Paul Deo appears and disappears. He has done that for years, alternating between his native New York and extended New Orleans connections. Long intrigued by pop culture and mysticism, he intermingles his flair for murals and comic book illustration with black history, mythology and artificial intelligence technology. This aptly titled VooDeo show reflects all of the above in works that suggest what William Blake might have painted had he been a graffiti artist in Spanish Harlem. Deo's large Algorithms of Ali painting is a phantasmagoria of serpentine gold and crimson swirls interwoven with weird biological forms spiraling into a saintly aurora borealis emanating from a tiny image of Muhammad Ali. This should be an indigestible case of overkill yet it somehow works with an uncanny inner logic of its own.
The smaller paintings mostly suggest an expressionist plutonic underworld of carnivalesque masklike faces recalling Hell's Kitchen in the old days, or lower Decatur Street before its gentrification began. In large painted fabric collages such as Myndteam Angelita (pictured), visionary gestural flourishes reflect the schematics of his "Myndteam" artificial intelligence-based project, intended to enable ordinary folks to utilize "all the global data in existence" via user-friendly algorithms, or something. If his algorithms take people to the place occupied by the Angelita in the painting, users might want to think twice before logging on, but kudos to Deo for creating such inexplicably intriguing images.
More plutonic mysteries appear in Phoebe Nesgos' series of paintings inspired by the art of ancient Pompeii, where the exotic lifestyles of the Romans were preserved under volcanic ash. In these works, their decadent antics continue in a posthumous Satyricon where lust knows no mortal bounds, as the forces of life and death party hearty in Dionysian fashion, a gesture sure to be well-received by the Olympian deities — and at least some of our local Mardi Gras krewes who still celebrate them. Through Jan. 6; VooDeo: New works by Paul Deo; After the Tomb of the Diver: New works by Phoebe Nesgos; Barrister's Gallery, 2331 St. Claude Ave., (504) 710-4506; www.barristersgallery.com.