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Review: New works at Newcomb and the CAC

D. Eric Bookhardt on Tamarind Touchstones and NOLA Now: Part II

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Eclectic exhibitions with limited work by each artist can be disorienting even if the artists themselves are well known. That goes double if their medium isn't typical, so viewing this retrospective of lithographs from the Tamarind Institute featuring work by modern masters can be like looking for friends in costume on Mardi Gras; some are instantly recognizable but others are not. For instance, a mysterious image of the word "Angel" spelled out in Hells Angels script on a flesh-toned field turns out to be Ed Ruscha playing coy, and Philip Pearlstein's Nude on an Indian blanket is typical of his sympathetic flair for female sensuality. Jim Dine's prints of empty male bathrobes standing with arms akimbo suggest Hugh Hefner as a ghost haunting the Playboy mansion. Scary. Abstractions can work well in lithography, and an untitled Sam Francis composition from 1966 displays perfect pitch for line and color, but Hung Liu's Wildflower (pictured) conveys a sense of Asian delicacy expressed in Western terms — in a piece that is in many ways representative of this show's quietly meditative aura.

  The Landscape, Seascape, Cityscape component of the NOLA Now show at the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) has been held over until April 7. Featuring a variety of styles and media, this too is a smorgasbord, a Whitman's Sampler of new work and golden oldies by mostly local artists. Curated by former CAC director Don Marshall, this and the Spaces expo upstairs, curated by visual arts director Amy Mackie, have helped bring local artists back to the CAC in a big way for the first time in ages. Unfortunately, Mackie recently resigned, citing "philosophical differences" with CAC management. Whatever the reason, the abrupt loss of the last two CAC visual arts directors, both from New York's innovative New Museum, can't possibly help when it comes to attracting qualified successors. — D. Eric Bookhardt

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