Art in the Shadow of Katrina, Exploring Prospect New Orleans

Mark Bradford "Mithra" (2008)

I wrote a rather long piece for the Brooklyn Rail this month about Dan Cameron’s Prospect.1 biennial in New Orleans. I am rather proud of this piece because it blends the narrative/critical style I am moving towards.

Here’s how it begins:

When Mark Bradford built his ark, “Mithra” (2008), in the middle of New Orleans’ devastated Lower Ninth Ward, I don’t know if he envisioned it as a monument to futility or a symbolic cry for salvation but it reads as a little bit of both. Bradford’s ship sculpture is composed of large sheets of plywood and covered with advertisements that, even under New Orleans’ rather temperate climate, peeled and washed away.

Standing in the Lower Ninth Ward you have no choice but to confront the immensity of the havoc Katrina wreaked on the city, and Bradford seems to have understood that. Yet, there is an irony built into his ark docked at the corner of Caffin Avenue and North Miro Street. It visually dwarfs the half-built homes all around, even if it isn’t much larger. Its immensity is a tad absurd and reminds you that salvation has never arrived here.

Full article here. And my favorite anecdote from the trip:

One Friday afternoon I arrived at the Edgar Degas Foundation with some people to see a video by Aernout Mik. It was 4:45 pm and the building was scheduled to close at 5. I walked in relieved that we had made it to this far-flung destination in time for this one work. The caretaker of the space looked at us and said that he had just turned off the piece because he figured no one was coming. I mentioned I had arrived from New York for the biennial and wanted to see the work. He suggested I come back tomorrow and wouldn’t budge. The next day, as I returned in a cab with my husband, I recounted the story to my cabbie. “God forbid you interfere with a New Orleanian’s Friday night plans,” he said. “There is no way he was going to turn that back on for you.” When we got out he wished us luck. It was 4:20 pm but the caretaker was nowhere to be seen. The video played and we left at 4:55 with still no attendant in sight.

Paul Villinski, Emergency Response Studio (2008)

If I had to list my 12 favorite art works from Prospect.1 they would be (keep in mind it wasn’t possible to discuss ALL of them in my article)…and in no particular order:

  1. Amy Sillman’s “Orchard Portraits” (2008) & “After Chip (Abstracts)” (2008);
  2. Fred Tomaselli’s “Hang Over” (2005);
  3. Skylar Fein’s “Remember the UpStairs Lounge” (2008);
  4. Adam Cvijanovic’s “The Bayou” (2008);
  5. Navin Rawanchaikul & Tyler Russell’s jazz funeral for renowned musician Narvin Kimball (2008);
  6. Paul Villinski’s “Emergency Response Studio” (2008);
  7. Sanford Biggers’ “Blossom” (2007);
  8. Robin Rhode’s “Kite“;
  9. Josephine Meckseper’s “0% Down” (2008?);
  10. Jacqueline Humphries’ installation at Ideal Auto Repair;
  11. McCallum & Tarry’s “The Evidence Of Things Not Seen” (2007-8); and
  12. William Kentridge’s “What will come (has already come)” (2007-8).

My complete “Best Of” P.1 photo set is parked here (120 photos…enjoy).

2 responses to “Art in the Shadow of Katrina, Exploring Prospect New Orleans”

  1. A very thoughtful and well-written article Hrag…it’s much appreciated that you invested the time it takes to absorb some of NOLA and the event itself- with all its issues/complexities.

  2. Thanks Rachel, It was wonderful to hear some New Orleanian perspectives and I hope Prospect New Orleans helps revitalize the fine arts scene of your city.

    I look forward to visiting again.

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