There were times when the mostly co-op galleries of the St. Claude Arts District collectively resembled grad school exhibitions that happened to be connected to a neighborhood instead of a university. But that appears to be changing as we see in this salon-style show at Homespace Gallery organized by New York and New Orleans art scene veterans Luis Cruz Azaceta and Sharon Jacques. Here works by 34 established and emerging artists reflflflect the pointedly humanistic perspective of the curators. The title, Raw, sets the tone as imagery by Peter Saul, the American master of maniacally gut wrenching social commentary, shares space with the no less maniacal but perhaps less known Raw Heads sculptures of New Orleans artist Gary Oaks, while Deborah Luster's conceptual crime scene photos provide biting counterpoint. Subtlety also is evident in Monica Zeringue's mysteriously kinky silk, hair and crystal sculpture, Desire, and in Kevin Kline's installation of votive candles that feature photo portraits of neighborhood characters instead of saints. Their faces reveal no shortage of pathos, suggesting that martyrdom and redemption may be profoundly personal matters, questions of perspective shared by saints and sinners alike.
The four exhibitions at the Front also feature emerging and accomplished artists, only here they are one and the same. In the half decade since its founding, the member artists of this co-op gallery have given us increasingly polished and eloquent presentations, as we see in Rachel Jones' elegiac paintings of flora and fauna, the living and the dead displayed in altar-like arrangements. Stephanie Patton and Rachel Avena Brown's somewhat enigmatic efforts invite and confound our expectations in typically provocative ways, and Dave Greber and Andrea Ferguson's psychedelic video and soft sculpture installation (pictured) is as flflflamboyant as we might expect while reminding us that accomplishment need not necessarily entail any diminution of surprise. — D. Eric Bookhardt
Through Feb. 5
Saturdays and Sundays
Homespace Gallery, 1128 St. Roch Ave., (917) 584-9867; www.scadnola.com
New work by Rachel Jones, Rachel Avena Brown, Stephanie Patton, Dave Greber, Andrea Ferguson
Saturdays and Sundays
The Front, 4100 St. Claude Ave., 920-3980; www.nolafront.org