By D. Eric Bookhardt, via bestofneworleans.com
Jim Richard, Pretty Boy, 2016 | Flashe on canvas | 49 1/2 x 50 1/2 inches
For most of his career, Jim Richard’s
paintings amounted to “art about art,” only instead of art history, they suggested settings for short stories where the artworks themselves were the protagonists. These new works are similar but they also allude to the way digital technology now makes everything in the world seem more accessible yet somehow less real, as elusive as pixels on a computer screen. In Pretty Boy
(pictured), an elephant sculpture appears in a patio where the mauve light and pixilated composition suggest a fever dream from the remote regions of cyberspace, perhaps a Google search gone weirdly awry. In Art in the Garden, paintings seem to levitate at odd angles amid delirious blooms like a vision from an experiment in opiate vaping. Other works feature sculptural figures imbued with edgy human apprehensions, as if waiting to make a run for it. By invoking the quicksilver digital evanescence of the present, Richard reunites painting with its origins in the Stone Age, when flickering fires seemed to animate the spirits of creatures depicted on the cavern walls.
Though now retired, Richard, as a luminary of the Louisiana Imagist movement, was a mentor to many during his long tenure at the University of New Orleans. Adjacent gallery spaces are filled with works by four of his former students. New York-based painter and New Orleans native Wayne Gonzales is known for his lyrically gritty, pop media-inspired canvases, but his painting Forest (2014), suggests a postmodern Henry David Thoreau via dense, intricately baroque leaves and branches that seduce the eye while remaining opaquely and ironically impenetrable. A series of small canvases by New York-based Lisa Sanditz recalls pure abstraction, but look again — those colorful rectangular blobs are termite-tented houses. Amy Feldman also paints blobs, but hers are buoyantly minimal and expansively mysterious. Cheryl Donegan’s otherworldly videos mostly defy description, although my mental shorthand for one was “orgy at a Tupperware party.” Enough said.