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Review: Pitcha This, Ya' Heard Me? and Hispanic Convergence in New Orleans

New work at Barrister’s Gallery and the Consulate of Mexico art gallery

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This Hispanic Convergence expo at the Mexican consulate is a local first. With work by more than 20 Mexican, Argentine, Puerto Rican, Salvadoran, Colombian and Cuban artists, Convergence is eclectic yet noteworthy for the transnational leadership displayed by the Mexican consulate — and for its timing, coinciding with an opportunistic and trash-talking politician's insurgent presidential bid. But culture trumps trash talk, and this show features many of the psychological, surreal and whimsical qualities long associated with Hispanic art. Standouts include Alana (pictured) by Ana Gaby Alanis, in which a rapturous woman evokes an unlikely sort of saint — perhaps Our Lady of Lower Life Forms — as frogs, spiders, snakes and scorpions cling to her. Also provocative are photographs by Cristina Molina and Fred Husserl, Vanessa Centeno's colorful mixed-media creations and Jackie Cerise's paintings of nudes and Sacred Hearts. Works created by artists on the consulate staff include Belinda Shinshillas' color-field paintings and Aura Maury's photographs — but the most striking thing of all is the example of robust cultural leadership shown by the Mexican consulate.

Equally surprising are white New Orleans policeman Charles Beau von Hoffacker's paintings of young black men whose distressed lives and violent deaths define our most troubled neighborhoods. Working with acrylic paints infused with his own formula of pulverized copper, brass and gunpowder, Hoffacker bases his works on social media photos selected by his subjects, images that reveal a broad spectrum of innocence and menace. Despite occasional gangster posturing, all reflect a striking degree of objectivity and empathy, and it's clear Hoffacker is the rare artist — or police officer — who tries to relate to the underlying humanity of this volatile subculture. This stark yet compelling exhibition challenges the rest of us to better understand the lives of those among us who have fewer advantages.

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