Here's a riddle. When is an art show not really " or at least, not entirely " an art show in the usual sense of the word? The answer is, when it's a Maquette, a term used by architects and sculptors for a model, or template, of things to come. While some of the works in the Maquette show at Jonathan Ferrara Gallery are actually finished pieces, some are just models, working drawings or sketches suggesting what the finished piece might look like " with the emphasis on 'might." Nothing is set in stone, even when the work in question is made of stone, and Sculpture for New Orleans " a scattered-site exhibition of 25 large sculptural works by American, international and New Orleans artists " has inspired no end of questions and questioners. Curated and promoted by Houston artist and New Orleans native Michael Manjarris, it seems to be starting to come together with a piece to be installed this week at the Ogden Museum, followed shortly thereafter by Louise Bourgeois' quite surreal Eye Benches in Lafayette Square and Deborah Masters' eerily figurative Travellers in Audubon Park. The show's roster of art stars also includes New York éminence grise Mark Di Suvero, represented at Ferrara with some colorful abstract illusionist prints that are intended to serve as stand-ins for his sculpture to come. Aside from having monumental work installed all over the world, the 75-year-old Di Suvero was also involved in such ground-breaking activities as founding the first contemporary art gallery in New York's SoHo, as well as the Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens " not to mention having shared a studio with New Orleans' own Robert Tannen during his early years in mid-century Manhattan. If Di Suvero emphasizes the expressive side of abstraction, Tannen favors the ephemeral monumentalism evidenced by his set of rocks installed here, actual rounded little boulders illustrating his carefully researched belief that planet Earth will eventually be reduced to a pile of rubble " a theme reprised in a nice series of rock photos on the wall created in collaboration with Jonathan Traviesa.
Rounding out this elemental theme, an ethereal boat sculpture by Raine Bedsole seems to almost float on currents of air next to the Di Suvero prints, while nearby a muscular pair of iron and aluminum fantasy wings by U.K.- and U.S.-based artist Coral Lambert appears ready to take flight. Speaking of which, an abstract polyurethane bunny with a fabric cavity by Tara Conley appears ready to jump down some shag-carpeted rabbit hole into an Astroturf dimension in virtual space. Other relatively finished-looking works include some of Manjarris' own pieces and a set of three large ink-wash drawings by noted Swedish sculptor and part-time New York resident Claes Hake.
Some viewers may find this show a little confusing due to the number of not-quite -ready-for-prime-time, or experimental, pieces that serve as the sculptural equivalent of rough sketches. And there also are some rough, sometimes quite rough, actual sketches of as-yet-unfinished pieces that can seem both jarringly graceless and wonderfully revealing of how the creative process evolves from idea, or dream, to manifestation. Something of the same might be said for the entire Sculpture for New Orleans project itself, which has often seemed to make no effort to conceal rough edges or glitches whenever or wherever they occur, as they inevitably do in any project of this magnitude. Working with a budget of approximately $300,000 and supported by the Joan Mitchell foundation and the Arts Council of New Orleans in collaboration with the Mariposa Foundation in Texas, Manjarris and cohorts Peter Lundberg and Fairfax Dorn have arranged for these works to be loaned by participating artists for up to two years as their contribution to the recovery of New Orleans. That they came through as they did is an act of profound public-spirited generosity on their part.
- James Surls' Me, Knife, Diamond, Flower, seen here in Monte Carlo, will be installed at the Ogden Museum this week.