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Review: VonHoffacker and John Isiah Walton

D. Eric Bookhardt on two art exhibitions exploring New Orleans street violence



It's not often cops become serious artists, and it's even rarer for them to exhibit paintings based on what they see on the mean streets of the city. A local cop who signs his name VonHoffacker is all that and more, and his two-person expo with emerging artist John Isiah Walton at the Healing Center's Second Story Gallery may be the most provocative show this month. Here the paintings have ballistic impact as we see in works like Throw Me Somethin' Mista, his still-life painting of an AK-47 assault rifle draped with Mardi Gras beads, or Doing Lines, a near photographic view of power lines with a telltale pair of sneakers dangling ominously against the sky. But his masterpiece, Ghost of Telly Hankton (pictured), is a mosaic portrait of the murder kingpin made with hundreds of spent shell casings shaded with varying degrees of oxidation to comprise an iconic oversize mug shot with an arresting presence. It is accompanied on the wall by an essay on Hankton's bloody antics that reads like one of Quentin Tarantino's violence-porn movie plots, only this is the real thing, not some emotionally retarded director trying to be cute with carnage. Here VonHoffacker strikes a nerve and then some.

  More ballistic art appears in Walton's Bullets for Breakfast series of gold- and metal-leafed cereal box portraits of famous assassination victims including John and Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Lincoln. They are interesting, but most pale in comparison to his simple sculptures of cereal bowls filled with rounds of live ammo ranging from small bore bullets to hefty hollow-points with a spoon stuck into them. It's not the breakfast of champions, but it illustrates how violence has become the all-American commodity, a toxic product that wreaks havoc on our streets even as it poisons our national image in the eyes of the world. — D. Eric Bookhardt

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