Every once in awhile, someone will let out a yelp, which is appropriate for the scary-cute “Voyeur.”
That’s the name Jenni Lombardi and Ian Minich have given their bevy of surreal stoneware sculpture creatures for the Prospect.3+BR “Notes Upriver” exhibit, which runs through Sunday, Jan. 25.
Their work is featured among that of more than 100 artists in the capital region’s official extension of the contemporary art biennial Prospect.3 New Orleans. The show was organized and co-curated by Raina Wirta, creative director at Elevator Projects, and Rodneyna Hart, art manager/curator of the Healthcare Gallery and preparator at the LSU Museum of Art.
The show occupies the Chase Tower’s entire fourth floor, its empty offices serving as installation spaces.
The Voyeur is found in one of those spaces, perching on a formal living room chair. He’s joined by other characters, but somehow he’s the one who grabs the most attention.
“There’s just something about him,” Hart says. “He startles you, but he’s kind of cute.”
It’s the kind of surprise visitors can expect from 1,500 square feet of contemporary art, where ideas segue to dreams and abstract gives way to reality.
Then again, what seems real to some visitors may be fantasy to others. This exhibit is all about perspectives, and there are lots to be had here.
“Notes Upriver” opened in conjunction with several other Prospect.3 exhibits, installations and events in Baton Rouge.
“It all started with Eric Holowacz, the president of the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge,” Hart says. “He was in talks with Prospect.3, which extended its call beyond New Orleans. He had been working on collaborations with Raina at Elevator Projects, and they began working on this show. This is the one show that was specifically put together for Prospect.3.”
And January will offer something more.
“We’ll be starting gallery tours and artist tours after the New Year,” Hart says. “We don’t have a set schedule yet, but you can check our Facebook page (Facebook.com/prospectrouge) for updates.”
In the meantime, visitors can take their own tours of the fourth floor, where paintings, photographs, sculpture and mixed media installations are displayed gallery style beneath the fluorescent lights of the vast gallery space.
“The offices for the Walls Project and Elevator Projects are housed in the Chase Building, so we talked to the building’s owner about using this vacant floor,” Hart says. “It had this overarching feel we were looking for. Then we started looking at artists whose works translated to this space without overwhelming it.”
Wirta and Hart compiled a list of artists whose work they liked, many of them from the Baton Rouge area, most of them from Louisiana or have a Louisiana connection.
“We just brought together works by some amazing artists,” Hart says. “And the thought of filling this much space was a little daunting at first, but it all came together perfectly.”
And the fun begins the moment visitors step off the elevator. They can travel along the walls or take in the office installations, one of the most popular being Jessica Sharpe’s “Before and After,” depicting an office destroyed by a fallen meteorite.
“Jessica has been changing things in the installation throughout the exhibit,” Hart says. “So, visitors can see something different if they return. It’s really popular with kids.”
The scene switches from total destruction to the serene when visitors plunge into the sea for Jennifer Carwile’s “My Life as a Mermaid,” where mermaid sculptures made of duct tape filled with bubble wrap float throughout this aqua-lit world.
“It’s another favorite among visitors,” Hart says. “Each artist has his or her own story. We asked them all to give us artists’ statements explaining their pieces, and most did.”
Lombardi and Minich didn’t provide their story, but they did include the names of the surreal creatures in their installation: Jack, Jill and Vulnerable.
And, of course, there’s The Voyeur, whose “Star Wars”-like yet adoptive-stray-cute appearance prompts visitors to create their own narrative.