This fall, some of the most interesting artworks in New Orleans are hiding in plain sight all over town.
And while most of them have been branded as satellite projects of the Prospect.3 international art exhibition, you won’t have to worry about closing times or admission prices: They’re all in public spaces and viewable 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And all are free of charge.
While it can refer to several different kinds of media, street art for many people is practically synonymous with large-scale graffiti works. That’s what you’ll find on the free-standing wall at the corner of Press and Burgundy streets where the Faubourg Marigny meets the Bywater, which will be featuring a rotating exhibition of street art over the next several months.
Known simply as the “9 Wall” for its location in the Upper 9th Ward, it’s become the longest-running public venue for street art in New Orleans.
“The project is meant to showcase the temporary nature of urban expressionism, and there will be a revolving production painted every two weeks or so,” project coordinator Gabriel Flores said.
The current 9 Wall piece by artists UTER and DVOTE depicts what might be described as a takeover of the Crescent City by a horde of crawfish — and hot sauce-wielding zombies — though that might have changed by the time you read this. According to Flores, the fact that “the artwork is not permanent and is subject to removal or censorship at any moment” is part of its meaning and mission.
That spirit of collaboration, whether deliberate or unintentional, is something to keep in mind when you look at artist Sally Heller’s mural ‘LINKED’ on St. Claude Avenue near Elysian Fields, which was tagged (some might say defaced) shortly after it was unveiled during P.3’s opening weekend.
But that doesn’t seem to have fazed Heller in the least.
“ ‘LINKED’ has changed from a one-person narrative to a social dialogue, linking street art at street level,” she said, thus crediting the anonymous (or pseudonymous) taggers as artistic co-conspirators in a piece that was conceived from its beginning as a way of linking the various physical and cultural components of life in New Orleans.
Unless you have access to a 30-foot ladder (or perhaps a strategically located room at the Hilton Garden Inn hotel across the street), that kind of interaction would be difficult with the audacious “The Goddess Revisited, Willendorf to Trucker Mudflaps” multimedia mural in the Central Business District, created by a team of over a dozen artists.
If you’re not looking up, you might miss the piece during your first pass down narrow Gravier Street. But once you catch sight of the giant blue fertility figure with a video screen in her belly surrounded by flame-colored female parts and quotes from illustrious women throughout history, crowding the wall above a Thai restaurant, you’ll likely want to spend some time taking it all in. (Be careful, though: The most direct viewing angle is right in front of the entrance to a busy parking garage.)
It’s a densely layered and confrontational work that might have benefited from a more prominent placement, but manages to be joyously in-your-face nonetheless.
Further down the street, a series of windows in a building on the corner of Gravier and Magazine streets showcases works by several New Orleans-focused artists including Jimmy Descant, whose work was a highlight of the “Louisiana Contemporary” show at the Ogden last summer, and Jan Gilbert (with Debra Howell), whose “Vestiges” project exploring memory and loss in post-Katrina New Orleans was exhibited at the Contemporary Arts Center last year.
But it’s a piece by the New Orleans-based Bureau of Change that likely will find its way into the most Instagram feeds.
Against a selfie-ready expanse of mirrors, the words “We Are What We See” invite viewers to consider a list of provocative statements regarding the role of images in social media — and by extension, our own roles in creating them.
It’s the kind of self-reflective art that depends on the active participation of a viewer for its meaning. And like the best street art on the P.3+ menu this season, it’s definitely worth making the time to seek out.
Note: Weather conditions early this week affected parts of the LINKED mural and Bureau of Change piece, and it isn’t clear when (or if) either will be restored. Mother Nature is a collaborator in street art, too.