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September 7, 2018

Art and Design in New Orleans

Recapping my week spent perusing the art and culture of New Orleans and visiting the city-wide Prospect.4 galleries and exhibitions.

Last fall I spent a week in New Orleans, Louisiana with my friend Connie and the Fellows of Contemporary Art based out of Los Angeles. We toured many museums, public art installations and private collections, but the main draw was Prospect.4, a contemporary art triennial that turned the entire city into an open-air art gallery.

The concept was originally the idea of curator Dan Cameron in the bleak aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and featured works from 73 artists in 25 different countries.

We started with the Historic New Orleans Collection inside the residence of General and Mrs. L. Kemper Williams, built in 1889. The collection featured several documents prominent to the history of the state, including the original Louisiana Purchase documents.

It also included two photography exhibits: Tony Gleaton’s “Africa’s Legacy of Mexico” featuring Native Americans and black cowboys, and Monique Verdin’s “Cowboys: Reconstruction an American Myth” which detailed the Houma Nation and the changing Mississippi Delta region.

From there, we ventured on to Music Box Village, an art installation featuring 11 interactive musical sculptures created from salvaged wood, found objects and cleverly incorporated musical components.

The village was founded in 2011 by local artists Delaney Martin, Taylor Shepard and Jay Pennington, along with visiting artist Swoon. To date, over 80 artists, inventors, builders and tinkerers have contributed to the ideation of this project, and over 300 musicians have played the musical houses.

Above, right: Reading Across by Sam Gilliam. Above, left: No Names Please! by Patricia Kaersenhout.

We then visited the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in the Warehouse District, which is home to the largest collection of Southern art in the world. The Stephen Goldring Hall within the museum overlooks the magnificent New Orleans skyline. Trevor Schoonmaker, the Artistic Director of Prospect.4 gave us a tour of the Prospect.4 exhibits there.

On our second day in town, we toured the private collections of Arthur Rogers, a prominent gallery owner, and Catherine Tremain, whose Federal Revival style home housed works by Cezanne, Miro, Picasso, Lichtenstein and Warhol.

After a historic walking tour of the Garden District, we visited the Contemporary Arts Center to tour the Prospect.4 exhibits, then visited the Julia Street galleries in the Warehouse District. Two favorites were Arthur Roger Gallery and Jonathan Ferrara Gallery.

Above, left: Allison Stewart in her studio. Above, right: one of Aron Belka’s incredible portraits.

We started off our third day with a visit to two artist’s studios: Allison Stewart and Aron Belka. Trained as a biologist, Stewart creates large mixed media paintings that express the fleeting and fragile landscape of the swamps in New Orleans. She uses layers of color, light and form to address issues of beauty and loss, time and transformation. I had such a hard time deciding on a piece to buy, as the color palette of each one was breathtaking.

Belka is widely recognized as one of the country’s emerging artists to watch. His work blends the introspective nature of abstract painting with the visual connections and passions of realism. I loved his brush strokes and his surprisingly intimate large-scale portraits.

Following these, we toured the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, the private collection of Keat and Charles Davis, which featured West African and contemporary art, and visited Camp Abundance, the site of artist Dawn Dedeaux. The camp is a residency and special event compound for artists, writers and filmmakers.

Above, left: a detail shot of The Octopuses Veil by Michael Armitage; Above, right: a traditional Native American costume created by Darryl Montana.

On our final day in New Orleans, we toured the private collection of Denise Berthume, a former gallery owner, visited the New Orleans Jazz Museum, saw the Joan Mitchell Center, another artist residency program, and finally did some shopping on Magazine Street.

All in all it was a whirlwind few days filled with tons of incredible art, culture, food and sightseeing. I would highly recommend New Orleans to anyone interested in learning more about the southern culture and art scene.

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