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Review: Usual Places, Unusual Spaces and Symmetric Equivalence

New work by Marna Shopoff, Gil Bruvel, Stephen Chauvin and Leslie Wilkes

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In the past, New Orleans' art season officially started with Art for Art's Sake in the first week of October, but that event has long been eclipsed by the August anomaly known as White Linen Night, which, like so many iconic events, inspires speculation. Viewing art shows at such times can be like searching tea leaves for omens, and this year the portentous signs assume angular configurations. In Marna Shopoff's paintings and drawings at Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, the mysterious interaction of light and space creates an architectural quality that is inviting yet elusive, as if dwellinglike spaces appeared within mirages of colliding rays of refracted light that Shopoff had flash-frozen. Like latter day deco mashups that somehow meld vintage modernism and nanotechnology, some usher us into existential antechambers from which there is no obvious escape, and others — like her 5- by 9-foot painting Layered (pictured) — suggest rhapsodic futurist constructions composed entirely of laser light. Shopoff says growing up behind her parents' drive-in restaurant may have affected her, but her best works are lucid explorations of how certain shapes, colors and spaces affect our perceptions of place.

Urbane geometry is the order of the day at Octavia Art Gallery, where Leslie Wilkes' geometric paintings evoke a kaleidoscopic sensibility employing opaquely vibrant colors reminiscent of jade, amethyst, sandstone and the like. If their aura is urbane, with hints of Wassily Kandinsky filtered through the formal neo-Platonism of the Bauhaus, their tonalities hark to the primordial mesas of the desert Southwest, not far from Wilkes' studio in Marfa, Texas. The curving, serpentine ligaments that comprise Gil Bruvel's sculptures reflect a uniquely French extension of surrealism that appeals to the popular imagination, while Stephen Chauvin's pristine geometric chairs and domestic items appear to provide the ideal furnishings for the colorfully ethereal castles of light that Wilkes' and Shopoff's paintings imply.

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