The art world can be a tough nut to crack, but sometimes things happen unexpectedly. Consider Bruce Davenport Jr., who was raised by his grandparents in the Lafitte housing project, and who aspired to a career in football until an injury returned him to his childhood fascination with art. Largely self-taught, he struck a chord a few years back with his color marker drawings of local high school bands comprised of neat rows of hieroglyphic-like figures that capture the rhythmic dynamism of subjects like the St. Augustine Marching 100 band (pictured). He famously depicts the exact number of band members as well as meticulous multitudes of spectators and some personal messages like "Big Time Artist" and "RIP Lafitte Projects." He used to sell such works for a few hundred dollars apiece, but thanks to influential advocates like Dan Cameron, who included him in Prospect.2, they now command several thousand in New York and elsewhere. Now, Davenport, who curated this show, does his part to promote the work of lesser-known artists.
Their efforts can sometimes seem a little chaotic. The edgy expressionistic energy of Anthony Clark's colorful wall sculptures of wildlife and African warriors can be disconcerting, but that also may be their strength. And what looks like slick airbrush illustrations of pin-up girls by Lloyd Varnado are actually meticulously rendered pencil drawings made with a photorealist technique he learned in prison, giving him the ability to be the next Mel Ramos if he wants to go that route. Painter/sculptor Carl Williams actually honed his skills the old fashioned way, in art school, but his soothing pastel colors seduce the eye into occasionally disturbing subject matters. And you have to look twice to realize why John Isiah Walton's portraits of Zulu float riders look so creepy: They're all scowling white men, like Dick Cheney in blackface. Yikes, keep that man away from the coconuts! — D. ERIC BOOKHARDT
Through March 11
Good Stuff III
Homespace Gallery, 1128 St. Roch Ave., (917) 584-9867; www.scadnola.com