“Luis Cruz Azaceta”, ARTnews

Luis Cruz Azaceta’s show of mixed-media paintings, collages, and sculptures, titled “Local Anesthesia,” continued a line of remarkable art created in response to Hurricane Katrina.

In the painting N.O. Pool (2006), the Cuban-born artist drowns New Orleans in a pool of black water. And in his drawing Head Watch (2005), a crazed and frantic face emerges from the side of a television set that is broadcasting scenes of houses and trees being washed away.

Tru Value: 9th ward,2005-6

Azaceta’s compelling photocollages Tru Value: 9th ward and Katrina Debris (both 2005-6) speak to the hundreds of lives lost and thousands of homes destroyed. For these works he pieced together photographs of lifeless neighborhoods, wrecked houses and churches, and mountains of felled trees mixed with the remnants of people’s everyday lives.

Perhaps the most poignant work was At the Bottom of the Pot (2007), a series of color photographs of storm destruction and of survivors wading through floodwaters, mounted on the undersides of metal pots and pans. The photographs show the faces of the overlooked poor, elderly, or infirm who could not or did not evacuate, and highlight their struggles.

For the large installation Cascade (2007), Azaceta strung ordinary household goods on wires trailing from a bicycle wheel—an allusion to the flood debris that covered the city like an 80-square-mile garbage dump after the waters receded.

In addition to these representational works, Azaceta also created a separate series of mixed-media paintings he describes as “museum plans.” These abstract pieces, billed as conceptual containers endangered cultures, are enigmatic contrasts to the more probing and powerful Katrina imagery.