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Review: Photos by Tina Freeman and paintings by Amer Kobaslija

On display at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and Arthur Roger Gallery



It is rare for two unrelated exhibitions to feature the same subject at the same time, but Tina Freeman's photographs at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and Bosnian artist Amer Kobaslija's paintings at Arthur Roger Gallery are all about artists' studios. (Odder still, Kobaslija's show coincidentally follows fellow Bosnian artist Lala Rascic's recent expo at Good Children.) New Orleans is sometimes called a "psychic city" for the way coincidences happen, but this is a double dose of synchronicity. Neither portrays the artists themselves, but Freeman's photos are accompanied by examples of her subjects' work while Kobaslija's paintings let us piece together their personalities from their cluttered surroundings. Not that Freeman's artists are any pikers when it comes to clutter — the late George Dureau's live-in studio (pictured) is a masterpiece of aesthetic accumulation that echoes the elegant curiosities that once surrounded long gone maestros like Henri Matisse or Frederic Church, in contrast to his spare artworks on view.

  Freeman's photographs of Elizabeth Shannon's antique woodwork and swamp relic-infested studio are flanked by her installation of taxidermied alligators climbing old wooden ladders in an eerie evocation of the animist spirits of the city and the nearby wildernesss, but Robert Tannen's Crucifish assemblage with a stuffed marlin affixed to a tall wooden cross behind a Savonarola chair suggests something a swashbuckling Grand Isle Francis Bacon might have concocted. Ersy Schwartz' bronze, bird-headed chess pieces look dramatically orderly atop their precise wooden cabinet, but their aura is bizarrely surreal. In Kobaslija's painterly rendering of Jackson Pollock's studio, a solitary chair appears amid a riot of manic paint splatters on the floor. But in the rustic domesticity of Balthus' studio, cats, quinces and a nude, half-painted nymphet offer clues to the late artist's inner life. Kobaslija's and Freeman's studio scenes are portals into the artists' personas in absentia via the environments and trappings that guided them like lodestones toward uncharted territories.

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