engage one another in spirited, dynamic interchange.
With Zelma, his third solo exhibition at Callan Contemporary, Mitchell Lonas evolves his popular series depicting bird nests and floating feathers, and debuts a new body of work devoted to the power and serenity of waterfalls. Lonas' works on painted and incised aluminum panel have won acclaim for their unique and sophisticated technique, which blends aspects of drawing, painting, and sculpture. He continually hones this technique as he reinterprets signature motifs and portrays new subject matter, modifying his customized tools to afford greater detail, reflectivity, and depth within the incised lines. Drawing from the influences of traditional Chinese painting and the modernist idioms of lyrical abstraction and minimalism, Lonas captures both the majestic and soothing qualities of the waterfall, whose continuous motion and constant form make it an enduring symbol of dynamism and infinite potentiality.
Lonas, who studied art history at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, is featured in significant private, public, and corporate collections, and has been commissioned to create large-scale works for Fortune 500 companies. His love of nature permeates his work, which captures moments, places, and phenomena that have a contemplative beauty that might otherwise go unnoticed. With the waterfall, he has added a visually seductive motif to his visual vocabulary. The fluid sheets, arcs, and atomized flecks of water appear to dance with the light source as viewers observe the works from different vantage points.
"I want to express the pinnacle of the celebration of nature," Lonas remarks. "In the floating feathers, the nests, the waterfalls, I'm focusing on elements of nature and reducing them to their essences. I want to leave room for the viewer to fill in some of the blanks and have their own interpretation."
By isolating key motifs before a black matte background, the artist creates a meditative environment, suspended in space and time. There is a feeling of hovering, of weightlessness, of being transported to a quadrant of the natural world that is somehow both familiar and exotic. In all phases-from inspiration to execution to the final nuances of presentation-Lonas has seamlessly married technical mastery to metaphoric potency, beckoning viewers into a gleaming realm of sublime experience.
Beneath their pearlescent skin, Michael Kessler's paintings breathe - breathe, you might think, like the flora whose limbs and trunks course through his compositions; but, no, they breathe more as music breathes. To be sure, the spine, visual and spiritual, of Kessler's painting is that of the natural - the botanical - world. But the sense of structure that pervades his paintings maintains an elaborate, patterned density all its own, one you start to hear as you see it. Intricately contrapuntal partitions, multiphonic overlays, shifting sequences of dark and light, large and small, flatness and texture, color and grisaille predominate in particular in his newest work. In their flow and punctuation, these latest paintings are veritable scores for hearing - or soundings for seeing.
Although he acknowledges their musical nature, Kessler does not produce these tableaux in response to any musical stimulus, specific composition or general formula. Indeed, until recently his own commentary and others' has stressed the natural - the "organic" - factors giving the work its swooping, crackling linear presence. The lyricism infusing Kessler's painting resides, in fact, in its myriad branches and veins, factors that do not contribute to the paintings' melodic or harmonic quality but flavor it with a nuance that determines timbre. You might say they constitute the instrumental - that is, optical - inflection here. But, to re-emphasize, such visual-sonic equivalence is no more impulse of the artist than it is the fancy of the viewer.
One may be on more secure ground identifying Kessler's structure as architectural. The off-beat recurrence of geometric forms framing and interrupting the persistent, underlying treelike forms and images can certainly be likened to eccentric arrangements of windows in the façades of modernist buildings: Le Corbusier and Niemeyer would recognize Kessler's sense of order as a recapitulation of their own. In many paintings the trees and branches appear framed by these apertures. But, goes the aphorism, architecture is frozen music, and there is a flow to these paintings' disposition that urges the eye to travel, to see all the visual incident as at least potentially in flux. Deliberately or not, Kessler may have determined the moment at which architecture's solidity gives way to music's fluidity.
All that said, note should be made as well of the mood - the tone - set in these paintings. It is a shifting tone, one that doesn't simply set organic intricacy against the geometric pacing of a built environment, but builds on the animated superposition of these two sets of elements, on the contrast and the continuity that maintain between them. Certain of the newer paintings can seem brittle, dry and wintry, while others radiate an earthy warmth. They evoke weather and flavor, age and scent. Metaphorically, at least, these paintings appeal to all five senses. You can taste them with your ears.
Michael Kessler invites such synesthetic hyperbole through a process of deformulation. He restricts his vocabulary to certain subjects and certain forms, then breaks down these forms and subjects by running them into and through one another. In musical terms, it is a formidable polyphony - a polyphony felt with an immediacy that transcends, or more to the point breaks through, metaphoric equivalency. You do hear them with your eyes.
TERESA COLE Mantras of Form and Pattern
RECEPTION Saturday, December 1st, 6-9 pm
A dynamic interplay of simplicity and complexity delights the viewer's eye in Teresa Cole's latest body of work, Mantras of Form and Pattern. In an immersive installation of handmade paper and a suite of abstract compositions, this widely exhibited artist-a professor and chair of the art department at Tulane University-mines her explorations of Indian art and philosophy, illuminating just how intertwined these disciplines are. The works were inspired by Cole's visits to India and by paintings collected in French poet Franck André Jamme's groundbreaking book, Tantra Song. Those paintings, Cole remarks, "are so unbelievably beautiful and simple-the author, Jamme, describes them as 'almost everything and almost nothing.'" Her own works are informed by a similar dialogue between form and absence, a dialectic heightened by the physicality of her process. The papers' edges are feathery and deckled; colors bleed through with sensual organicism; and the sandwiching of linen and abaca fibers creates passages of alternating opacity and translucence.
Cole's works are prized in important private, corporate, and institutional collections around the world. The current pieces stem from a grant, awarded by the Office of Academic Affairs at Tulane University, she received this summer to work with master paper-maker Lisa Switalski at Dieu Donné studio in New York City. Utilizing stencils that depict a treasure trove of patterns culled from her research in India, she evolved a vision in which subject matter and technique, ornamentation and structure, became one and the same. In this exhibition at Callan Contemporary, she complements wall-based works with an installation comprised of nearly 100 shaped pieces of handmade paper, divided among six symmetrical forms and hues of pink, indigo, saffron, and black. Hung from strips of Indian saris, the forms appear to float beneath a wooden armature. Viewers walk around the installation's curves and reach an enveloping, curtain-like center, a space for reflection and contemplation.
Throughout the exhibition, pigment and paper pulp coalesce into sculptural wholes, yielding subtle variations in texture, pattern, and color. "I view them as meditations, repetitions, and mantras," Cole says. "I'm hoping the viewer can stand in front of them and become mesmerized by the complexity of some, the simplicity of others, or by both of those aspects in the same piece."
George Dunbar occupies a storied position in the art history of New Orleans. At a time when this city's contributions to global cultural innovation include its new fame as a spawning ground for emerging artists and co-op galleries, Dunbar's legacy as a founder of the Orleans Gallery in 1956, the first co-op gallery in the South, seems prescient. At a time when climate change and the environment appear on the leading edge of cultural, as well as technological and biological, evolution, his longstanding artistic focus on the interstices of the natural world and the built environment appear remarkably insightful. Yet, throughout all that, his approach to art making has never lost sight of the significance of the artist's hand, that embodiment of spontaneity and skill reflecting the essence of creative virtuosity in action. Beyond the hand, the land and the elements, he has also exhibited a keen understanding of the formal geometry of mankind's higher aspirations as seen in the sublime motifs of sacred sites where celestial forms and rare metals manifest the immutability of the human spirit.
All of these influences come together, often playfully, in works typically possessed of an elegant simplicity that belies their elaborately wrought craftsmanship. Here an alchemy of low relief clay surfaces, lustrous colors and rare metal leaf finishes yield objects that combine the subtle visual refinements of painting with the physical presence of finely wrought sculpture. The works in this exhibition largely reflect the gestural, abstractly organic qualities of his Marsh Grass, Mallarme and Rouville series, and the flowing bayous and botanical forms of the Northshore landscape that has been Dunbar's muse for much of his adult life. Here the elements of that amphibious landscape are reborn as iconic creations that subsume their origins in nature and culture into vibrant new iterations of timeless formal beauty.
RAINE BEDSOLE Dream Documents RECEPTION Saturday August 4th, 6-9 pm
WHITE LINEN NIGHT
Raine Bedsole continues her career-long celebration of nature in a new body of work inspired by her recent travels to Greece and Cuba. The intense hues of the Adriatic and Aegean Seas, as well as the "Havana Blue" prevalent in Cuban architecture, have found their way into the artist's serenely minimal color palette. Highly regarded for her sculptures, mixed-media paintings, and works on paper, Bedsole has created a compositionally and thematically nuanced suite of works that reference the branching of trees and corals, incorporating materials that allude to the personal narratives that shape our lives.
Growing up in the pine-covered landscape of coastal south Alabama, where her family has lived for generations, Bedsole found a deep and lasting appreciation for nature. Today, that sense of reverence is evident across the gamut of her artistic output. In works based in sculpture, collage, and watercolor, she often employs maps, letters, books, and antique fabrics, interweaving layers of meaning and turning each piece into a tapestry of old and new, individual and universal. The undersea imagery in her coral-based pieces, for example, began as a response to the historic 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. These forms superimpose sheer visual beauty atop deeper reminders of the Gulf's unseen but vitally important ecosystems.
The recipient of a prestigious grant from the Joan Mitchell Foundation and significant public art commissions, Bedsole has exhibited her work to popular and critical acclaim throughout Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and the Americas. In addition to the coral-based pieces and her familiar boat and oar sculptures, this exhibition debuts a new series of ephemeral sculptures based on the form of a "floating house." In these sculptures-and throughout this hauntingly beautiful, emotionally affecting body of work-Bedsole marries material virtuosity with an uncommon sensitivity to symbolism and the power of natural form.
JOSE-MARIA CUNDIN Opus Concava RECEPTION Saturday, June 2nd, 6-9 pm
Thoughtful, mysterious, and wildly imaginative, José-Maria Cundin's latest series, Opus Concava, deconstructs notions of space, perception, and emotion. Art lovers familiar with the internationally renowned painter's style will instantly recognize his semi-abstract vocabulary of biomorphic shapes coalescing like flower petals in a bouquet, words in a semiotic system, or the components of an ever-shifting personality. Cundin refers to these oil paintings on wood panel as "portraits, pseudo-portraits, echograms, and ectoplasm Imagery" within a highly idiosyncratic catalogue of saints. Rather than painting portraits of conventional sitters, he allows the viewer's eye to connect ribbons and chunks of color, which cluster around an invisible center of gravity. These elements integrate into psychologically penetrating visages more akin to Jacques Lacan's dynamic conception of identity than traditional notions of a fixed core self. Strikingly, Cundin renders the portraits on concave panels, many of them in unconventional circular or triangular shapes. Varying degrees of concavity lend uncanny optical effects as viewers observe the paintings from changing angles. "This presents very peculiar technical and compositional challenges," the artist observes, "as I aim for the best visual results through an anamorphic effect."
Born in the Basque Country in 1938, Cundin benefited from early exposure to now-legendary Basque painters such as Augustin and Ramon Zubiauarre, José Maria de Ucelay, and Genaro Urrutia. In the 1950s, he lived and painted in Bogotá, Colombia, and later New York City, before moving in 1964 to New Orleans. Today, in his studio in the pastoral landscape of Folsom, Louisiana, he creates paintings and sculptures that are featured in some of the world's most prestigious private, corporate, and museum collections. In the current series, he not only engages the formal properties of concavity but also the viewer's subliminal perceptions. If, as Cundin observes, "nothing is more concave than a grave," these works may be seen as catalysts for pondering the great questions of life, death, and the continuum that connects them. In his visually seductive, conceptually challenging works, the artist invites us to draw our own conclusions about "the incorporated subjective value as a metaphor," which permeates the exhibition with twin senses of reverence and irreverence; a cosmopolitan flair for inquiry and exploration; and above all, a witty, jubilant joie de vivre.
MITCHELL LONAS Undercurrents Reception Saturday April 7th , 6-9 p.m.
In a serenely poetic follow-up to his 2010 debut with the gallery, Mitchell Lonas presents Undercurrents, a suite of visually stunning works on incised aluminum panel. The pieces incorporate three interrelated motifs-root systems, bird nests, and floating feathers-which Lonas, using customized tools, incises into painted aluminum surfaces. Fluid yet impeccably precise, his gestures create arcing lines that shimmer and gleam like gemstones or fiber-optic lights as the viewer moves around the room. The imagery references the simplicity, gentility, and elemental kindness of Southern culture, ingrained in Lonas since his childhood in the Smoky Mountain foothills of eastern Tennessee.
"The work in this show," he explains, "is about a continuing connection to nature and family. It's about putting down roots, uprooting, and knowing we have a network, even if we can't see it, that is constantly nourishing not only our bodies, but also our spirits."
Lonas, who studied art history at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, is featured in significant private, public, and corporate collections, and has been commissioned to create large-scale works for Fortune 500 companies such as Nordstrom department stores. In the current series, iconic motifs hover in the centers of inky-black picture planes. Roots branch out like fingers, lightning bolts, or diagrams of the human circulatory system; nests come together out of of leaves, twigs, and tiny flowers; and downy feathers hover on unseen air currents. This iconography, culled from the plant and animal worlds, nevertheless reminds us of our human bonds: those who came before us, the comfort of home, and the journey to independence. Lonas gained inspiration for Undercurrents from the 34th stanza of the I Ching, which likens roots to "a foundation to dance on" and suggests that in order to fully experience our compassion and humanity, we must "go down to the very foundations of life." With this as a symbolic backdrop, the artist deploys an astonishing technical prowess to remind us of an essential truth: Even in the media-saturated din of contemporary life, it is the simple gifts of family and the earth that make us who we are.
Adrian Deckbar's Immersion invites viewers on a literal and metaphoric voyage into the shallows of the Louisiana swamp and the depths of the human soul. In this series of nine paintings, she casts her gaze onto the surface of water flecked with leaves and lily pads, twigs and duckweed, reflecting the sky and trees overhead with a flowing buoyancy that alludes to dreams and the subconscious. Much of the imagery comes from a springtime expedition Deckbar made with her husband, photographer Mike Smith, into a swamp off Lake Maurepas. Rowing through the wetlands in a flat-bottomed pirogue, the pair photographed eerily beautiful waterscapes in golden, late-day light. "About an hour before the sun goes down," Deckbar remarks, "there's an optic phenomenon that doesn't happen in the middle of the day. Complementary colors start appearing, and you get these amazing red-violets and oranges on the green leaves..." The photos served as points of departure for an improvisational composing and painting process, wherein Deckbar used specialized Australian paints to layer textures and heighten the liquidic, floating quality of the subject matter.
A native New Orleanian, Deckbar has earned prestigious grants from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation and the Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation. Her work, featured in more than 50 solo and group exhibitions around the world, features prominently in museum, corporate, and private collections. The paintings capture both the diversity and duality of the natural world and have a special appeal to collectors with a passion for nature and the environment. "Nature can be beautiful and alluring," the artist observes, "but it can also be threatening and mysterious. I want to communicate all of those qualities and convey a feeling that is more than just a pretty picture."
Indeed, as complex and transfixing as they are to the eye, the paintings in Immersion emanate a poetic, incantational allure that extends beyond the purely visual. To look deeply into them is to hear the chirping of crickets and the sloshing of lazy water; to feel sunrays and sultry air on your skin; and to smell the bittersweet exhalations of subtropical plants in every stage from bloom to decay. With technical virtuosity and a profound empathy, Adrian Deckbar transports us into a dappled, rippling, magical world.
Key-Sook Geum's sculptures finesse the line between drama and delicacy, presence and immateriality. Exquisitely complex, they evoke the female form and the garments in which it has been displayed throughout history. In her studio in Seoul, South Korea, Geum meticulously bends, twists, and cuts iron wires into intricate filigrees, often incorporating faceted beads to heighten visual glamour. Like other contemporary artists such as Jim Dine and Karen LaMonte, Geum is fascinated by the formal and conceptual possibilities of the empty vestment: a signifier or cipher into which viewers may project their identities, fantasies, and dreams. In Moving in Colors, her exhibition at Gallery Bienvenu, the artist explores the curves and contours of the female figure through the timeless forms of the vest, jacket, and dress. These shapes reach across history and culture, harkening to ceremonial Asian robes and modern-day haute couture.
A professor in the College of Fine Art, University of Hongik (Seoul), Geum imbues her work with an invigorating mélange of Eastern and Western sensibilities. While the pieces display a deep knowledge of Western sculptural and sartorial traditions, they also abound with subtexts drawn from Asian aesthetics, philosophy, and myth. In keeping with the concept of life-breath or "qi," the works have a kinetic element, fluttering gently with air currents in the room. As viewers approach wall pieces and hanging sculptures, the works tremble ever so slightly, like flower petals kissed by the wings of a hummingbird. "To me," Geum explains, "the knitted webbing represents the background of chaos, and the human figure represents enlightenment. The viewer fills in the emptiness of negative space with the ideas of naturalism, modesty, elegance royalty, craftsmanship, and most importantly, a life in harmony with nature."
Time-intensive and meticulous, the artist's sculptures are included in notable collections around the world and have been exhibited in cities as diverse as New York, Chicago, Berlin, Vienna, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Katmandu. They engage in a sublime duet with light and shadowplay, effectively turning wall, floor, and ceiling into line drawings as intricate as a spider's web. There is uncommon grace in these études on the beauty of the human body. In their contours we glimpse an integration that is rare in contemporary art: flair and serenity coexisting in perfect, trembling equipoise.
EVA HILD BOUNDARY RECEPTION Saturday, October 1st 6-9 pm
In her studio in the southwest of Sweden, Eva Hild creates challenging, immaculately beautiful sculptures that synthesize organicism and ethereality. With their sinuous curves and smooth surfaces, the works have an architectonic complexity reminiscent of Frank Gehry's undulating designs: folding and unfolding within and upon themselves in a sensual dialogue with space. Each work is monochromatic, either pristine white or rich, chocolate black, and is the culmination of a four- to six-month-long process. After first shaping stoneware clay into coils, Hild fastidiously sands and sprays the forms with a kaolin coating to impart a preternaturally matte finish. Finally, she fires them at 1,250 degrees Fahrenheit, ending their genesis and beginning their journeys as objets d'art.
The sculptures that result from this intensive process have won Hild rapturous reviews in publications such as The New York Times ("Astonishing sculptures-a new star in the ceramics firmament.") and Ceramics Art and Perception ("Somehow she manages to make clay, such a sticky and physical material, seem immaterial."). Her work has been acquired into some of the world's most prominent private and corporate collections, as well as museums such as the Museum of Arts and Design (New York), Museum of Modern Ceramic Art (Gifu, Japan), Museum of Contemporary Ceramics (Shanghai, China), and National Museum of Fine Arts (Stockholm, Sweden). She has also been commissioned to create large-scale aluminum, steel, and bronze sculptures in Europe and Asia.
Across diverse media, the artworks remain linked to Hild's personal experience of the world. "Overall," she observes, "the work is about lightness, power, strength, fragility, self-sufficiency, and porosity. It is a reflection of my inner landscapes of form. Every day, I experience the tension between presence and absence. My sculptures show me the necessity of opposites; they are paradoxes."
Hild, who earned her master's degree from the University of Gothenburg, has an intuitive gift for distilling the thoughts, dreams, and hopes we all share into forms that fascinate both the eye and the intellect. This, above all, is the source of her work's refinement, grace, and power.
New Mexico, with its clear light and wide-open yet varied desert landscape, has inspired many artists over the past century - including the modernist painters Georgia O'Keeffe, Marsden Hartley and Arthur Dove - to make work that reconciles its distinctive qualities without creating literal landscapes. Michael Kessler's nature-based abstraction can be seen as part of this tradition. His virtuosic painting process, with its toweling, drips and squeezes, makes for textures that echo rippling sand and weathered wood, and his gray-whites and tans call up the high desert floor. A painting like Condign can read as a riff on an aerial map, with the grid-like marks suggesting the geometry of plowed fields, while the stained and scruffy brown background abides, beside or underneath the areas of new green.
Yet Kessler's work continues to flow, and the new paintings in this exhibit demonstrate that his sensibility is not confined to one place. Here, the dark, coiling gestural marks that underlie each painting can be read as meandering rivers, looping and doubling back at times, finding multiple new channels. Like the Mississippi, their relaxed curves belie their prodigious power. Within the exquisite semi-transparent layering that Kessler achieves, these river-marks might be flowing unseen as underground aquifers, then re-emerging, feeding their banks with new color. The muted spring green and deep blue that appear in this work can suggest the fertile land and blue water of the Gulf. These colors, especially in the long horizontal format of the Eudemon series, seem to plunge us inside the water, where the dance of layers might be allowing tendrils of sea-grass to float or fall under the surface.
In the diptych Coryphaeus, the layering of green over the long, meandering mark gives the line a ghostly presence in places. Here, the half-hidden arc, with only its edges fully visible, feels more like a line of energy - what in Chinese landscape would be called a dragon line, tracing unseen forces below the earth. And the blue-white filaments branching and coursing across their cerulean bands in the painting Galvanic feel unmistakably electric. Here Kessler brings us to an understanding of nature as a mysterious force that may be best embodied through abstraction. The fluid, gestural elements may at times feel constrained by the bands of straight lines and solid color that inflect every composition; but that straight-edged counterpoint also creates passages that move rhythmically, in quasi-musical lines that point in their own way to pure energy.
A winner of the Prix de Rome and the Pollock/Krasner Award, Kessler has seen his work exhibited in museums and galleries throughout the United States and internationally in locales as far-flung as New York City; Chicago; Philadelphia; Rome, Italy; Göteborg, Sweden; and Cuenca, Ecuador.
July 30 - September 25, 2011
BLAKE BOYD My Pinocchio Syndrome for Abigail...Ten Years Later. This Ain't Disney Jeff.
Reception: Saturday, June 4th, 6-9 pm
Gallery Bienvenu presents Blake Boyd's "My Pinocchio Syndrome for Abigail . . .
Ten years later. This ain't Disney Jeff."
This show is a reinterpretation of Boyd's "My Pinocchio Syndrome for Abigail"
shown ten years ago by Galerie Simonne Stern (now defunct) at this location.
The show is curated by actor and art historian Jennifer Coolidge and dedicated
to the late artist Jeffrey Cook. Cook inspired Boyd to remain in New Orleans and
create an art show surrounding the turbulence in his life. The work evolves
around Andy Warhol's goddaughter, Bijou Phillips, paying homage to Boyd's
heroes Ludwig Van Beethoven, Stanley Kubrick, Andy Warhol, the Beatles and
mentor Andres Serrano.
This presentation is a mixed media installation including some of the original
paintings, photographs and neon sculpture reinterpreted along side new work.
Additional 'behind the scene' material includes Douglas Bourgeois, original
painting for the poster and a suite of drawings by Warhol Superstar Taylor
Mead, a good friend of Genevieve Waites, Phillip's mother.
The original "Pinocchio" show was the overture to "Fidelio.", an eleven part 'opera' Boyd had conceived as a vehicle to explore issues of conflict from his recent past, love and transcendence. For the overture Boyd began to write a modern day 'love story' filled in with ideas from his personal history.
In late1998 the burden of past trauma, a bitter parental divorce when he was a young boy, a fractured adolescence, an ever-increasing hostile work environment, resulted in physical and mental collapse. Boyd spent a month in the care of his psychiatrist uncle in the northeast, with support (separately) from two influential artist friends in the region, Billy Name and Andres Serrano. Both had spent time with Boyd in Louisiana and know him well. Independent of each other they urged Boyd to get away from New Orleans.
Boyd returned to New Orleans with the intention of leaving for good but his dear friend, fellow artist Jeffrey Cook, insisted that he should reconsider. "We can't lose you, you still have something to say here" convincing Boyd to "put all of the negative energy into a show", make it positive through that healing process. This show is dedicated to Cook.
The 'love story' is built around real events from Boyd's life by direct and indirect reference, through humor and symbolism.
The 'love interest', based upon Warhol's goddaughter, Boyd met through Billy Name and would hang out with at 'Spy Bar' NYC. There is direct reference to Disney pervading the imagery as homage to the domestic icons of Boyd's youth. Disneyworld opened on Boyd's first birthday. His grandmother and two young uncles worked at Disneyworld and Boyd's visits to Orlando provided a reassuring familial environment. Boyd reinterprets the Disney imagery through different media.
Boyd works with a medium dominant during the Renaissance, bole and water gilding, elevating pop similes to venerated iconography, a comment on contemporary cultural values.
This is a painstakingly laborious medium and makes reference to Renaissance artists, Titian, Durer and Michelangelo, evoked in the photographic piece "Death of a Poet". Gold Leaf appears in Warhol's pre-pop work, (Warhol referenced by Boyd with the 'series' of works), and in the 19th century paintings of the Pre-Raphaelites.
Billy Name, a mystic, revealed the power of symbolism to Boyd through his teachings of Astrology and about the 19th century fascination with the occult.
Beethoven and Goethe were the fathers of the 'Romantic Era', breaking free from traditional Classical structure with their works. Beethoven's one and only opera is 'Fidelio' and Boyd brings the idea of compositional arrangement to his overture by introducing solo pieces from featured artists. Douglas Bourgeois painted the image for the poster, a parody of Bill Gold's 1971 iconic poster, 'A Clockwork Orange', (Gold did the 1951 poster for 'A Streetcar Named Desire'), replacing the dagger with Blake Boyd's sunflower and peaceful message. Jeffrey Cook used his expertise to age books and Taylor Mead (Warhol's Factory) made his first suite of fairy tale drawings, later developed and exhibited as part of the 2006 Whitney Biennial. Mead, a poet, hung around the Beats, he still writes and performs poetry and his inclusion refers to Goethe.
The reference to 'A Clockwork Orange' signifies Boyd's homage to Kubrick but is more deeply directed to the original dystopian novella by Anthony Burgess. Boyd registers the very intentional 21st chapter of Burgess' book that was omitted for an American audience. This 21st chapter, through the maturing and redemption of Alex, embraces the Jungian theory of metanoia, a spontaneous attempt of the psyche to heal itself of unbearable conflict by melting down and then being reborn in a more adaptive form. This was at the core of Boyd's overture. A couple of pieces in the show, the sunflower blossoming from a seed, the growth of Pinocchio's nose, present this idea of self healing and maturity.
The city of New Orleans is beloved for its 19th century architecture, its flamboyance and festivities, going back to the carnival of Titian and Venice, renown for the Anne Rice vampires and blood, a haven for poetry and music. Ten years ago some saw the work as flamboyant, campy, vampy and derivative. Boyd has revisited and added to the exhibition. The sincerity, importance and significance of each piece and the whole has been reinforced and perhaps a more mature awareness will see through the gloss and humor to the serious relevance of the work to Boyd's experience and roots.
Gallery Bienvenu hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 10 am-5 pm. For more information, please contact gallery director Borislava Kharalampiev or owner Cathy Bienvenu at 504.525.0518, or visit our website at www.gallerybienvenu.com.
RAINE BEDSOLE Ghost Fleet RECEPTION: Saturday April 2nd 6-9 pm
With poeticism and concentrated emotional potency, Raine Bedsole's sculptures and works on paper speak directly to the human heart by channeling the power of enduring symbols and archetypes. The oars, boats, bird's wings, and other motifs that recur throughout her exhibition, Ghost Fleet, at Gallery Bienvenu address the viewer in a language not limited to earthly tongues and time periods. While creating this body of work, Bedsole remembered a foggy day many years ago along the Tensaw River in Alabama, where she happened on a flotilla of abandoned World War II-era ships. "These majestic, imposing creatures were just sitting there, rusting and rotting," she recalls. "When I first saw them, I didn't know what they were. They were so mysterious... They had such a presence." Inspired by the memory of this eerie, unforgettable sight, she began thinking about the phenomenon of memory and the dynamic between the objects and experiences that anchor us to our past and those that liberate us to let go.
A prizewinner in the prestigious Florence Biennial and a grant recipient from the Joan Mitchell Foundation, Bedsole is widely exhibited and collected throughout Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and the Americas. In recent years her work has grown more spatially and thematically expansive, sometimes verging on the abstract. A lightness and ethereality pervades, evoking the hushed, contemplative serenity that flows from what award-winning architect E. Fay Jones once called "thinking our best thoughts, regardless of whatever faith we choose to subscribe to."
Many of Bedsole's sculptures incorporate fabrics, twigs, found papers, and texts that hold profound personal significance for the artist. Her works on handmade watercolor paper, some of which gleam with flat copper foil, incorporate many of the same materials and processes she uses in her sculpture. Many of the works have luscious patinas and textures as a result of being soaked, salted, mud-caked, dried, and enriched with passages from poems and books, further distilling the rich roux of meanings they embody. The pieces, she reflects, "are about letting go and releasing the past-trusting that there's a compass to guide us through the fog, so we can let go of the shore and trust the sea."
DAVID BORGERDING Recent Sculpture RECEPTION Saturday February 5th 6-9 pm
Expansion, uplift, and a sense of freedom characterize David Borgerding's rhapsodic sculptures in bronze and stainless steel. His exhibition at Gallery Bienvenu presents works across a spectrum of scales, the pieces' jubilant contours encompassing polarities of visual dissonance that ultimately resolve into harmony. The sculptures are fabricated and forged of bronze and stainless steel sheet, "hollow formed" into individual shapes, and combined together to create the whole. Surfaces are textured by hand, then receive a unique patina and coat of wax, imparting rich and varied chromatic personalities.
A recipient of a career opportunity grant from the prestigious Joan Mitchell Foundation, Borgerding built upon a background in painting, metalwork, and design, earning a Masters of Fine Arts degree from Savannah College of Art & Design. His works have been exhibited nationally and appear in noted private, corporate, and institutional collections.
Within the artist's instantly recognizable style, a dialogue between bulbous, voluminous forms and spindly connectors-which he relates to the proportions of "the body and the appendage"-recalls the works of historic artists such as Joan Miró and Alexander Calder. Contemporary influences include sculptors Martin Puryear, Richard Hunt, and Bruce Beasley. While Borgerding's works suggest a variety of representational interpretations, the artist draws inspiration not from specific referents in the natural world, but from absorbed information that may be subliminal or mysterious. This inspiration results in intuitive sketches, often in the lineage of Surrealist automatic drawing.
"At the heart of it all," the artist observes, "my goal is to find 'that moment' when a developing sculpture is awakened: an abstract, indefinable pang of joy and satisfaction when everything comes together and a piece receives its sense of being." The essence of this feeling may reside in the compositions themselves: virtuosically counterintuitive, sometimes cantilevered in ways that seem to violate the laws of physics, often appearing to float above their bases as if in levitation or ascent. This spirit of lightness and play contributes what the artist calls "an element of surprise and wonderment" springing from a marriage of aesthetic intuition and technical prowess. "I like to push the materials," he remarks, "and see what I can get away with."
Conceptual sophistication, exuberant color, and a sense of visual wit distinguish the paintings of world-renowned artist José-Maria Cundin. In his exhibition at Gallery Bienvenu, Twelve Anti-Portraits, Cundin deconstructs traditional notions of portraiture and perception. "These are orderly depictions of some extraordinary entities," he explains. "My intent is to cover all aspects of portraiture-likeness, demeanor, drama, and others-in the most subjective way possible." While some subjects are based on actual people from the artist's life, others are purely imagined. All of the works share a common lineage with Diego Velázquez's masterpiece, Las Meninas, which Cundin considers "the most magnificent anti-portrait ever."
Born in the Basque Country in 1938, the artist moved to Bogotá, Colombia, in his teens. In 1958 he began living and making art in New York City. Six years later he arrived in New Orleans, a city whose vibrant mélange of fatalism and resiliency resonated with his Basque heritage. Cundin has remained in Louisiana, creating artwork that is exhibited internationally and figures prominently in some of the top collections and museums across Europe and the Americas.
The whimsical quality in Cundin's work springs from his own playful spirit. Asked if he is influenced by the great artists of the past, he cites Ignacio Zuloaga, Francisco Goya, Juan de Valdés Leal, and a host of others, but wryly adds: "In addition to great artists, I am also influenced by great thinkers, carpenters, fishermen, shepherds, and mechanics." This sense of mischief enlivens his paintings' inquiry into the components of depiction and self-perception. In the anti-portraits, tags and tatters of color coalesce around an unseen magnetic core, suggesting a kind of zero-gravity sculpture. With their jittery kineticism, the tiny pieces of color adhere to one another in a fashion analogous to the way personality adheres to a central self-concept in human beings.
While he acknowledges that artists have an imprecise control over viewers' responses, he allows that "nothing is more compelling for me than to extract a smile or giggle... I would be very pleased should my audience think and feel that my work satisfies their aesthetic expectations-and even more if it triggers in them a certain magical mechanism of well-being."
One of the world's preeminent contemporary sculptors, Pablo Atchugarry returns to New Orleans this October for his second solo show at Gallery Bienvenu. Atchugarry, winner of the 2002 Michelangelo Prize, will exhibit abstract marble sculptures that range from medium- to large-scale, each work conveying his signature integration of delicacy, dynamism, and compositional drama. Since 1979 the artist's primary medium has been marble from the illustrious quarries of Carrara, a conscious nod to the historical legacies of Classical, Renaissance, and Baroque sculpture. "The material itself brings a lot of cultural baggage with it," he told an interviewer in 2006. "It's a great challenge for a contemporary artist to impose his personal expression and design on such a historical material."
Predominantly vertical, Atchugarry's works communicate aspiration and ascension in a way that recalls Constantine Brancusi's masterpiece, Bird in Space. They are by turns playful, elegant, and majestic, their origami-like shapes and nested planes conveying a sense of lightness and movement, rhythm and visual counterpoint. Diagonal motifs counterbalance the vertical thrust, suggesting biomorphic forms undergirded by architectonic structure.
Born in Uruguay, the artist has for many years lived in Lecco, Italy, site of a museum permanently exhibiting his works and archives. His work appears in some of the world's most celebrated collections. During the course of a brilliant career he has been awarded prestigious public commissions and designed monumental pieces, the largest of which stands 26 feet tall and weighs in excess of 33 tons. One of his most affecting sculptures, Ideali, commemorated the 50th year of the late Prince Rainier III's reign over the Principality of Monaco. In 2003 he exhibited in the Venice Biennale, followed in 2005 by an exhibition at the National Museum of Fine Arts, Buenos Aires. In 2006 he was the subject of a major retrospective at the Groningen Museum in Bruges, Belgium.
"My images," he reflects, "are a search for the possibility of living in harmony with each other and with nature, in which contrasts and contradictions should be cherished." These contrasts manifest in the sculptures in a duet between thick and lithe contours, between liquidic sheen on broad surfaces and scissor-sharp shadowplay on wafer-thin slices. At the intersection of simplicity and complexity, primordial and futuristic, Atchugarry's work speaks in ecstatic visual poetry of uplift, optimism, and beauty.
Several years ago in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, artist Mitchell Lonas laid eyes on something of such uncanny beauty, he has never forgotten it: a trio of swallows' nests, which the birds had fashioned solely from horse-tail hairs. The nests, each a different color, were so improbable in their architectural intricacy and gossamer sheen, they filled Lonas with the inspiration to transmute common natural phenomena such as nests, feathers, and trees into items of aesthetic rapture. These motifs are central to The Wrench Series, the artist's debut exhibition at Gallery Bienvenu. To create the works, he employs a unique process to apply paint to steel and aluminum panels. Then, working from sketches, he uses customized cutting tools to incise the picture planes with iconic imagery, the beveled lines glinting as viewers behold the pieces from different vantages. "You walk in front of them," he explains, "and the light travels with you. There's a sparkle, a feeling of movement. It's almost a fiber-optic effect."
Lonas, who studied art history at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, was a respected portrait painter before transitioning to his current style. A portraitist's sense of focus, line, and beauty continues to inform his new work, which is included in notable private, public, and corporate collections, among them a series of large-scale commissions for Nordstrom department stores. An avid hiker and birdwatcher, he is compelled to portray nature in ways that are both poetic and inventive. "The challenge," he reflects, "is to create something original using unconventional materials and methods."
The artworks' gestural drama is tempered by a hushed, Zen-like serenity, heightened by an intuitive use of negative space that recalls Asian sumi-e brush painting. Immaculately presented with hidden cleats that make the works appear to float in front of the wall, the incised paintings have a weightless, ethereal quality and a sculptural presence that is contemporary but not cold. In these semi-abstracted celebrations of the natural world, viewers will find a treasure trove of symbolisms and personal narratives, which lend themselves to extended contemplation and interpretations as varied as nature itself.
TERESA COLE Transfer RECEPTION: Saturday, June 5th 6-9 pm
With their multiple layers of richly allusive, cross-cultural imagery, Teresa Cole's prints uncover missing links between pattern and meaning, ornamentation and narrative. They occupy a rare common ground between visual seduction and conceptual engagement, employing innovative techniques and lush iconography to explore the commonalities of human experience. The installation, screen prints, and woodcut relief prints on paper and fabric that make up the artist's Gallery Bienvenu exhibition draw inspiration from her trips to India to research the origins of pattern.
Within these lavish compositions, the viewer will find motifs adapted from the Adalaj step well near Ahmedabad, the ornate wall carvings of a mogul palace in Jaipur, and a baroque array of serpentine flourishes, scrolls, and motifs from the animal and vegetal worlds. These elements jostle and flow together in vignettes that evoke the frenetic, eye-opening wonder of traveling to foreign lands. "In art," Cole observes, "we use pattern a lot, but very often its meaning is lost. It might allude to identity, but it's rarely clear what a given pattern actually means. In Indian culture, there are narratives that are so well known that they have become pattern."
A professor of printmaking at Tulane University, Cole has seen her works exhibited and collected in galleries and museums around the globe. The works are renowned for their virtuosic graphic sophistication, which, upon closer inspection, rewards the viewer with an intense texturality and translucence arising from the layering of inks, cut papers, and fabrics. Some of Cole's prints resplend with silver leaf on tarlatan fabric, an unusual integration of media blending Indian traditions and Western printmaking techniques. In these works, as across her output, she acts as a transferrer of optical effects and the cultural coding embedded within them. This essentially syntactical enterprise, in Cole's hands, is never less than visually ravishing, a testament to the crux of her thesis: that mark-making and meaning are one and the same.
ARTURO MALLMANN Caminando Sin Destino (Walking Without Destiny)
RECEPTION: Saturday May 1st 6-9
Haunting, luminous, and richly allusive, the semi-abstract landscapes of celebrated painter Arturo Mallmann transport us into realms of the sublime. The artist, who was born in Uruguay and has traveled and exhibited internationally, has seen many of the world's most spectacular landscapes-but the mountains, canyons, and plateaus in his paintings are landscapes of the mind. Complex psychological allegories, they glow with mystical expanses of light, sky, land, and water, punctuated by sensual daubs of paint that seem to enclose the drama of Abstract Expressionism within the cool implacability of color-field painting. The works are born of a painstaking, time-intensive process in which the artist applies up to 100 layers of translucent paint, varnish, and resin, imparting a luxuriantly aqueous sense of depth that invites the viewer to dive into an alternate universe.
Most of the compositions are peopled with one or more human figures, who are simultaneously dwarfed and embraced by the fantastical landscapes that surround them. "I don't see the figures as particular people," Mallmann reflects. "I see them as metaphors for a state of expectation and exploration, which we all experience. They are struggling to reach a place that is inside themselves, a place where they belong." Because the figures symbolize universal longings, viewers often find themselves projecting their own desires and dreams into Mallmann's otherworldly vistas.
The skyscapes that are so integral to these compositions are especially evocative. When he was in his twenties, the painter was profoundly touched by a scene in Tolstoy's War and Peace in which a soldier, wounded on the battlefield, gazes up at the sky. Despite the havoc and carnage all around him, the soldier is overcome by a deep contentment and serenity. Mallmann hopes that collectors of his work will be able to enjoy a similar tranquility as they contemplate his paintings.
Those familiar with Mallmann's paintings will notice in the current body of work a heightened concern with surface and contrast. The compositions are more dynamic than ever, and the color palette is brighter. "They are more visceral," the artist observes of the new works. "The images are expanding. The space is growing. The light is taking over the whole image."
In the acrylic paintings, pastels, and drawings that comprise Adrian Deckbar's Water's Edge, the artist evolves her fascination with the power and duality of the natural world. A native New Orleanian who for many years taught drawing at Tulane University, Deckbar first earned renown as a narrative realist figure painter. In the summer of 2003, an intense aesthetic epiphany opened her to the extraordinary possibilities of painting nature in all its majesty and ambiguity. Her impeccable technique was well-suited to this material and has grown increasingly freer and more impressionistic in response to the organicism of her subject matter. Her compositions lead the viewer into kingdoms of dappled light and shadows in which secrets and surprises lurk, awaiting discovery.
The current body of work stems from a visit to Honey Island Swamp in St. Tammany Parish. To the artist, the swamp-with its teeming plant life, algae, and rotting undergrowth-encapsulated nature's eternal oscillation between luxuriance and decay. The theatricality and optical finesse with which she evokes the play of golden, late-day light on grasses, moss, and reflective water surfaces, owe more to Caravaggio and Degas than to Flemish landscape painters or the Hudson River School. It is as if Deckbar the erstwhile narrative painter has widened her focus from the minds and inner lives of her sitters to the omniscient mind of nature itself.
The recipient of prestigious grants from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation and the Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation, Deckbar has been featured in more than 50 solo and group exhibitions around the nation and the world. Her paintings and drawings have been acquired into prominent museums, as well as corporate and private collections. Broadly acclaimed for their lyricism and beauty, her works also incorporate a subversive quality rooted in nature's dual capacities for inspiration and destruction, pastoral romanticism and Darwinian amorality. It is, Deckbar says, "this gnarly, uncontrolled, magical quality" that she aims to depict in her vistas, skyscapes, and details of primordial terrain and waterworlds in which no human presence is discernible. These are visions of physical environment with metaphysical overtones. They seep into the viewer's consciousness and change with the viewer's moods, revealing and withholding nuances that cannot be seen, but can be known.
Drama, mystery, and the duet between the sensual and the sinister-these are the keys to the world that Ray Donley's artworks unlock. For the past 25 years, Donley has been conjuring the elegantly enigmatic characters who inhabit his ongoing series of psychologically charged portraits, Los bien perdidos (The profoundly lost ones). While these narratives exist outside the normal parameters of time and place, the artist's meticulous technique, luxuriant brushstrokes, and richly layered surfaces harken to the Italian Baroque, when masters such as Caravaggio used theatrical contrasts of light and shadow to heighten the impact of composition and content.
In the paintings, drawings, mixed-media pieces, and assemblages that comprise Donley's Encounters in the Bone Garden at Gallery Bienvenu, he deploys the virtuosity that has made him a fixture in prestigious collections around the world. "The world of shadows," he explains, "is more compelling to me than the bright light of day, which holds no secrets. When we peer into the darkness, we have to be on alert; we have to listen. We're more excited, because we don't know what's going to happen."
To portray this realm of shadows and intrigue, he draws upon his studies of art history, in which he has earned two degrees, and his travels throughout Europe and Latin America. From Caravaggio and fellow 17th Century masters such as Velazquez and Rembrandt, Donley learned the impact of moody, undefined backgrounds, which throw subjects-and their inner lives-into greater relief. The extraordinary faces that populate his canvases, panels, and works on paper are not drawn from live models. Donley, unlike the Old Masters, aims not to elucidate the mindset of a particular sitter, but to engage the mind and fantasies of the viewer.
"I want the viewer to complete the image," he says. And in fact, many of his collectors report that the figures in his paintings seem to change expression from one day to the next, reflecting their own ideas and emotions. With their alchemy of darkness, humor, and ambiguity, these romantic visions invite us to step outside the boundaries of everyday experience and explore realms that would be hidden from view, were it not for the power of art.
German-born artist Sibylle Peretti conjures visions of childhood and childhood lost. In Peretti's works, children are often grouped in pairs, conversing wordlessly with one another or with birds, water, or flowers, as if immersed in a mystical union with nature. Her ethereal imagery and haunting thematic subtexts captivate the viewer's imagination. Peretti's exhibition at Gallery Bienvenu features porcelain sculptures and mixed-media works on panel, which incorporate myriad layers of paper, oil paint, and watercolor on either side of Plexiglas panels. Her unique techniques impart a texture that complements the works' conceptual nuance.
Collectors and museum curators around the world have responded to Peretti's vision, which hovers between fairy tale, dream, and historic fact. The current series was inspired by a growing fascination with children raised with little or no exposure to human beings. With their immaculate innocence, such children have intrigued storytellers and researchers for ages-from Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome, who are said to have been nursed by a wolf-to Victor of Aveyron, made famous by Truffault's film, The Wild Child-to Genie, a feral child whose discovery made headlines in the 1970s. These children live "in a kind of private, untouchable world," the artist says, in which their "honesty and purity opens doors of fantasies and dreams."
With Peretti's imagery as a springboard, viewers may project themselves into the children's archaic, pre-verbal world. The works reconnect us to dormant memories or emotions, inducing free associations that encourage the mind to skim and skip where rationality alone could not lead. It is this freeing of the imagination, coupled with the rigors she lavishes on composition and surface, that so eloquently distinguishes her work. "I want to start people thinking and becoming more open and curious," she remarks. "The children in my work impart a mystery around them... I think they may carry answers to our big questions, such as what makes us human." October 2 - November 30, 2009
RECEPTION: WHITE LINEN NIGHT Saturday, August 1st 6-9
Inspired, virtuosic, and deeply allusive, the paintings of Michael Kessler explore the continuum between gesture and geometry, jubilant improvisation and rigorous architectonic forms. Kessler lavishes his panels with as many as 50 micro-thin layers of translucent and transparent acrylic, imparting a limpid, 3-dimensional quality. Suspended within the layers, biomorphic tendrils branch to and fro, while arcs of line and color slip over and under matrices, balancing nature's sinuous curves with the mindfulness of structure. With this exhibition, the artist debuts a new series of small-format pieces, which incorporate the signature elements that distinguish his medium- and large-scale paintings. Immaculate and jewel-like individually, they are particularly stunning when grouped together.
A winner of the Prix de Rome and the Pollock/Krasner Award, the Santa Fe-based Kessler has exhibited widely throughout the Americas and Europe. He has been profiled and rapturously reviewed in publications including Art in America, ARTFORUM, and ARTnews. As an artist and thinker, he is keenly interested in the integrity of the built surface, the meandering line, and the joyous invention of deconstruction and reconstruction. He likens the gestural freedom in his works to a kind of painterly tai chi-a visible expression of a line of energy-and imbues his structural motifs with a sense of play and buoyance.
Another development that can be seen in this exhibition is the artist's increasing use of dramatically horizontal compositions, in which a continuous line weaves and wanders across the panel, inviting the viewer to walk alongside and experience the gesture peripatetically. Like a piece of film on an editing table or a succession of musical notes across a staff, these panels have a linear and temporal presence that is more spatial and sculptural than more traditionally scaled paintings. In these and other works across richly diverse scales and color palettes, Kessler enables the viewer to connect with the power of contrast, balance, and harmony. Like the yin and yang, the organic and geometric elements in his paintings speak not of dichotomy, but of integration.
Evocative, haunting, and serene, Raine Bedsole's assemblages, paintings, and sculptures whisper in the timeless language of mythology and symbolism. With their imagery of boats, oars, and the human figure, her newest works are based in part on Homer's epic, The Odyssey, the story of a hero's long voyage home after the Trojan War. Bedsole sees this classic text as a metaphor for New Orleanians' journey back to normalcy in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. "I think it is a universal longing to return to wherever home is," she remarks. "After Katrina, it was as if we were blown to the seven winds, and ever since then we've been trying, like Odysseus searching for the way back to Ithaca, to find our own ways back home."
A graduate of Auburn University and the San Francisco Art Institute, Bedsole paints and sculpts in her studio in the French Quarter. She has been active in the New Orleans art scene since the early 1990s. Her work has been exhibited and collected throughout North America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Honored with a grant from the Joan Mitchell Foundation, she was also a prize-winner in the 2001 Florence Biennale.
The nautical imagery that informs the artist's work harkens to the Egyptian barques that carried pharoahs into the afterlife; the poignancy and romance of Norse longboats and Native American canoes; and the symbolism of the life raft, rescuing us from harm, delivering us to safety. The notches and grooves in Bedsole's oar sculptures weave mysterious narratives about the hands that rowed them-their individual histories mixing with the artist's experience in intricate layers of paint, texture, fabric, found paper, and poetry. Other sculptures incorporate richly patinaed copper-alluding to treasures raised from ancient shipwrecks-and gold leaf, glinting like the play of sunlight on waves. The vessels imply water but float on air, inviting the viewer to fill the space around them with the currents and undercurrents of their own lives. Visually and metaphorically elegant, they are vehicles for inner navigation, challenging the mind even as they soothe the soul.
Gallery Bienvenu is pleased to announce the opening of a solo show for internationally acclaimed sculptor John Henry. The exhibition is in collaboration with Sculpture for New Orleans, a three-year program placing monumental sculptures throughout the city.
John Henry has a long-standing interest in the concept of works of art encompassing large tracts of land, a process also embraced by Jean Claude and Christo. Henry's works grace numerous important museums, corporate, public and private collections as well as the collections of many American, European and Asian municipalities. Internationally recognizable since the early 1960s, his works range in scale from small tabletop pieces to some of the largest contemporary metal sculpture in the world. His recent exhibitions of works include "Drawing in Space: The Peninsula Project," a seven-city exhibition throughout Florida; "New Monuments" at the Laumeier Sculpture Park in St. Louis, Missouri; "Back on the Plaza" on Chicago's Magnificent Mile; "In the Shadow of the Alps" at Art-St-Urban in St. Urban, Switzerland; "OPEN 2007" in Venice, Italy; "ODYSSEY" at Purdue University, North Central campus in Westville, Indiana; the 2006 "Vancouver Biennale" in British Columbia, and the 2007 "Sarasota Season of Sculpture" in Sarasota, Florida.
Henry attended the University of Kentucky, University of Chicago and the Art Institute of Chicago, where he received a Ford Foundation grant, the Edward L. Ryerson Fellowship and earned a BFA in 1969. He received an Honorary Doctorate of Arts from the University of Kentucky in 1996. As a visiting professor of sculpture, Henry taught at University of lowa, University of Wisconsin, University of Chicago and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is currently Distinguished Professor of Art at Chattanooga State College in Chattanooga. In 1990, he received the Florida Individual Artists Fellowship. In 2002 he received the Governor's National Award in the Arts from the State of Kentucky and in 2004, The Mayor's Award of Distinction in the Arts from the City of Chattanooga. Other recent honors include recognition on the floor of the Tennessee State Senate in 2004 and the 2005 honorary renaming of North Cermak Road to "John Henry Way" by the City of Chicago in recognition of his contributions to public art on the local and national levels.
As an active participant in promoting the arts, Henry has served as a member of the Advisory Board of Lawyers for the Creative Arts in Chicago, a coordinator and advisor to the City and the Art Institute of Chicago for the "Sculpture in the Parks Exhibition" and as an advisor to the Art Council of Greater New Orleans for the "Super Sculpture New Orleans" Exhibition. Since 1991 he has been on the Board of Trustees of the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts. Since 1996 he has served the Board of the International Sculpture Center in various leadership roles, serving as Chairman for two years through the spring of 2002. Henry has lectured extensively on the role of art in public places and is known as a strong advocate of all of the arts, not only sculpture.
Henry was a founding member of ConStruct, the artist-owned gallery that promoted and organized large-scale sculpture exhibitions throughout the United States. Other founding members include Mark diSuvero, Kenneth Snelson, Lyman Kipp and Charles Ginnever. Henry continues to curate exhibitions in the United States and in Europe, drawing on his nationally recognized expertise regarding sculptors and their work. He is the curator of the Outdoor Museum of Art at Chattanooga State College.
ABOUT SCULPTURE FOR NEW ORLEANS:
"Sculpture for New Orleans" is a three-year sculpture exhibition placing monumental sculptures throughout New Orleans, from the well- traveled areas of downtown New Orleans, Uptown and the Garden District to City Park and the New Orleans Museum of Art. 2009 is the beginning of major installations along Poydras Street in the Central Business District of New Orleans. With the support of the Downtown Development District, building owners its managers, the Poydras corridor will be filled with monumental sculpture by the world's most renowned sculptors for all the citizens and tourists to enjoy. The starting point of the exhibition began in February 2008 with James Surls' monumental bronze and stainless steel sculpture "Me, Knife, Diamond and Flower" in front of the Ogden Museum of the South. The concept of the project is to bring national and international attention to the visual arts and the artists of post-Katrina New Orleans. With the support of an international field of artists, the sculpture exhibition will give local artists a chance to assist, install and network with the visiting artists. In addition, the show will give the local artists a much-needed show of support. www.sculptureforneworleans.com
JOSE-MARIA CUNDIN FOLSOM BLUES, REDS AND YELLOWS (Portraits, Self-Portraits, Anti-Portraits and Pseudo-Portraits)
RECEPTION: Saturday, February 7th 6-9
Jose-Maria Cundin's paintings stand at the crossroads of potent conceptual investigation-the "morals, meanings, and metaphors" he is perpetually in search of-and an impish sense of whimsy and delight. His work simultaneously challenges and amuses the viewer through extravagantly hued semi-abstract imagery that appears at once biomorphic and constructed: like inscrutable Rube Goldberg devices comprised of organic parts.
Born in the Basque Country in 1938, Cundin soon became a citizen of the world-yet he never lost the spirit, soulfulness, and tragic romanticism of his homeland. Being Basque, he says, "means that I see and face life as a mysterious and ancient existential commitment." As a budding young artist he was influenced by historical Basque painters such as Ignacio Zuloaga and the Zubiaurre brothers, and as well as Spanish painters including Francisco Goya and Juan de Valdés Leal. In the 1950s he lived and exhibited in Bogotá, Colombia, moving in 1958 to New York City, then at the zenith of a long artistic flowering. In 1964 Cundin arrived in New Orleans, a city whose color and character matched his own, and he remains in Louisiana to this day, creating work in his Folsom studio that is exhibited internationally and is prized in prestigious collections and museums across Europe and the Americas.
A rich distillation of the historical and biographical essence of the artist himself, the current body of work offers a thoughtful, exuberant deconstruction of "portraits, self-portraits, anti-portraits, and pseudo-portraits." The particular brilliance of these paintings lies in the invention and abandon with which they toy with notions of objectivity and subjectivity, perception, distortion, and expectation. Obliquely, they evoke and update the absurdist wit of Renaissance portraitist Giuseppe Arcimboldo, with a buoyant pictorial intelligence and precision that never veer into didacticism. "I believe," Cundin says, "in the importance of the premise that art should entertain. Without this quality, art remains distant and emotionally inaccessible." With an elegance that belies their compositional and thematic complexity, these paintings engage the viewer's imagination, provoke introspection, and dazzle the eye.
Reception with the artist: Saturday, december 6th, 2008
Is it possible to balance gravitas and levity, conceptual sophistication and unabashed sensual delight? Yes, is the answer Doyle Gertjejansen's paintings and sculpture unequivocally demonstrate. With their juxtapositions of smooth and nubby textures, contrived and spontaneous gestures, deep Renaissance perspective and flat modernist space, the works in Mapping Pangaea superimpose jaunty, Stuart Davis-like rhythms against the impulsivity of Abstract Expressionism and the witty, self-referential pastiche of the postmodernist era.
For more than three decades, Gertjejansen, chair of the fine arts department at the University of New Orleans and recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in painting, has been a fixture in prestigious private, corporate, and institutional collections around the United States and the world. His works are richly nuanced meditations on art history, the relationship between authentic and metaphoric experience, and the human compulsion to superimpose order upon the chaotic amorality of nature. The paintings are born of a fascinating dualistic process that begins with the artist making arbitrary marks on his canvases-sometimes with his eyes closed to heighten the sense of Dadaist spontaneity-then layering structural motifs on top, pivoting between randomness and rigor until the dischord between the two coalesces into harmony. The completed artworks open up their thematic petals like lotus flowers, revealing fresh interpretive possibilities upon each viewing. Their robust conceptualism notwithstanding, these are lushly colorful works that offer the eye no lack of voluptuary pleasures.
An immaculately sanded 16-foot fiberglass sculpture entitled Frames of Reference will cap the show, offering a smooth, minimalist counterpoint to the gestural and chromatic maximalism of the paintings. The sculpture features an interactive sound component, which expresses the artist's enduring fascination with the dark mysteries of nature and the methods by which we attempt to fathom them.
Reception with the Artist: Saturday, November 1st, 2008
As a satellite exhibition to Prospect.1, the largest contemporary art biennial in the history of the United States, Gallery Bienvenu presents a visually luscious, emotionally affecting exhibition by New York-based artist Milton Rosa-Ortiz. With artwork that seduces the eye via luxurious materials, even as it harbors deeply layered conceptual underpinnings, Rosa-Ortiz has been hailed by The New York Times' Holland Cotter as "a poetic artist with an unsentimental eye." His new sculptures draw inspiration from the heroism and resilience of the citizens of post-Katrina New Orleans. Referring to the works, he remarks: "I was struck by the incredible energy and stamina that the people of New Orleans have shown as they've carried on with their lives."
Inspired by nature, the artist's installations marry his longtime love of glamorous materials-black velvet, glittery stickpins, light boxes, and Swarovsky crystal dangling from the ceiling by clear wires-with a poignant emotional sensitivity that invites multifaceted social and political interpretation. His current body of work, referencing Louisiana maps and incorporating site-specific plaster castings, aims to transform grim memories of Katrina into images of hope. "What I want to do," he says, "is erase the sad or ugly images and replace them with beautiful ones."
Born in Puerto Rico, Rosa-Ortiz practiced architecture in the United States and Mexico before he fell in love with sculpture. His rhythmic spatial etudes, which he has referred to as "3-D pointillism" and "mobiles on L.S.D.," reflect his interest in the relationship between solidity and negative space. In the traditions of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí and contemporary English artist Cornelia Parker, his works are subtly kinetic, meditative, and mesmerizing in their interaction with light. The suspended pieces "defy reason... they're infused with life; they move like schools of fish, and if there's a gust, you can hear them clink." Uniting visceral, intellectual, and spiritual qualities, the works speak to the uniquely human capacity to turn adversity into beauty and transcendence.
KEYSOOK GEUM Moving or Dancing October 1st - October 28th, 2008
Opening Reception: Saturday, October 4th - 6-9 pm
Intricate and allusive, artist Key-Sook Geum's sculptures and installations capture paradoxical qualities: presence and absence, form and negative space, reality and imagination. Based in Seoul, Korea, Geum has exhibited these virtuosic etudes of metal and air in Berlin, Vienna, New York, Chicago, Tokyo, and Hong Kong, among many other cities around the world. As if to channel Jim Dine's iconic robes through the rich traditions of Eastern aesthetics, Geum sculpts robes, waistcoats, dresses, and other symbolic garments, creating them out of paper-covered iron wire. Sometimes she affixes other elements such as coral, beads, and ribbons that tremble and flutter slightly as viewers walk by, evoking the life-energy known as "qi" in traditional Asian thought.
"I am a person of curiosity," Geum says. "I express my thoughts using my favorite forms and materials." These thoughts often center around the complexity of human interactions with nature and technology. Specifically, the filigree of metal webbing in her sculptures relates to the "World-Wide Web" that has increasingly brought Western and Eastern cultures together. There is a delicate, minimalist poetry in the shadows the pieces cast and the play of light on the colored beads, which Geum says remind her "of dewdrops in the morning, reflecting a message of optimism and hope for the future." Suspended by nearly invisible wires, the sculptures seem to defy gravity, floating like thistledown, despite the process-driven arduousness of their execution.
In the gallery, the museum, the collector's home, these works delight the eye, inviting 360-degree viewing, while spurring conversation as to their many layers of meaning. There is a fairytale-like glamour to their luxuriant silhouettes, which is offset by their deconstructionist method. Their literal subject matter-the garment-is essentially utilitarian, yet is transfigured by the romanticism of the artist's approach. The pieces imply human presence but are ghostly and cipher-like, leading the viewer to question the relationship between the real and the simulated. These paradoxes, central to current debates in contemporary art, underlie the sheer gorgeousness of the sculptures' visual appeal.
I have been at work on this collection of paintings with assemblage for the past two years. This project has followed me from a basement in New York to a barn outside of New Orleans, in Folsom. The Chinese birch panels are loaded with enamel paints floating amid numerous coatings of transparent polyurethanes that--after many dozens of layers--creates a beautiful golden trap for the intimate collection of objects embedded within it.
Each painting is an exposure of the tiniest and the most unseeable. From coalescing cells, to shards of coursing atoms, to gangs of clustering amoebas, each shape has it's own identity and agenda. The vibrating chaos of String Theory intertwines with other nanoparticles and organisms, all of which dwell in some form of water, from a rain puddle to the deepest, blackest sea. Of course the scale is very mixed up, from protons to pollywogs, but what is beyond our easy perception tends to occupy the same mind-space (for me anyway). Occasionally these hyper-miniatures interact with additional out-sized items which have crept into my life, a rusted lid of a can, a handful of pokeberries, a shed snakeskin, a chunk of metal. Each one of these holds a nonspecific memory, a familiarity, that needs to be floating deep within these blown-up worlds.
The repeated use of the same paints and chemicals eventually developed into a system, and from this, connections formed from the very act of creating the pieces. Over the course of weeks and months, the layers built in my mind, as they did on the panels, like the stacked pages in a book. The actions and the subjects have folded into the same space--frozen in time, fused like a prehistoric creature in amber.
April 29 - June 3, 2008
JOSE MARIA CUNDIN MACVLARIA (A Lyrical Interlude of Spots, Stains and Blemishes)
Reception with the artist: Saturday, April 5th 6-9 pm This project, "MACVLARIA" was born out of a consideration of the concepts of guilt and reproach, but in time and with the necessary extrapolations, the subject received enough definition as to allow me to formally shape some plastic examples that prove the viability of my proposal.
The Latin word, "Macula", means spot, stain, blemish, an irregularity that disturbs a surface. By extension, the moral application of the concept applies to the guilt and shame of the human character. We have been observing this since the time of original sin.
My concern is with the visualization of the so called blemish or stain.
The show "MACVLARIA" is my thesis, to open the debate, in which we may consider the stain as a tool or vehicle for beauty, redeemed from the fatalities of our visual life.
Reception: Saturday, March 1st 6-9 pm
Intricate, mysterious, and sensual, the sculptures of Swedish artist Eva Hild challenge us to ponder their integration of assertiveness and delicacy, presence and absence. Recently lauded in The New York Times ("astonishing sculptures," declared critic Roberta Smith, "...a new star in the ceramics firmament."), Hild creates iconic visual sonatas whose pristine white surfaces harken to sleek, 1960s modernism, even as their supple undulations and pregnant voids suggest the organicism of coral and sea sponges. During the course of an improvisatory, intensely physical process, the artist uses her hands and metal tools to shape, sand, and fire stoneware clay into looping, twisting, bowing forms that flex and release, vault and retract. The physicality of the approach reflects the artist's personal biography (she worked as a physical therapist before becoming a full-time artist) as well as her strong thematic interest in "external and internal pressures, strain, flow, and influence." Indeed, the finished works often evoke the beauty and inscrutability of human anatomy: the curve of hips, the nautilus-like spirals of the cochlea, the cozy smoothness of the womb.
A graduate of Göteborg University's School of Design and Crafts, Hild has exhibited widely and is represented in important private and institutional collections. For all the eye-pleasing curves and contours in her work, the pieces also harbor a psychological complexity born of the dance between public and private persona. They also possess a thoughtful strain of sexual electricity and dualism that recall Dutch sculptor Herman Makkink's Rocking Machine and American painter Georgia O'Keeffe's intimate florals and blanched-out cow pelvises, which presage the nubs and hollows of Hild's works. Within their immaculate formal parameters, the sculptures are delightfully inventive: some sharp and intricate, some origami-like; others as bulbous and welcoming as a Pierre Paulin armchair; all of them expressive of the paradox of strength and fragility that is the human soul.
March 1 - April 28, 2008
JEREMY JERNEGAN Prescience
Reception: Saturday, March 1st 6-9 pm
This new wall sculpture constructed from ceramic panels and stainless steel continues an investigation of the relationship between two and three-dimensional imagery. Historically, ceramic art has related form and surface in quite inventive and complex ways. Distilling form to a series of intersecting planes, and images to a graphic line screen, the juxtaposition in these pieces highlights the tension between the modes of representation. Experience of the work is particularly influenced by ones' proximity and approach, potentially amplifying an awareness of the fugitive nature of perception and imagery. The rigid, dense and opaque nature of the ceramic tile contradicts the shifting illusionism of the subject. Similarly the linear steel elements suggest hybrid geometry, informed by moving liquid, ordered structure and fragmented experience.
Water again establishes a basis for the images, alluding to change, risk and the desire we associate with it. It seems we see the future principally as an extension of the past, though tempered by changing circumstances. Our relationship with water is colored by those experiences, even as we subject it to rational scrutiny. I think we continue to come to terms with the vulnerability we find ourselves in here in south Louisiana, internalizing both fascination and fear. The visual juxtapositions in the work reflect in part, one's ability to assimilate complex stimuli and reconcile conflicting motivations.
Reception with the artist: Saturday, December 1st 6 - 9 pm
With conceptual sophistication and technical élan, celebrated painter Michael Kessler illuminates the ongoing dialogue between natural forces and the human need for order and meaning. His uncanny synthesis of action painting with hard-edged abstraction addresses the interplay of freedom and containment, organicism and infrastructure. Kessler's imagery evokes fossils, cells, lichen, and the branching veins of ferns and trees, contextualizing these elements within immaculate architectonic geometries. A duet between the vegetal and the digital, the painter's body of work poses a bracingly contemporary question: Is humankind rising above the vines, tides, and shifting sands of nature or being swallowed up in them? These meditations throb, glow, and sear into the eye through Kessler's highly personal sense of color: cool sage and mint greens, cozy redwood and desert beige, the zip of electric blue and the primal richness of red against black.
A winner of the Prix de Rome and the Pollock/Krasner Award, Kessler has seen his work exhibited in museums and galleries throughout the United States and internationally in locales as far-flung as New York City; Chicago; Philadelphia; Rome, Italy; Göteborg, Sweden; and Cuenca, Ecuador. He lives and works in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where his studio teems with the trowels and palette knives, gessos and varnishes that he uses to layer jaunty spurts and arcs atop serene rectilinear forms. To peer down into these layers is to peer through clear Mediterranean waters, or to gaze with X-ray vision through an archaeological dig of human civilization. As they have for millennia, chaos and technology struggle for prominence in an almost Manichean fashion-but in Kessler's vision, these polar forces find a kind of dynamic equipoise through the power of visual and metaphysical harmony.
Reception with the artist: Saturday, November 3rd , 6-9 p.m.
For thirty five years I painted and drew the figure. I painted people
in their everyday environments, usually within their city rooms, often looking out of windows. I was not only attempting to paint their forms, but something about their being, their existence.
In 2003 I had an epiphany. One day while painting I began to recognize that my use of the figure as a vehicle for what I wanted to say about my experience on this planet was simply not enough. I began to feel compelled by what was outside the window, wanting to go as far away from the people, buildings, and windows as possible.
The natural world in its primordial state always intrigued me. I decided to paint NATURE. It is increasingly in danger of extinction. It is fathomless and yet we take it for granted. I knew that this subject matter would generate a new channel of exploration.
For most of those 35 years, I was bound by my notion that I was a Photorealist. I decided to let that old adage "to loosen up a bit", and paint smart, but not sloppy, be my guide. Working in a similar manner to the way I use toned grounds when I draw, I leave the
strokes as marks, barely blended. The fresh open look is as freeing as the change in subject matter.
I am aware of the power and emotion in the presence of this venerable subject. Primeval matter endures, changing and evolving silently: growing, falling or in decay. Or, it erupts and spews forth in power beyond our comprehension. Our lives as beings on this planet are so temporary and short in relation to the transcendent quality of
nature. It is shrewd in its ability to exist in spite of us, and yet we threaten it. My hope is that the timeless forces of the Natural world will continue regardless of the changes we exact upon it, but ironically only time will tell. Therefore I am exploring this dichotomy which exists. It is a mystery unfurling.
Reception with the artist: Saturday, September 1st, 6-9 pm
Up-Rooted is a multi-sensory, multimedia experience which challenges our perceptions of directionality, visual perspective, and our awareness of everyday objects. The exhibition is comprised of both an installation and a series of photographs, the installation focusing on a swamp-like environment with audio and visual elements.
Within the swamp are a precarious set of trees, each constructed of quotidian materials, such as wire mesh and floral foil. While there is a certain sturdiness to the mesh construction, the seemingly haphazard angles lend a definite instability and thus vulnerability to the scene. In addition, her deft manipulation of wire to create spindly branches not only imparts fragility, but also creates for the structures a sense of time and age. Combined with audio and video elements, the swamp is a multi-dimensional onslaught for the eye and mind.
The bouffant of green tulle, which constitutes the foliage for one of the trees, seems a transplant from the long graceful legs of a ballet dancer. Looking upward, we become distinctly aware of the sense of direction and height, while simultaneously recognizing our own gaze. It is an incredible elemental experience one often has when encountering Sally's work. Hanging throughout the space is a remarkable series of circles, comprised of various wires and pipe cleaners. They seem to exist only in their transience, like residual images concocted by the eyes. There is the sensation that if you look away, they vanish. These seeming imprints of the mind's eye encourage us to question the tangible nature of objects.
Also included in the exhibition are a series of striking photographs capturing elements of a former installation, Calamitrees. For Sally, it is a way to transform the ephemeral into something permanent, thus creating new works, which exist on their own as individualized compositions. These abstract-like photographs challenge our visual perspective, forcing us to reassess our directionality, and our perceptions of vision and focus. The photos appear fleeting, like images in a pool of water, some elements clear and distinct, others literally swimming in optical puddles. It is in these stunning photographs that the viewer is able to comprehend the incredible intricacy of Sally's work. One understands how each element, even in its minuteness, is fundamental to the overall piece. When isolated, these objects suddenly come into relief, emerging from the greater compositional web. Their impact is quite simply, stirring.
Sally is a prolific artist, with participations in over 60 exhibitions throughout her career. Her work has been reviewed in prestigious art publications such as Art in America, Sculpture Magazine and Art Papers.
Well known New Orleans artist Raine Bedsole has long been preoccupied with boats, water and their symbolism. As a child growing up in Alabama, she often witnessed the seasonal ritual of a nearby river overflowing its banks and invading the yard of her home before finally receding, an event that left a lasting impression. "This familiar ebb and flow marked the cycles of my early life. Even now, when I have dreams of flying, I am always in a boat."
Elemental sensibilities characterize Bedsole's art as well, reflecting her ongoing exploration of the natural world and our evolving relationship with it. Boats and human forms are closely linked in her work, as vessels of the soul and spirit. Noting that the nobles of ancient Egypt crossed the seas of the afterlife in barques, she sees boats as powerful symbols of transcendence as well as reflections of the native human expressive impulse in their own right. "I am intrigued by the intimate forms and personal qualities of handcrafted vessels such as pirogues, canoes and dugouts. My own boats are vessels of the psyche, instruments for navigating the inner world."
As art works, her creations are unique for their elegantly contemplative presence. Active in the New Orleans art scene since the early 1990s, she pursues her creative quest in her French Quarter studio near the Mississippi River. A graduate of Auburn University and the San Francisco Art Institute, Raine Bedsole is represented in the holdings of the New Orleans Museum of Art, the South Carolina Museum of Art, the Miami Herald and Nordstrom's, as well as numerous other public and private collections. Her work has been has been widely exhibited in a number of American cities as well as abroad, in Berlin, Brussels, Florence, Kuwait and Nepal.
JOSE-MARIA CUNDIN 40 Years Wandering Through the Des(s)ert
Reception with the artist: Saturday, April 7th 6-9
Gallery Bienvenu is pleased to announce the first retrospective show of well-known local artist José-Maria Cundin. With this exhibition, Cundin celebrates his journey of forty-two years of expositions in New Orleans. The show includes works from his neo-figurative realm (1958-1989) to his present plastic expression initiated with "MOVEMENT TOWARD ABSTRACTION" in 1990.
Few mature artists at the peak of successful careers have had the courage to abandon a celebrated style in order to distill the mysteries of the visible universe into the simplest-and most profound-questions of color, form and composition.
It is evident in his present work that the complexities of theme and plastic formalities plus other imponderables, constitutes a new and marvelous visual and dramatic adventure in Cundin's world.
Born in 1938 in Getxo, (Euskadi) Spain, his artistic education began in Bilbao
at the Escuela de Artes y Oficios and Museo de Reproducciones Artísticas. After studying at the noted Academia Sindical, he was invited to Colombia, where he would illustrate several notable publications. Cundin's initial exhibit in Bogotá was followed by subsequent shows in both Medellín and Barranquilla. After traveling to New York City in 1958 to continue his studies, he first came to New Orleans in 1964. Immediately after his arrival, Cundin had his inaugural show at the
Crescent City's historic Orleans Gallery in 1965. He has continued his love affair with the city through today. Currently the artist lives and works in Folsom, Louisiana.
José-Maria Cundin served as Professor of Color and Composition at Bilbao's Basque University and, later, at the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. In 1975 he co-founded Tierra-Adentro, a popular
art magazine still in circulation and, also during that eventful year, the School
of Tapestry in Lauquiniz, Euskadi. He inaugurated a similar institution some years later in Segovia, Spain.
To date Cundin has had more than 38 one-man shows in the United States, Colombia, Mexico, Belgium and Spain-while also participating in numerous group exhibitions, several of which have been historic and critical for the recognition of the Basque Avant Garde.
We hope that you have the chance to come and personally view this comprehensive sample of Cundin's artistic oeuvre . Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Please contact Borislava Kharalampiev, Gallery Bienvenu Director or Cathy Bienvenu, for additional information or visit the gallery website at www.gallerybienvenu.com.
A shift in focus, a shift in chroma, a shift in consideration, five different series come together in order to examine place, incidents of life, and the patterns that influence and infiltrate the subconscious. The work has a struggle between austerity (particularly with the limited pallet) and opulence, (the complexity of many of the patterns). There are optical plays and scale shifts that create drama (almost, melodrama but not quite) over the small incidents such as getting caught on a thorny branch (Snag) or stung by a mosquito (Sting).
The long thin intaglio prints read like specimen slides, as if patterns were under a microscope. They include everything from mathematical plotting of chaos theory to the repetition of natural forms. The images display a shift between natural forms and the abstraction of pattern.
The dress prints that make up the installation titled Shift are the most playful. This style of dress is actually called a shift. The patterns and imagery within them change because of the context of the form and the scale shift to a smaller than human size. This creates a form of signage on each one of the paper dresses. It references the body and causes the viewer to consider each pattern, each element as it now relates to the body and most specifically the female form.
Pattern permeates existence here in New Orleans. My interest in pattern is how it can confuse and distort almost creating an urban camouflage that blends and plays with the shadows of the subtropical foliage. The patterned works break down and rebuild.
All of this work was create within the last five months and required a considerable amount of support from many individuals. I would like to thank my students, colleagues and friends for their help and moral support with this exhibition. In particular I would like to thank: Sandy Chism, Jane Hipple, Maureen Iverson, Blake Sanders, Dylan Rogers, my all important and most valuable studio assistant Hannah Campbell, and of course Wayne Troyer.
- Teresa Cole
January 5 - February 25, 2007
JEREMY JERNEGAN SURGE December 2 - December 30, 2006
Opening Reception with the Artist: December 2nd, 6-9 pm
The pieces in the exhibition Surge were developed through a unique and somewhat complex process, resulting in ceramic prints incorporated into a steel sculpture. Most of the works began with a drawings and paper models, establishing the structural idea. The images on the tiles are (often) originally photographs, digitally modified and printed out as half-tone line screen images on paper. I use these to expose large silk-screens, which in turn are then used to screen print black engobe (a vitreous clay slip) onto the surface of a plaster slab. I then pour a layer of casting slip (liquid clay) over the plaster slab, and when it sets up in several hours, I peel the clay sheet off, picking up the image from the plaster. These clay sheets are dried and fired to 2100 F, after which they are cut with a diamond saw into the final tile shape. In some cases the tiles are then glazed or modified with slip and fired again, (and again) until the color and surface is right. Finally the steel structure is fabricated to develop the form and the tiles are fit and mounted to complete the work.
I have come to recognize that for most of my career I have been exploring images that speak metaphorically about travel, on roads, across water, and ultimately travel through one's life. The forms I had been working with through the last fifteen years were drawn from objects associated with water travel, such as buoys, anchors, fixed markers and signal flags. The reference intended was that of directional travel through a vaguely defined environment. The difficulties of navigation on water relate for me to similar uncertainties that surround individual's choices in life.
An exhibition from 1998 entitled Medusa's Raft featured a group of wall pieces incorporating images derived from naval signaling flags. These works marked a return for me to the mono-printing techniques I developed and a new focus on interpreting subject matter in a purely graphic way. The images suggested a function as signs and directional markers, and they raised the issue of a tension between the work as an image and as a physical clay object, framed in steel. That exhibition led me to question the flatness of the finished pieces, and to develop a number of three-dimensional models that protruded a significant distance from the wall. Those pieces slightly resembled a perspective drawing of a box partially unfolded, except the perspective would be quite skewed. Each plane of the form was a separate ceramic print with related but different imagery.
The relationship between the image and the form continues to be a particular interest in this current work. The structures of most of these pieces developed as stylized representations of the way water moves. The graphic imagery addresses the same subject, manipulating the pictoral to a degree of abstraction. Both devices are a kind of shorthand for organizing information about highly complex systems. I am interested in the tension created at the point an image coalesces in the viewer's eye, and then breaks down as distance and perspective shifts.
In Surge, Water itself serves as my point of departure in referencing our desire to understand and quantify our experience. The behavior of water frustrates precise analysis, yet suggests systems that may be recognized, even predicted. It is difficult to apprehend, difficult even to see, subject to varied reflectivity and transparency. Our understanding of water is subject to external circumstances as much as it is due to it's own nature. Our subjective response to water is equally variable, an issue brought into sharp focus by the crushing effects of hurricane Katrina. Water is seen both as an inviting and a hostile environment, synonymous with both luxury vacation sites and the menace of the deep. Water seems to arouse strong responses in quite different areas of our imagination. I am interested in the fluctuation in our perception of phenomenon and the parallels in our subjective responses.
DOYLE GERTJEJANSEN Recent Paintings October 5 - November 30, 2006
Opening Reception: Saturday, October 7th, 6-9 p.m.
David Rubin on Doyle Gertjejansen
Working from an intuitive base, yet informed by years of experimentation as a painter, knowledge culled from widespread readings, and the immediacy of the unpredictable experiences that characterize post-Katrina New Orleans, Doyle Gertjejansen has produced a series of highly energized paintings that are imbued with gritty pictorial muscle and expressive of timely metaphors. Having long ago adopted the belief that there is essentially one pictorial language-which is inclusive of abstract and representational as well as familiar and unfamiliar imagery-Gertjejansen begins each painting with a simple, arbitrary configuration and then, additively, transforms it into something compelling and meaningful. In Gertjejansen's hands, a serene appropriation of Mount Fuji becomes engulfed by the centrifugal motion of swirling brush gestures that hurl through space like fragments of ripped-apart earth ignited by an explosion. Similarly, disks of a color wheel struggle to be perceived from within a densely populated field of compacted undulating abstract organisms. Though never literal in a narrative sense, the paintings convey a metaphoric outcry about struggle for survival, bringing to mind not only the upheavals of a city mutated by the shock of Katrina, but of the multiple instabilities-political as well as environmental-that have thus far defined the initial decade of the twenty-first century.
ARIC MAYER Balance + Disorder: A Response to Hurricane Katrina and the Photographic Landscape August 5th - September 30th, 2006
Opening Reception with the Artist: August 5th, 6-9 pm
Gallery Bienvenu is pleased to announce the first New Orleans solo exhibition of New York photographer Aric Mayer.
On September 4, 2005, Aric Mayer entered New Orleans and began work on an extensive body of landscape photographs of the city in the weeks after Hurricane Katrina. These images are combined with wilderness landscapes in an exhibition that explores the relationship between the landscape and how we perceive natural disaster.
Although Hurricane Katrina was the largest natural disaster ever encountered in an American city, most people do not have any direct experience with the event. Its existence for them is mediated entirely by stories and pictures.
This exhibition challenges popular expectations of how nature in balance and in disorder is commonly portrayed in documentary and art photography. Nature is often depicted in industrial and post-industrial societies as a backdrop for civilized life, a place to go to as a retreat to experience a sense of continuity and wholeness. When a natural disaster strikes, nature is then often represented as violating, angry and dangerous. Both positions serve to clarify an idealized response to the natural world. These photographs challenge this duality by presenting aspects of both positions simultaneously. At once painterly and factual, the images are both art and a record, creating a tension between the aesthetic and the documentary. Many of the popular depictions of Hurricane Katrina evoke an empathetic response from the viewers, offering them an experience of the event that is at once disturbing and vicarious and dealt with primarily on an emotional level, without leaving room for the scientific, social and political complexities that surround the event. In contrast, Mayer's images of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina combine traditional expectations of the landscape, with its sense of organic order, serenity and calmness, with the historical reality of the catastrophe, which is chaotic, destructive and disordered. In doing so they deny the viewer an easy out. They are troubling and eerie in their draw. The viewer is pulled in and pushed away at the same time, compelled to fight the traditional good-nature-bad-nature binary while experiencing a much more ambiguous representation of the event.
Balance + Disorder explores this intersection of and overlap between depictions of natural disaster and our idealized hopes for the landscape as an untouched wilderness retreat.
Questions are raised about the best way to depict such an event. How can such a large catastrophe be communicated to a remote audience? What are the political and social implications of trying to represent natural disaster? How do representations of the hurricane influence public interest and support in the broader population?
This exhibition commemorates the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and also the one-year anniversary of Gallery Bienvenu, which opened for business just three weeks before the hurricane struck. Gallery Bienvenu is committed to engaging in the ongoing process of recovery in New Orleans, and to continuing to participate in the cultural evolution of the city.
August 5 - September 29, 2006
IORDAN IVANOV Touch the Whisper Opening Reception
May 6th, 6-10 p.m.
during Jammin' on Julia May 6 - June 30, 2006