You might call this a high-concept show celebrating the swampy lowlands of South Louisiana. "The Call of the Alluvial Empire" was the title of a pamphlet put out in 1919 to attract laborers to the region. In fact, waves of immigrants already had arrived only to deal with the inundating waves of hurricanes as well as the meandering Mississippi and other rivers, which until relatively recently had a habit of suddenly changing course. Gina Phillips' obsessively stitched fabric paintings make up an impressionistic slice of life in a region where the tides never rest. Salvage Operation (pictured) depicts a cutaway view of the Mississippi with docks and bridges above as a deep-sea diver below pokes through a watery graveyard of junk and sunken ships, long-lost houses and even the remains of formerly buried British casualties from the War of 1812 who were swept under when the river changed course. Other scenes are more bucolic, but all comprise a series of narrative paintings cobbled from colored thread in a spate of skillfully flamboyant embroidery.
This year's No Dead Artists expo features 20 artists from all over the country, although New York, Chicago and New Orleans are especially well-represented. Much of this year's show suggests a resurgence of figuration and deeply psychological narratives, as we see in works like Meghan Boody's haunting photograph of a young girl wandering across a Victorian English landscape, blithely oblivious to a large and furiously burning manor house in the background, or Rieko Fujinami's remarkable pigment on acetate portraits of ordinary people seemingly locked in a battle with entropy as dramatic as any Ivan Albright painting. There also are instances of industrial surrealism and other finely wrought ruminations, all suggesting a tendency toward introspection and improvisation necessitated, perhaps, by a new world order we are only just beginning to comprehend. — D. Eric Bookhardt
The Call of the Alluvial Empire: New Fabric Art by Gina Phillips
Isaac Delgado Gallery, 615 City Park Ave., 361-6620; http://delgadonews.tumblr.com
No Dead Artists: National Juried Exhibition of New American Art
Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, 400A Julia St., 522-5471; www.jonathanferraragallery.com