Confused about all those pink-and-white “P.3” and “P.3+” signs at the entrances to art venues in New Orleans this fall? You’re not alone.
Basically, P.3-labeled venues feature works by the 58 artists selected by Franklin Sirmans for the central Prospect.3 exhibition. Think of it as a single, massive, thematically cohesive group show spread out all over town.
P.3+, or “satellite” shows, on the other hand, have been independently organized by dozens of galleries and individuals not directly affiliated with Prospect New Orleans and are more of a mixed bag.
(Officially, only noncommercial venues are eligible for P.3+ satellite status. But it seems like practically every art exhibition in town between now and late January is calling itself a P.3 show, including those in several commercial galleries.)
For the casual visitor, the difference may not be that significant.
The central P.3 show certainly contains its own share of hits and misses. And more than a few of the P.3+ satellite shows feature work that’s as good or better than things in the main lineup.
If you’re still confused, a visit to the Joan Mitchell Center Studios on the edge of the French Quarter probably won’t help.
Works in both the main P.3 roster, as well as a prominently branded P.3+ satellite exhibition, are mixed together in a jumbled maze of rooms in the same building, and it isn’t always easy to tell which works belong to which show.
But don’t let the confusing layout deter you. “Convergence,” curated by artist and MacArthur Fellow Deborah Willis and featuring work by 10 New Orleans-area artists affiliated with the Joan Mitchell Center, is worth exploring.
Keep an eye out for Aaron Collier’s liquid, abstracted “Horse and Rider” painting; Carl Joe Williams’ brightly painted assemblages broadcasting recontextualized snippets of vintage television shows and music videos; and Jer’Lisa Devezin’s buoyant installation celebrating New Orleans bounce culture.
Once again, Dave Greber steals the show with an immersive room-sized installation composed of sound, video and wall projections. It’s a trippy world within a world and (ironically) a welcome respite from the disorienting tangle of the rest of the venue.
Meanwhile, a few blocks down Rampart Street, another P.3+ group show is worth checking out as much for its location as for the works on display.
Curated by Janet Levy, “Cry Me A River” features more than a dozen mostly Los Angeles-based artists, several of whom are exhibiting work in New Orleans for the first time.
Its highlights include studies for an epic mural about the Mississippi River by iconic artist Jim Shaw, incorporating figures from classical mythology and comic books; a wall installation involving concepts of divination and mysticism by Tanya Haden; Todd Grey’s pictorial collage linking landscape and racial identities; and a pair of shimmering, large-scale abstract digital collages by Simmons & Burke.
However, where those works are displayed is reason enough to visit: the suitably enigmatic Etoile Polaire No. 1 lodge.
Unless you’re a Freemason, it’s unlikely you’ve ever had a chance to view the interior of the austerely imposing building, which was built circa 1848 and still serves as the meeting location for one of the oldest Masonic organizations in Louisiana.
Back in the French Quarter, a group exhibition at A Gallery for Fine Photography is described as being held “in conjunction with Prospect.3” but also happens to dovetail nicely with the citywide opening of PhotoNOLA in early December.
Loosely organized around the concept of place, “Where” features work by 50 artists spanning an historical period from the 19th century to the present day and all distilled from the gallery’s world-class collection of vintage and contemporary photography.
The selection ranges from 19th century views of New Orleans by Theodore Lilienthal to a dreamlike space-age fashion shoot by Melvin Sokolsky, with visits to dozens of locales both familiar and exotic in between.
While many of the photographs will be familiar to regular visitors of the gallery, the show is a satisfying reminder that some of the best art on view in New Orleans doesn’t necessarily need a pink-and-white P.3 banner to validate it.
In the end, it’s the art that matters.