Prospect.1: Art in the Crescent City

On Friday, my companion and I kicked things off by heading to the New Orleans Museum of Art-- as good a place as any to pick up tickets for the event (free but required) and eventually hop on a shuttle to the warehouse/arts district. Too much at NOMA to give each piece individual attention-- and the museum, by the way, has a delightful collection that includes modern and contemporary art. Two favorites: a deliciously campy, three-part soap opera shot by video artist (and USF undergrad grad) Kalup Linzy, featuring the artist (pictured below) as a conniving bitch who destroys the lives of her friends in pursuit of her own sapphic obsession. And Xu Bing’s interactive “font library,” which allows visitors to type English sentences and see them translated into internationally-understood symbols (picture airport signage icons). (Equal parts amusing and horrifying in its simplification.)



Linzy in drag in his video at NOMA.


Then it was off to the New Orleans’ Contemporary Arts Center, where virtually every project on view seemed to tap into the emotional vortex that is post-Katrina NOLA. Take Candice Breitz’s Legend-- a grid of television monitors, each showing a different participant singing along to an inaudible Bob Marley song. The powerful chorus of their voices-- as they sang, for example, No Woman, No Cry-- seemed to offer some kind of commentary on the resilience of the human spirit in the context of this city. But Breitz undertook the project in Jamaica, not NOLA.



Breitz's Legend, courtesy the artist's website.


Skylar Fein’s memorializing installation Remember the Upstairs Lounge is another on the list of Prospect.1 projects that made my eyes fill with tears. Visitors enter the installation through a narrow, crimson-wallpapered hallway lined with photographs of the victims of a fire that destroyed a NOLA gay bar in 1973. Wall texts explain that only a single church in the city made itself available for a funeral and that when the media arrived, everyone in attendance walked out through the front door together.


This morning (Saturday), we’re off to explore the Prospect.1 projects in the Lower Ninth Ward. Stay tuned...


Megan Voeller is Creative Loafing’s visual art critic. She teaches at the University of Tampa and The Art Institute of Tampa and blogs at Artsqueeze.com.

Lee Bul’s Untitled (After Bruno Taut series), 2008, pictured in the window of CAC. Photo by Frank Rodriguez

We’ve thrown caution to the wind and a duffle bag in the trunk and ditched Tampa for New Orleans this weekend during the conclusion of Prospect.1— the largest biennial in the United States, according to the event’s organizers. The official number of artists taking art in the city-wide exhibition is 81, but many, many more are being showcased in unofficial satellite exhibits (sometimes at the same venues).

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