Many museum exhibitions focus on the past. They recognize an oeuvre of an artist and commend his or her influence over a certain number of years. While some exhibitions do focus on the present and attempt to comprehend or comment on the cultural zeitgeist of the current era, few exhibitions focus on the future.
As part of the Contemporary Art Center’s 35th birthday celebrating New Orleans’ historic, contemporary, and evolving art movements, NOLA NOW — a two-part exhibition and corresponding online database — simultaneously addresses the past, present, and future of art in New Orleans.
Curator Amy Mackie’s NOLA NOW, Part I: Swagger for a Lost Magnificence is on display at the CAC through January 29. The exhibition features works produced in the past two years by 35 artists living and working in New Orleans.
Upon entering the third-floor gallery space, which purposefully maintains its “under construction” feel, viewers are greeted by Duane Pitre’s Feel Free. The sound piece echoes ambient sounds throughout the gallery space that seem made for quiet introspection and reflection about the art displayed.
Works by newly emerging artists like Grace Mikell, a current MFA candidate at Tulane University whose patternistic paintings of three women evoke the feeling that they divulge and yet conceal some of the mysterious secrets of womanhood, are accompanied by new works by veteran artists like Dawn DeDeaux, who in her artist statement on the NOLA NOW database states, “I am old and tired and still working on something new about what’s ancient and inevitably true.”
NOLA NOW, Part II, curated by Don Marshall, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation Executive Director and Founding Executive Director of the CAC, will open on February 29 of this year. Part II will celebrate “large all-inclusive group exhibitions organized by artists in the early years of the CAC.” Among other artists on display will be Brian St. Cyr, whose transformative drawings and reconfigured sculptures of “throw away” objects elevate imagery and objects not typical of fine art.
The opening of Part II will help shift the focus of the multi-part exhibition to the future with the launch of the NOLA NOW online database, consisting of 426 profiles of artists living and working in the greater New Orleans area.
As the project’s web site explains, “the long-term goal of this endeavor is to promote and present this valuable resource to arts institutions, curators, and writers across the globe in an effort to bring greater exposure to the vibrant arts scene in New Orleans.” By creating and updating their own pages, artists will create a resource for use locally and throughout the world that will expose the unique and vibrant New Orleans art scene.
With its utilization of modern media to further spread knowledge about art to a wider population, NOLA NOW is sure to be an exhibition remembered well into the future.
Brianna Smyk has an M.A. in Art History from San Diego State University. She lives and works in New Orleans and writes about arts and culture for NolaVie. Read more of Brianna’s articles at www.beingbreezie.tumblr.com. For more about NolaVie, go to nolavie.com.