Prospect.1: Revisiting Katrina

Los Angeles-based artist Mark Bradford's Mithra was easy to find-- the giant ark, constructed from wood salvaged in the Lower Ninth, sits (waiting? watching?) in an empty corner lot. In this part of the neighborhood, it seemed like every other lot bears nothing but some scrub and a set of steps that lead to the front porch of a house no longer extant. Blocks away, at the Lower Ninth Ward Village community center, demolition was the subject of an installation by Janine Antoni. A scarred, lead sculpture of a wrecking ball accompanied a video of the artist's eye projected on a wall; each time the rumble of the wrecking ball making contact (on the video's audio track) sounded inside the small room, the eye blinked in involuntary response.

Wall murals by Adam Cvijanovic at Tekrema Center for the Arts. Photo / Frank Rodriguez

Overwhelmingly, projects on view in the Lower Ninth grappled with Katrina as content. (In a closing panel discussion on Sunday, Prospect.1 director Dan Cameron alluded to this fact jokingly, saying that people asked him whether he had instructed artists to address Katrina; as a curator, he said, you rarely ask an artist to do something-- instead, you invite them to do what interests them.) In the context of a neighborhood where seemingly every other house is condemned (literally), Katharina Grosse's orange-spray painted house only sort of stands out. (An artist's statement described it as a three-dimensional abstract painting, if you will.) Inside the Tekrema Center for the Arts-- an historic, if somewhat dilapidated, home that plays host to a dance group and other ventures-- Adam Cvijanovic's trompe l'oeil wall paintings on Tyvek invoke the paradoxical beauty and disorientating power of nature.

Leandro Erlich, Window and Ladder-- Too Late for Help. Photo / Frank Rodriguez

Finally, the oft-photographed Window and Ladder-- Too Late for Help by Leandro Erlich sits within sight of the location of the fateful 8/29/05 levee break and nestled amid newly constructed homes built for displaced Lower Ninth Ward residents by Brad Pitt's Make It Right project. Quite a bit of the conversation during Sunday's closing panel focused on what Prospect.1 has to say about the experience of being an impoverished person of color (specifically, black) in New Orleans (or in the U.S.) and economic and environmental justice. For me this is the Prospect.1 project that speaks to the conundrum of inequality most poetically, and I particularly love (what I see as) its thematic relationship to this, better-known sculpture.

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

Mark Bradford's Mithra. Photo / Frank Rodriguez

On Saturday, we hopped in the car and went for a self-guided tour of Prospect.1 projects in the Lower Ninth Ward. (The biennial offered a shuttle bus for visitors throughout the day, but our experience trying to catch it the day before at 40-minute intervals was something we decided we could live without.) Armed with the official Prospect.1 map, we drove around the alternately devastated/deserted and resurgent neighborhood until we saw a(nother) cluster of white folks snapping photographs of something— and then we began to look for the art.

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