“Review: Bruce Jr. Does the Parades and Sunrise,” Gambit

By D. Eric Bookhardt via Gambit

Gene Koss, Sunrise, 2013, Cast glass and steel, 144 x 165 x 117 inches. Photography: Michael Smith.

Another Hurricane Katrina anniversary came and went, and once again global news organizations struggled to find new angles on an increasingly old story. This time, the BBC memorialized America’s megastorm by posting a video interview with New Orleans artist Dan Tague, whose prints of dollar bills folded into catchy messages like “Live Free or Die,” or, more darkly, “Trust No One,” were an indirect result of Katrina. Tague survived the floodwaters in Mid-City, where he used a pirogue to help stranded neighbors, but later found himself feeling aimless after the forced exodus. With his studio under water, he began folding dollar bills to pass the time. He eventually turned them into prints, which found their way into major museum collections, and the rest is history. The BBC piece is not only a great survivor story, it also provides an interesting angle on the role money plays in American culture.

It was high school marching bands that Bruce Davenport Jr. missed most after the storm, and he responded by creating vivid color marker drawings of them surrounded by mobs of spectators, a series he began when many schools were still closed. The works seen here are simple yet obsessive, as what initially resemble avant-garde abstractions appear as neighborhood street scenes on closer inspection.

Gene Koss’ nearby sculptures remind us of the way this city links the largely northern European populace of the upper Midwest to the rest of the world via the Mississippi River and the Gulf. Glass sculptor Koss grew up on a farm in Wisconsin and the verdant, if frosty, qualities of his home state inform his vision even now, as we see in Sunrise (pictured), which somehow distills the contours of the land, the light and the hand of man in a work that Koss says reflects, “the people who work the land and look up a valley at the Wisconsin ridges and hills as they toil.”