Now in its 12th year, the ever-expanding Tales of the Cocktail event has come a long way in showing the world that there’s more to making drinks than throwing a couple of ingredients into a shaker.
In the same spirit — pun definitely intended — a group show at the craft-focused Ariodante Gallery in the Warehouse District this month presents many different examples of how the art of the cocktail involves more than just … well, artist-designed cocktail shakers.
Which isn’t to say that many of the objects on Ariodante’s “The Art of the Cocktail” exhibition aren’t meant to be used in some way for the enjoyment of the type of libations the show celebrates.
Ginger Kelly’s hand-blown martini glasses, mosaic-decorated wine bottles, and colorful tumblers might not be the “proper” glassware preferred by serious connoisseurs of fine vintages and meticulously composed craft cocktails. But for more casual drinkers, they’re just the thing for jazzing up a summer cocktail party or backyard barbecue.
Kelly’s pieces, displayed throughout the gallery, contribute to the relaxed and convivial atmosphere of the show.
“We always do a summer group show, but this is the first time we’ve organized it around a particular theme,” gallery assistant director Jessie Steen said.
“With Tales of the Cocktail becoming more popular every year, it seemed like a natural fit.”
The show includes work by 22 artists, all but one of whom are based in the greater New Orleans area, which gives a decidedly local flair to the proceedings as well.
Gallery artist Claudia Lynch curated the show, and selections from Lynch’s own “ShoeStories” series are on display: Images of cocktails served up in an assortment of fanciful footwear, accompanied by short and often enigmatic narrations. You may never order a Hurricane the same way again.
Elsewhere in the show, Epaul Julien’s “Dionysius” transforms the Greek god into a nattily dressed animal-headed creature playing a clarinet against a backdrop of floating fish, butterflies, and wrought iron balconies in the French Quarter. It’s a dreamlike yet civilized tableau that’s about as far away from the Big Azz Beer-soaked environment of Bourbon Street as you can get.
Meanwhile, Stirling Barrett’s marvelously prismatic photographic collages of iconic New Orleans restaurants and watering holes, some of which are composed of hundreds of individual images, in this context look like images taken through the goggles of a few too many Sazeracs or Ramos Gin Fizzes. (Coincidentally or not, Barrett also designs a line of fashion eyewear via his Krewe de Optic brand.)
But it’s Amy Archinal’s mixed-media canvas piece “Family Evacuation Plan” that perhaps best sums up the importance of alcoholic libations to the spirit of New Orleans.
In the middle of a frenzied patchwork of hurricane warnings and evacuation maps stands an iconic bottle of Old New Orleans Rum, a solid and reassuring touchstone amidst the chaos and a reminder that sometimes it takes a little bit of liquid courage to get us through the tough times.