Review: Guns in the Hands of Artists


Marigny Warning by John Barnes.
  • Marigny Warning by John Barnes.

A recent visit to the Guns in the Hands of Artists show at Jonathan Ferrara Gallery reminded me of the old saying: “From little acorns, mighty oak trees grow.” Could the same be true of bullets? The first Guns show premiered almost 20 years ago to modest fanfare, but if you search the Internet for Guns in the Hands of Artists now, the list of newspapers, TV stations and major national networks covering the exhibition goes on and on. The works on view give us something to think about while providing the artists — some of whom live in sketchy neighborhoods — a creative way to comment on senseless destruction. Sculptor Brian Borrello initiated the first such show in 1996 and returns this year with a modified Mac-10 automatic pistol fitted with a cartridge magazine so long that it circles back on itself. Its rhino horn shape recalls the Eugene Ionesco play, Rhinoceros, an absurdist take on how violent passions are a contagion that can increase exponentially, and like the play, this piece is both absurd and chillingly insightful. Sculptor and urban planner Robert Tannen extends the metaphor with his Four Barreled Handgun, a pistol that holds way more bullets than usual but can never be fired without endangering the shooter. But H. Cole Wiley and R. Luke DuBois take it to another level with a plexiglass-encased pistol that fires a blank whenever a New Orleans Police Department homicide report is posted.

Any murder map of New Orleans is necessarily a map of misguided revenge, collateral damage and mistaken identity, and Xavier art professor Ron Bechet’s murder map with victims’ names written in smudgy red is perhaps best described by its title: Why? Here again, bullets grow into a big, bloody mess. John Barnes takes this city’s residential architecture literally in his evocative “shotgun house” sculpture Marigny Warning (pictured). Precisely playful works by Nicholas Varney, Generic Art Solutions, Dan Tague and a talented trove of others round out a very varied but mostly high-impact show. 

Thru Jan. 24
Guns in the Hands of Artists: Decommissioned guns repurposed as art
Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, 400A Julia St., (504) 522-5471

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