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Review: Art Hysterical at Jonathan Ferrara Gallery

Local artists keep art history from repeating itself


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It could have been silly — art about art history has been the basis of too many trite exhibitions in recent years — but this tart expo curated by Matthew Weldon Showman is hysterical in the most catalytic sense of the word. We all know the famous Emanuel Leutze painting Washington Crossing the Delaware, but in this new version, Ode to Washington Crossing the Delaware (pictured) by the duo known as E2, men are replaced by women of various races, and Washington is portrayed as a resolute black woman. This may seem funny at first, but it also is symbolic. Although the American Revolution was a revolt by affluent white guys against a British monarchy run by and for affluent white guys, the Constitution they drafted set the stage for a process of gender and racial emancipation that continues to this day.

  Digital manipulation reaches new heights of magic realism in some remarkable remakes of vintage masterworks by Tony Campbell and Matt Vis. In their version of The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, Campbell portrays the martyred saint as a scruffy, semi-conscious homeless person assailed by Vis as a macho cop in a humorous, if deadly serious, social realist take on an old renaissance theme. Similarly, Rene Magritte's creepily iconic painting of a female head that, up close, is a woman's nude torso undergoes a role reversal in Nora See's version, which disconcertingly substitutes a tumescent male torso. Rachel Burch Williams' My Ghost is like an elegant goth update of old Dutch "vanitas" still-life paintings, replete with skulls and insects, that remains remarkably true to form. Adam Mysock's On a Snowy Night suggests a small yet convincing copy of Edward Hopper's Nighthawks, but look again and it's snowing inside like a zany snow globe. Master 20th-century New Orleans painter Paul Ninas may seem like the odd man out here, but if you look closely at his work in various styles, it becomes quite easy to see him as the Gerhard Richter of his milieu.


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