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Review: Better, Still and Breaking Up is Hard to Do

D. Eric Bookhardt on new works by David R. Harper, Brad Benischek and Case Miller

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Autumn is the season of renewal in New Orleans, and this November marks both the reopening of the Antenna Gallery at its new St. Claude Avenue location and the fourth birthday of the Front — yet both feature works dealing more with endings than beginnings. At Antenna, David R. Harper explores mourning in sculptures crafted from white porcelain, fabric and lace inspired by the Dutch still-life tradition. But where the Dutch masters painted arrangements of flowers and fruit with occasional skulls as reminders of mortality, Harper's style is more gothic. Better, Still features a deathly white porcelain doll next to a porcelain snake with blue floral patterns on its snow-white skin, in a haunting if creepy reprise of the way ornamentation has been used to commemorate the departed. In Noblesse Oblige, a large white porcelain deer with two heads appears in an delicate lace cage on a faux polar bear rug, rounding out Harper's beautiful, yet disturbing, elaboration of a dreamlike alternate reality.

  Brad Benischek and Case Miller's Breaking Up Is Hard To Do installation at the Front (pictured) is a no less psychological, yet totally funky, environment crafted to resemble a bitter end border crossing at some dark twilight zone of the soul. Featuring a realistic construction of a steel, graffiti-smeared port of embarkation complex, it really is an architectural rendition of the Charles Bukowski/Tom Waits worldview. An externalized equivalent of the bleak inner landscape of emotional loss that results when the bonds of love are sundered and people move on — which at the opening featured a guitar-strumming bum playing Nirvana and Jacques Brel covers as viewers traversed a winding, infernal looking corridor that deposited them unceremoniously outside the building. Not always appreciated, this at least offered a reminder of how disconcerting emotional transitions can be. — D. ERIC BOOKHARDT

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