Artblog Celebrating 20 Years!   Support Us Today!

Union, Justice and Confidence – From New Orleans, The Front comes to Vox Populi


Alyssa gives us some insight into a diverse and challenging group show of New Orleans artists at Vox Populi.–the Artblog editors————————->

The challenge of Union, Justice, Confidence, a show by members of New Orleans’ The Front’s collective, is one of compartmentalization — how to view the show at Vox Populi through the lens of each of the 14 member artists and how to assimilate the pieces into a larger whole of the show’s parts. The Front, established in post-Katrina New Orleans, grounds its artistic reputation in provocative and demanding works, just as Vox Populi does.  Unlike Vox Populi, however, The Front has the distinction of practicing in the only completely artist-run gallery district in America, located in the St. Claude area of New Orleans. It seems that we’re looking at a particularly confident and cohesive show, with some notable highlights.

Nature in tooth and claw in a city that knows nature is no pussycat

Angela Berry, “Bayou St. John, New Orleans LA 2012.” Archival pigment print from scanned 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 in. negative. 16 x 16 in.

Angela Berry’s photography has a natural basis, with inspiration taken from her roots in North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia, places with an abundance of wildness and communities that must continually assert their relationship with it. The addition of New Orleans as muse means, of course, that the natural environment seen through the artist’s eyes is impossible to extricate from heavy elements of destruction, rebuilding, and rebirth. The controlled disorder of “Bayou St. John, New Orleans LA 2012,” showing chairs tilted against an outdoor card table by the river, is a quietly striking shot that calls up a traumatic past.

Rachel Jones Deris, Better Than Before, 2013. Oil on styrene 26.5x41.5 inches.
Rachel Jones Deris, “Better Than Before,” 2013. Oil on styrene. 26.5×41.5 inches.

Rachel Jones Deris is likewise engaged with the discrepancy between pretty nature as we like to think of it and the other nature that we must fear.  Her paintings on styrene question the pre-packaged sentiment about nature found in dusty old educational materials, which turn nature tame and science boring. We’ve all seen anodyne textbook illustrations, and chances are we still remember some of the more unintentionally notable. Because we see these as children, the banal, comforting and at their base untrue representations of nature have a curious way of branding themselves in our minds.  They become an integral part of how we experience nature, causing us to see it through a kind of genteel, peaceful lens.

Pop culture commentary – how low can we go?

Kyle Bravo, Self Portrait Stuck In Wall. Charcoal on wall.
Kyle Bravo, “Self Portrait Stuck In Wall.” Charcoal on wall.

Kyle Bravo’s wry drawings embody the stylings of the punk, zine, and DIY subculture. He captures the plainspoken rawness of the indie album art that was everywhere in the early 2000s. Bravo’s ability to portray that rawness is his main strength. His humorous self-portrait pokes fun at himself while simultaneously hinting at claustrophobia and inner discomfort.

Dave Greber, My Stassed (Red Velvet). 2013. HD video, acrylic paint and rhinestones.
Dave Greber, “My Stassed (Red Velvet),” 2013. HD video, acrylic paint and rhinestones.

Dave Greber delights in our baser inclinations; his video and mixed media pieces use the language of pulp media, trashy TV shows and lowest-common-denominator advertising to lower sensory guards and make his point about the horror of lowbrow culture more playful. With the ambiance of a straight-to-DVD movie, Greber’s work charms instead of perturbs.

Inscrutable narratives

Alex Podesta, Jumper, 2013. Mixed media.(130in x 32in x 46in as installed).
Alex Podesta, “Jumper,” 2013. Mixed media.(130in x 32in x 46in as installed).

Weaving the subconscious residue of the past into the present, Alex Podesta blends the perceptions of children and adults into a Gordian knot. Like bizarre one-panel comics, Far Side, for example, you can tell that something vaguely symbolic and loaded with meaning is happening. But Podesta’s narrative is more secretive and while we don’t have the key to unlock the story, the good news is that all stories are valid!

photo (9)
“Spiritual Tchotchkes,” by the members of the Front.

While the artists are excellent at molding humor, nostalgia and desire and teasing out nuance from the common, shared experience, the show’s main draw is the demonstration, broadcast loudly here, of how art collectives like The Front are succeeding in putting New Orleans on the international contemporary art map.

[Ed. note: Our New Orleans correspondent, Lianna Patch, has covered The Front for the NOLA Defender.  See her review of another interesting Front show.]

“Union, Justice, Confidence” runs from June 7-30 at Vox Populi. The artists are Angela Berry, Kyle Bravo, Lee Deigaard, Andrea Ferguson, Dave Greber, Kyle Hossli, Rachel Jones Deris, Morgana King, Stephanie Patton, Brooke Pickett, Alex Podesta, Claire Rau, Megan Roniger and Jonathan Traviesa.