Change happens. That’s not news, but lately the pace seems to be picking up in often perplexing ways. Such is the proposition that propels Luis Cruz Azaceta in his Shifting States expo at Arthur Roger Gallery. As a child, the Havana-born painter escaped Cuba in 1960 with his family. Ensconced in Uptown New Orleans for the past 20 years, his lifelong themes of displacement and alienation are as relevant now as ever. Shifting States is an apt title in an age when revolutions are launched with cell phones and enemies are stalked and assassinated by remote-controlled drones. Blood Line (pictured) suggests a Rorschach blot studded with the oddly similar forms of mosques, minarets, radar and microwave towers in a bristling nimbus of potential mayhem. Surveillance is a maze of circuits attached by electronic umbilical cords to lethal-looking pods in improbable candy colors. All sprout ominous appendages and the effect is unsettling, as if economic, religious and military conflicts had assumed autonomous lives of their own in which mere individuals are all but powerless.
If life in the 21st century is often at the mercy of unseen forces, clearer boundaries might sound like a good idea. Yet when Ivan Navarro’s Fence sculpture, a full-size fence rendered in pale neon, first appeared in an exhibition in New York, it provoked a mixed reception. But that was exactly what the Chilean artist intended. Reborn as the UNO Fence, part of Prospect.2, it provokes similar responses here. Fragile yet intimidating, it blocks access to the rest of the gallery. This can be taken in various ways, but to me it suggests a metaphor for how something as intangible as an idea, concept or culture can, in the right context, constrain human action. Comprised of little more than light and thin glass tubes, it dares us to transgress its otherwise delicate boundaries.