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2010 No Dead Artists National Juried Exhibition Opens Group Show
Viewer looks at David Rae Morris' photograph Dr. McAlister Mowing the Lawn at Age 90.

Reviewed by: D. Eric Bookhardt

NEW ORLEANS, LA.- Now in its 14th year, No Dead Artists continues its evolution as that most singular of art world events, a juried national exhibition of work by underexposed American artists. For this year’s show, sponsored by Art Daily and the Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, 350 artists from all over the country submitted over 1900 works for selection by jurors Beth Rudin DeWoody, a noted art collector and Whitney Museum board member, Fairfax Dorn, the executive director of Ballroom Marfa, and Donna Perret Rosen, a noted collector and Whitney Museum trustee. The 20 artists selected work in a variety of media and hail from all regions, though New York, Chicago and New Orleans are especially well represented. Much of this year’s show suggests a resurgence of figuration and deeply psychological subtextual narratives expressed through a variety of occasionally innovative techniques.

For instance, Meghan Boody’s haunting Fujiflex photograph, Night is Generally My Time for Walking, depicts a young girl wandering nonchalantly across a grassy English landscape, blithely oblivious to a large, rambling and furiously burning manor house in the background. Inspired by 19th century children’s books and Virginia Woolf’s novel, To The Lighthouse, Boody’s images feature dreamy eyed, seemingly lost Victorian era street urchins trying to find their way in an oblivious adult world of wealth and power in which they are all but invisible. Night poses an ironic juxtaposition of innocence and artifice as the child tries to navigate the foreboding and seemingly nonsensical world of adults and their follies. A related theme of youthful innocence adrift in the adult world appears in Barbie L'Hoste’s painting, When I Go to Heaven I Swear You'll Go With Me. Here she employs a near saccharine sensibility to confront the artificial constructs of contemporary America, with its corporate and political powers locked in a struggle for dominance--a place where children are pawns in a mercenary mass media game of power and influence.

In a time of great social, economic and climate change, a feeling of being somewhat unsettled by events is fairly pervasive. That notion of existential perturbation underlies Julie Haw’s paintings such as The Fear of Russell Joslin, a closely cropped composition in which the oddly angular form a bald male figure radiates a Kierkegaardian aura of introspection in a work that employs realism to yield an essentially expressionistic image. Rieko Fujinami uses acetate film with combinations of charcoal, acrylics, dry pigments and pastels in portraits that radiate a sense of entropy and corporeal disintegration, a decadence of the flesh that might give Ivan Albright a run for his money. Aaron Reichert employs black and white acrylic paints to similar, if starker, effect in a portrait of Samuel Beckett ironically titled Godot. Here Reichert charts the delicate equipoise of fragility, creation and decay, all of which appear in the lunar convolutions of Beckett’s visage.

But even inanimate objects are not immune to the cycle of life and death--or rebirth as works of art. Here Charisse Celino’s Bailout, a life vest covered in the starred and striped, red, white and blue fabric of the American flag, speaks for itself. Like the federal bailout of financial institutions, Celino transforms her chosen objects in order to give them “a new history.” Something similar might be said of The Persistence of Work, Jon McIntosh’s recreation of an old Rolodex card file bristling with steel pen points that make it resemble a kind of miniature industrial porcupine radiating “ennui and nostalgia.” Here the leftovers of older technologies that carry the imprint of repetitive labor become ominous artifacts of the collective unconscious. But Randy Polumbo’s Dairy Case sculpture exudes a hint of old time science fiction in an old briefcase holding rows of glass nipples illuminated by tiny LEDs like vintage genetic experiments gone awry, or perhaps an apocryphal encounter of Joseph Cornell and Dr. Frankenstein. Clearly these works represent a mixture of innovation and traditional techniques repurposed to reflect the underlying preoccupations of the present. Like the times in which we live, this year’s No Dead Artists reflects a tendency toward introspection and improvisation necessitated, perhaps, by a new world order that we are only barely beginning to understand.

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