Another Jazz Fest has come and gone, but the summer art scene in the Warehouse Arts District is just starting to heat up with a newly revived Jammin’ on Julia on Saturday.
Part art walk and part block party, the event will feature live entertainment and special events on the Julia Street corridor, along with openings and continuing exhibitions at nearly 20 galleries.
Start with Gina Phillips “Friends and Neighbors” at Jonathan Ferrara Gallery. Calling Phillips a “fabric artist” may be accurate from a purely descriptive point of view, but it doesn’t do justice to her intricate wall pieces and installations.
Phillip’s current body of work features portraits of, yes, her friends and neighbors in the Lower 9th Ward (along with the occasional pet), all constructed from multiple layers of fabric, thread, yarn and hair. The level of detail in each of the figures is nothing short of extraordinary.
But it’s the manner by which Phillips depicts a sense of community and shared lives — young and old, black and white, human and canine — through her art that is the most lasting impression of the show.
“All the portraits in this show are people I know,” said Phillips in a statement accompanying the exhibit. “More than anything, in each portrait, I try to capture something of the essence of the person.”
In the back of the gallery, Bonnie Maygarden’s meticulously textured paintings and neon-accented wall pieces are more abstract but no less engaging.
Down the street at Boyd | Satellite, a group show inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement seeks to start a discussion about “the prison industrial complex, gun violence, injustice and recent events,” according to a gallery description.
Some of the art in “What’s Going On” contributes more substantively to that dialogue than others. Pat Phillips’ street art-inspired “Humpty Dumpty … (Brown v. Blue)” communicates a colorful and vibrant sense of urgency. And L. Kasimu Harris’ pair of self-portraits as young men slain by law enforcement achieve new layers of poignancy and significance in the context of the show.
But it’s difficult to say what exactly Ti-Rock Moore is trying to accomplish with “Angelitos Negros,” an installation featuring a disturbingly realistic effigy of Michael Brown, whose death at the hands of police in 2014 galvanized the Black Lives Matter movement. The piece achieved some degree of controversy when it was first displayed in a Chicago gallery last year.
It’s more tasteless spectacle than substance, and indicative of the kind of allegedly well-intentioned but ultimately tone-deaf misfires that characterize much of Moore’s work — though it at least contributes to the current show’s mission to inspire conversation.
Nearby at Arthur Roger Gallery, James Drake’s large-scale drawings combine text with found images and objects to create cryptic and coolly seductive semiotic landscapes.
But perhaps the single must-see show of the evening is Dave Greber’s installation at the May Gallery & Residency, which has relocated to a sprawling multistory space on the corner of Julia and Carondelet streets after several years in the 9th Ward.
With a trippy combination of video, sound and architectural elements, Greber has transformed the former Cadillac dealership and flower shop into a “Trail Magique”: a psychedelic, immersive labyrinth partly inspired by Greber’s own meanderings along the Appalachian Trail.
But don’t expect much by way of actual flora and fauna: Greber’s brand of “trail magic” leans more toward recharging stations for your iPhone and receptacles where visitors will be invited to unload excess baggage, both psychic and physical.
It’s heady, giddy stuff. Who needs nature anyway?