Prospect.4, “The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp,” opens Saturday in 17 locations in New Orleans, continuing through Feb. 25.
The exhibition brings 73 prominent contemporary artists from all over the world to New Orleans.
Curated by Trevor Schoonmaker of the Nasher Museum at Duke University, the exhibition features many examples of original work that were commissioned for the show. Many of the works incorporate themes that resonate specifically with New Orleans, including colonialism, cross-cultural fertilization, the environment and celebration.
Outdoor exhibits are free. Others are by admission to museums and galleries. Check websites for entry fees and remember that most have free days or discounts for locals.
The great outdoors
Especially if you work, live or play downtown, the citywide exhibit will be hard to miss. There's an installation on the Riverfront streetcar line plus a wall mural over a parking lot at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art by none other than Yoko Ono. It inquires, cryptically, "Have You Seen the Horizon Lately?"
Look for Nigerian-born painter Odili Donald Odita's brightly multicolored flags at places of "cultural, racial and historical importance" around the city, and more of his work on the Algiers ferry — which will take you to yet another Prospect.4 installation by artist Mark Dion.
In Crescent Park, the Mississippi River serves as a backdrop for four outdoor sculptures. It’s the first time the park has been used as a major art venue. Stroll over the pedestrian bridge at Piety Street to check them out.
Art all over the CAC
Housing the work of 26 Prospect.4 artists, the Contemporary Arts Center, 900 Camp St., boasts a third of the works in Prospect.4. Many are installations that were built on site in the past few days and sometimes tweaked for their New Orleans locale.
Predictably, perhaps, the Crescent City took hold of the imaginations of many artists, such as Lavar Munroe, originally from the Bahamas. His native land has its own Carnival traditions, so maybe it's not surprising that the tall, multi-media horse that rears up on the ground floor of the CAC sports a magenta feather on its forehead.
Upstairs at the CAC, Penny Siopis created an installation linking Zulu warrior culture in her native South Africa to Zulu Carnival culture in New Orleans — linked by a video of New Orleans’ own Louis Armstrong performing a composition based on a traditional South African folk song. That kind of cross-cultural pollination is a hallmark of many of the works in Prospect 4.
Across the street
Ten more Prospect.4 artists are exhibited across the street at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, 925 Camp St. Local favorites Quintron and Miss Pussycat screen videos featuring his distinctive soundscapes and her handmade puppets. Woodcuts by the late New Orleans artist John T. Scott fill an upstairs gallery.
All that jazz
At the New Orleans Jazz Museum in the Old U.S. Mint, 400 Esplanade Ave., experience a different spin on jazz legend Louis Armstrong: a rare collection of his collages, mostly created as covers for reel-to-reel tapes of his work, radio shows and mixtapes. Armstrong is one of 11 artists being exhibited at the museum.
At the other end of Esplanade Avenue, view six Prospect.4 artists at the New Orleans Museum of Art along with the outstanding permanent collection. In the Great Hall, large, vivid oil paintings by the recently deceased American portrait painter Barkley L. Hendricks evoke both Renaissance portraiture and Pop Art in their depiction of the artist’s friends, family and colleagues.
For a complete guide to the exhibit, go to prospectneworleans.org