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Review: New work at St. Claude galleries

D. Eric Bookhardt on shows at the Front and UNO St. Claude Gallery


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Kevin Baer's Ritual Process show at the UNO St. Claude Gallery is a little like the jazz piano playing of Keith Jarrett: both seem coolly minimal yet are actually complex. Baer deploys organic materials with surprising lyricism to evoke natural and man-made processes. Horizons (pictured), was inspired by the Rothko Chapel where the legendary artist's abstract canvases appear as objects of meditation. But in Baer's Horizons, a blank canvas literally paints itself as its bottom is suspended in a trough of colored dyes that gradually saturate it like a wick. Likewise, some glassy illuminated obelisks in the parking lot slowly change form over time as what looks like cast glass turns out to be sugar glass that melts in the rain and heat. Even some of the drawings — created with materials including hair, charcoal and dust — look almost like they drew themselves. Ritual Process is cool and sleek yet organic in tone, and if that seems unlike New Orleans' baroque extravagance, think again, because this city is like a vast art project that is always in flux. Even the self-painted Rothko-like canvas might be read as an aesthetic re-visioning of the water lines found on so many structures after Hurricane Katrina. Here Baer explores the unfathomable nexus of nature and culture.

  More minimal process art appears in Colleen Ho's nearly monochromatic drawings at The Front. Stitched in thread on paper, they suggest spider webs in frost or footprints in snow observed from above. Labor intensive yet quietly evocative, they explore the subtle interplay of presence and absence. Barrett Langlinais' abstract photographs return us to a realm of natural and man-made processes as they appear etched into the skin of the city. These surfaces contain a poetry of decay and regeneration like a resonant interplay of minor and major tones, the eternal counterpoint of darkness and light. — D. ERIC BOOKHARDT


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