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2331 St. Claude Ave & Spain
New Orleans, LA 70117 504-710-4506
October 3, 2005
Art for Art's Sake goes on
By David Cuthbert
Times Picayune Staff writer
Art for Art's Sake ushers in the New Orleans visual arts scene with a celebratory event: gallery-hopping on a grand scale by limo, town car or shank's mare, dressed to the nines, or at least the eights, sipping wine, being seen being seen and oh, yes - coolly appraising the latest in nouveau virtuosity and occasionally even buying a piece of art.
Alas, a whirlwind assault from Hurricane Katrina dampened the party almost out of existence.
But last Saturday at Barrister's Gallery on Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., owner Andy Antippas determined that Art for Art's Sake would live, if only in a mid-morning-to-dusk showcase-reception. The attractions included a major exhibit by Sallie Ann Glassman on one side of the space and on the other a group show of self-declared mentally ill artists.
Antippas isn't sure how many people showed up for his one-day event, which usually includes coordinated gallery openings centered on Julia and Magazine Streets.
"I never keep track of things like that; I think about 90," he said. "But the good thing was that it wasn't just a symbolic gesture. Everyone was grateful that we did it. It gave the art community something other to do than just hunker down depressed on a Saturday afternoon. It was all artists and people who love art.
Attendees were a shabby chic, beer-and-water crowd; more Toyota than town car. For glamour, there was Pres Kabakoff, Don Marshall, Kathy Randels in a cowboy hat and slick Nick Slie of Mondo Bizarro. Stage species -- Julie Condy and Jose Torres Tama - mixed with arty types such as Alan Gerson and Myrtle van Demitz. Trisha Moss, Antippas' squeeze, hosted the shebang with affable elan and it was an eclectic, mellow mix.
Except for Katrina, who had the gall to show up in several canvases.
Two were by Glassman, one a rural scene of a country road and small, fragile, weathered buildings dominated by an angry sky in shades of darkening blue storm clouds. Adjacent to this was the powerful "Hurricane Season," a New Orleans cityscape in which the sky appears on fire in an unexpectedly furious mix of black, yellow and ochre. (This was the most recent Glassman work, painted to accompany an Art in America magazine article she had written.)
"Fleeing the Tempest," by Marthe Itten Bach showed the devilish face of a storm, a mad Prospero whipping up sky and sea as birds above and dolphins below attempt to escape nature's upheaval.
A water damage interpretation was suggested by Natalie Gaidry's "Fallen Angels," in which multiple mattresses lie in a heap, as if thrown out on a street corner. Elsewhere, Gaidry uses a variety of bright colors in her abstract, inviting "Business Cards," "Bowls with Salad Forks" and "Bathroom Shelves."
The accomplished Glassman, whose variety of styles and contrasting sense of color encompass stylized, detailed swamp scenes ("Wetland Sunset") the spiritual ("Oracle at Delphi"), strikingly bold, Lautrec-like pastel portraits of eccentrics and "Lobo's Got Soul," in which her dog is depicted with its head half realistic, half other-worldly, with angel wings against a backdrop of iridescent, circular peacock feather patterns.
Kenny Champagne's lineup of vacant-eyed Holocaust victims and another of Vietnam vets are haunting, drawing you in to study each face.
Two paintings by William A, Kelly are extraordinarily intricate. "Early Autumn by a Stream" encompasses a cottage, trees, foliage, with each blossom rendered with obsessive, pointillist precision. This work also has a maze-like puzzle quality that fascinates, as if it holds a secret.
"Daydreaming by the Calladiums" is a portrait of actress Estella Warren, her features, especially the lips and stylized strands of hair becoming objects of veneration. Based on a photograph, Kelly re-set the image against a stone background and steps, also rendered with great care and beauty.
For sheer fun, Gus Fink's "Family Portraits" are demonic defacements, taking his - or someone's - venerable family images, serious, formally posed portraits and turning them into monstrous creations that make "The Addams Family" look like the Cleaver clan.
Antippas plans to keep regular gallery hours, hoping to witness the art scene's revival. On Saturday, he saw a glimmer of hope.
"Hey! We even made three sales, with a couple more pending," he said.
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