by Sylvie Contiguglia for Arte-Walk

Following a quiet summer, Arthur Roger Gallery is awakening with a bang. Its latest show Art in the Time of Empathy features seventy artists represented by more than one hundred works of art including paintings, sculptures, photographs and site specific installations.

A playful series of shoe-mask from Maxx Sizeler leads to a spacious space lined up with paintings and photographs, leaving plenty of room to wander around the installation from Meg Turner Boardwalk Testing Site, a kiosk advertising cures for our current torments: virus, elections, economy. It is a new world when exhibitions are also appreciated for their social distancing friendliness. The rear of the gallery, bathed entirely in artificial light keeps the same airy feeling before reaching the “dark room” always filled with surprises, this time a cosmic installation from Randy Palumbo Antigenic Rift.

    Louisiana is depicted through quiet landscapes from Simon Gunning and dreamy abstract meanderings from Brian Guidry. It’s [sic] rich local bestiary becomes alive in Jacqueline Bishop‘s fiery end of the world scenes and Jonathan Mayers‘s illustrations of folktales. One cannot avoid a pang when looking at Brassband on Frenchmen #4, 2020, from Keith Duncan. The lively, dizzying painting underscores the deafening silence of a city longing for better times. Artists invite us in their studios (David Halliday, Amer Kobaslija), share drawings of their pets (Lee Deigaard), focus on food (Richard Baker‘s cookbooks, Amy Weiskopf‘s still lifes) or paint deserted gardens (Jim Richard). COVID-19 is on everybody’s mind and inspires Luis Cruz Azaceta‘s cartoonish rendition with its punchy acidic colors or the weaponized version of sculptor Gene Koss, complemented by masked portraits (Meg Turner, Frahn Koerner). Death ultimately is lurking with the taxidermized pietà from Enrique Gomez de Molina. During the pandemic, loneliness is rampant. Marginalization, also a source of solitude, is brought up in Keith Calhoun‘s photograph of prisoners, George Dureau and Leonard Galmon‘s portraits, with works from Dureau, John T. ScottRobert Colescott faring well through time.

Overwhelmed at first by the abundance of works, I could recognize most of the artists, each represented by an iconic piece, sometimes a series. It would be boastful to claim that I knew all seventy of them, but when in doubt, a discreet QR code available on each side of the wall display gave access to the list of artists, name of work, description and price, on my phone. 

 Virus, race, economy, ecology,…, old, young, alive or dead, famous or not so well known, the gathering of so many artists with works covering such a wide array of themes in various styles could seem indiscriminate. A closer look reveals that each piece reflects the essence of the artist’s practice, and the abundant display offers the occasion to gorge on art after months of frustration when the only way to look at paintings or sculptures (forget installations) was on a screen. It also bears witness to the artists’ creativity during the mandatory solitude and fosters empathy, its ultimate goal. 

photographs by the author:

view of the exhibition 

Jim Richard “The Waiting Game”, 2020