Willie Birch: Southern Gothic – An Insider’s View

Exhibition Dates: June 1 – July 13, 2013
Opening Reception: Saturday, June 1 from 6–8 pm
Gallery Location: 432 Julia Street, New Orleans, LA 70130
Hours: Tuesday–Saturday, 10 am–5 pm
Contact Info: 504.522.1999; www.arthurrogergallery.com

The Arthur Roger Gallery is pleased to present Southern Gothic – An Insider’s View, an exhibition of paintings and sculpture by Willie Birch. The exhibition will be on view at Arthur Roger Gallery, located at 432 Julia Street, from June 1 – July 13, 2013. The gallery will host an opening reception with the artist in attendance, Saturday, June 1 from 6–8 pm.

Southern Gothic, 2013, Acrylic on paper, 84 x 60 inches

Southern Gothic, 2013, Acrylic on paper, 84 x 60 inches

Willie Birch is a storyteller, compelled to document the world in which he lives. With Southern Gothic: An Insider’s View, he presents the natural world around us, inviting the viewer to observe and interpret the apparent patterns and symbology found in our surroundings. Devoid of the human figure often found in the artist’s work, these large-scale paintings on paper and bronzes explore a deliberate yet improvisational landscape. Despite the removal of man, Birch continues to address political, sociological and spiritual issues. Inspiration is drawn from his familiar 7th ward neighborhood but also from the planet as a whole. To the artist, “gothic” evokes a sense of excess, primitiveness, a baroque style that is thick, vibrant and layered. In this way, he feels that it is an apt description for New Orleans, where nature interweaves with culture.

Paper, a familiar medium for Birch, represents to the artist “what is fragile and what is wasteful in this culture, and the idea of challenging what is considered precious.” With bronze however, the artist has begun to explore a new medium, which he considers a metaphor for survival. The bronze crawfish dwellings in this exhibition represent a new dialogue – one that comes from meditation and processing the environment, such as one might do in a backyard.

Willie Birch was born in New Orleans in 1942. He received a B.A. from Southern University in New Orleans in 1969 and a M.F.A. from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore in 1973. After residing in New York for many years and traveling to Africa, he returned to New Orleans in the mid ‘90s to reside in the 7th Ward. Birch was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 1984 and again in 1989. In 1993, he was the recipient of a John Guggenheim Fellowship in sculpture. In 2002, Birch received the Mayor’s Arts Award in New Orleans. His work is found in museum collections as well as public and private collections across the country, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the New Orleans Museum of Art; and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia.