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Review: Profligate Beauty melds the sublime, tropical and gothic

A quirky, sprawling expo of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art

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The title of this new exhibition at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art sounded like overkill from the start. Profligate Beauty conjures up rapturous visions like fever dreams of glittering Swarovski crystals or grand ballrooms bursting with bejeweled Faberge eggs. This sprawling expo, which occupies much of the museum's third floor, is a quirky sampler of mostly 20th-century local and regional works that evoke Francis Bacon's great quote: "There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion." A more accurately evocative title might have alluded to the sublime and tropical, yet often rather gothic, aspects of the works on view.   Certainly Mamou native Keith Sonnier's neon and glass Split Dyad radiates a certain sleekly luminous gorgeousness, but its seductive, sci-fi allure is really quite otherworldly. New Orleans artist Jacqueline Bishop's fantastical painting From the Vine to the Vein portrays a kind of humanoid, bird-headed tree standing defiantly under a red sky like a specter from tribal mythology. Inspired by the widespread burning of the Amazon rainforest in the 1990s, it presaged the global warming-induced wildfires that devour much of America today. That sense of nature spirits living below the surface of our techno- and money-obsessed modern world is seen in the late Shreveport savant Clyde Connell's richly mythic red clay, acrylic and graphite pictograph Creatures from the Hot and Humid Earth, which melds ancient sensibilities with latter day expressionism. Avery Island native Robert Gordy facilitated a similar merger between neo-deco and expressionism in his massive Untitled Male Head (pictured) — an extraordinary sort of mixed-media primal scream that suggests a painterly premonition of our recent presidential election. There also are numerous interesting works by lesser-known Texas and Southeastern artists, but the one that perhaps best epitomizes the paradox of old Dixie today would have to be Clyde Broadway's colorful, gold-framed acrylic painting of the modern Southern Trinity: Elvis, Jesus and Robert E. Lee.

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