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Review: Machines on Paper and Conscience

D. Eric Bookhardt looks at two art shows about urban life

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The wrecked pickup truck first inexplicably appeared inside an empty storefront on St. Claude Avenue, beyond a door far too small to accommodate any vehicle. Closer inspection revealed it was a full-size replica carefully crafted from cardboard (pictured), but it remained a mystery until it reemerged at the Carroll Gallery. Its creator, Bob Snead, was inspired by an actual pickup truck a drunk driver had wrecked outside his St. Claude studio. Now part of this Conscience expo, it complements David Grunfeld's eloquent photographs documenting the travails of working folk, including oystermen in the wake of the BP disaster and others who capture some of the visual poetry of life and labor in south Louisiana. Similarly, John Barnes' stark shotgun house sculptures and Keith Perelli's lyrically surreal portraits based on police mug shots meld gritty urban chaos with a visionary sensibility that hints at the possibility of transcendence.

  James Goedert's Machines on Paper show at Antenna features, among other things, a 1970s-era Ford Granada with Nebraska plates. It too is larger than the gallery door, but this real car was taken apart and reassembled inside — with modifications. The seats surround the relocated steering wheel, which when turned activates engine parts reconfigured into a mechanism that sketches an abstract drawing of a car, as if the Granada had taken up art in its old age. On the wall is a landscape painting like an expanse of green grass on paper; beneath it on the floor rests the lawn trimmer that created it, with colored markers tied to its plastic trim cords. Other everyday tools appear with their equally unlikely creations, and here Goedert reveals how old machines can be reconfigured to make art while incidentally providing a sense of what surrealism might have looked like had it originated in Middle America instead of Paris. — D. Eric Bookhardt

Machines on Paper: New Work by James Goedert

Through Feb. 5

Antenna, 3161 Burgundy St., 957-4255; www.press-street.com/antenna

Conscience: Work by John Barnes, David Grunfeld, Keith Perelli and Bob Snead

Through Feb. 11

Carroll Gallery, Tulane University, 314-2228; http://carrollgallery.tulane.edu

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