This year marks the 10th anniversary of the founding of the St. Claude Arts District. Part of an outpouring of art community activism in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, many mostly co-op galleries opened in tandem with Prospect New Orleans’ inaugural international art exhibition, Prospect.1, in 2008. During the three-month duration of the recent Prospect.4 expo, most St. Claude galleries hosted group exhibitions featuring work by gallery members that often seemed like Whitman’s Sampler assortments of aesthetic miscellany with occasional tasty morsels to reward determined viewers. In this context, the current Antenna Part 4 show stands out as unexpectedly cohesive.
That may have to do with Horton Humble and Rontherin Ratliff, New Orleans natives and highly accomplished members of the Level Artist Collective, whose works set the tone. Humble’s arresting Women of Indigo (pictured) suggests worlds arising within worlds, as if ancient Ashanti earth goddesses reappeared in a towering, yet ethereal, vision of transcendence hovering above clamorous city streets. His nearby Man Tree painting of a human head appears, up close, to comprise icons and artifacts from the history of civilization. Ratliff riffs on related themes in his psychological mixed-media sculptures, strikingly stark compositions of architectural relics somehow imbued with human consciousness, as if old building materials had absorbed something of the spirit of the people they once sheltered. Amelia Broussard’s graphical works suggest topographical maps of the obscure corners of the psyche. Kevin Brisco Jr.’s pop-realist portrait of the wreck of a Honda Prelude he once drove is an inexplicably gorgeous evocation of a rite of passage — of teenagers’ cars as symbols of liberation and its limits — a theme amplified by his pop-realist portraits, including his canvases at Good Children Gallery down the street. But perhaps the final word on the pop mythology of freedom appears at Barrister’s Gallery, where Daphne Loney’s Death of a Disco Dancer sculpture of a horse-size unicorn lies in extremis on the floor as reflections from a disco ball bathe it in a slow funerary dirge of refractory luminosity. Through March 4. Antenna Gallery, 3718 St. Claude Ave., (504) 298-3161; www.antenna.works.