Located in what owner Dave Bachli calls 'the longest shotgun house" in the area, X/o Studios may seem an unlikely site for an art gallery. Far from the stark 'white cube" favored by contemporary art curators and gallery directors, X/o is located in a very long, narrow and decrepit 1850s shotgun house by the tracks at the intersection of Dauphine and Press streets, a place as rich in atmosphere as it is short on polish. If the style and setting is far from Chelsea, or even Julia Street, the work also tends toward the funky and atmospheric. 'This is what I think of as Bywater art," Bachli says. 'That's something I think is very much a reflection of this area." What he's referring to is a sense of street-level creativity that may not always be precisely polished, but which seems to be coming from a real, if sometimes unpredictable, place.
Yet even if all these artists' efforts look right in this peculiarly Press Street sort of space, their styles can vary widely. For instance, Amie Davis, whose photographs occupy the front room, makes for a stark contrast with the paintings of Eric Lee Buchanan in the next chamber. Expressing a kind of gothic romanticism, Davis photographs tombs and funerary sculpture in black and white and then enlivens her prints by hand tinting patches of background and details so her tombs and statuary sort of pop out at you, bringing new life to the long dead. It's all a far cry from Buchanan's buoyantly stylized figures, colorfully expressionistic images of musicians and characters clearly inspired by the denizens of Bywater and French Quarter streets. While they might seem to run the risk of being seen as clichéd or formulaic, the verve is real, as is the deft touch with a brush, lending his work an authenticity behind the buoyancy.
Allison Termine returns us to a gothic mode with delicate, dreamlike canvases of spectral figures, some floating across the sky in gothic/romantic cloudscapes recalling Salvador Dali, others wielding tall staffs with colorful streamers as if headed to the Jazz Fest. More introspective than this sounds, Termine's delicate figures suggest that discarnate beings have feelings, too. That sensitivity extends to the odd little forms and figures in Taylor Lee Shepherd's paintings as well as the little squares on a panel of pressed ceiling tin that he used as a canvas for dozens of fleshy little images of what? I'm not really sure and I didn't ask, probably because I was more intrigued by his odd and finely crafted Drawing Machine, a graceful wooden frame holding the ends of a painted scroll like an old-time piano roll operated by a pair of white ceramic handles. Turn them and a narrative unfolds in a series of line drawings like a Paleolithic filmstrip. His canvases extend this delicate vein of contemplative figuration.
Probably the biggest surprise is the sharply realized work of Paulie Lingerfelt, a 21-year-old perhaps best known as one of those picturesque dudes in vintage rags most often seen in the vicinity " if not behind the counter " of various Marigny-area oases. His Americana-based paintings are illustrational but bristle with an expressionistic intensity reminiscent of a Tom Waits take on Dylan's old John Wesley Harding album. Other artists include recent Mississippi transplant Martin Welch, whose breezy portrait of his uncle looking rather elegant in an evening dress is a social statement of sorts; Michael Dingler, whose post-storm NOLA Rising project produced numerous hand-painted messages of joy and hope along with countless street signs to replace those Katrina blew away; and well-known Jazz Fest artist Joy Gauss, whose ceramic figures evoke the Bone Gangs that still haunt the back streets on Mardi Gras and other sacred holidays. All of these artists have a distinct worldview, and in this uniquely ramshackle and ephemeral setting, all are quite clearly at home.
- This untitled painting by Paulie Lingerfelt illustrates the 21-year-old artist's unusual expressionistic intensity.