WILL COVIELLO Jul 31, 2022
In Ukrainian-born artist Alexander Stolin’s painting “Sand Castles,” two boys build an elaborate sandcastle with tall spires and thick walls as waves crash just beyond them. A couple of sea birds seem to watch in the foreground. But the background is more ominous, with dark clouds dropping rain and a couple of aircraft carriers in the distance.
“It’s related to the Russian invasion, the Black Sea and Crimea, when Russia annexed it,” Stolin says. “It’s called ‘Sand Castles’ because it is a metaphor for peace. We are trying to maintain peace like building a sandcastle. You always have to guard this. Otherwise, it’s going to get washed off.”
The paintings in his “Memories Project” look back on a century of his and his wife’s family, combining images from his native Kyiv and her roots in Mississippi.
“Memories Project” opens at Jonathan Ferrara Gallery with a reception on White Linen Night on Saturday, Aug. 6. The annual event organized by Arts District New Orleans returns with art activations in the streets and food and drink vendors spread out on the 300 through 600 block of Julia Street from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Stolin’s work has a sort of Covid-era influence to it. Though his canvasses are normally bright and colorful, most of these works are black and white or sepia toned. Part of the reason is that he decided to look back on his family through the last century, and many works capture the tones and dark shadows of old black and white photography. But he also got Covid at the point he was thinking about going without color, and temporarily lost his sense of taste, he says.
After immigrating to San Francisco with his family in 1992, Stolin came to New Orleans for a show of his work in 1994 and ended up staying in the area. In addition to his art practice, he works in the film industry as a scene designer. That also suits his painting style, which he says is influenced by film noir and the works of Alfred Hitchcock.
He also describes some of his color canvasses as cinematic in style. A sense of creepiness akin to Hitchcock and film noir is evident in “Halloween,” which is based on a photo from 1911 of one of his wife’s relatives. A large group of children pose for the camera wearing grotesque clown masks they have made at a party.
Also at Jonathan Ferrara Gallery is “Remix,” a collection of 20 sculptures made out of hand-cut books by jazz musician Tony Dagradi.
There’s a wide array of openings scheduled for White Linen Night, including large group shows at the Contemporary Arts Center and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. There also are shows at 15 galleries and the American Institute of Architects — New Orleans Center for Architecture and Design.
The Ogden Museum opens its Louisiana Contemporary show. Guest curator Valerie Cassel Oliver of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts culled 51 works by 49 Louisiana artists from more than 1,000 submissions. Works range from Luis Cruz Azaceta’s bright painting “POSTCARDS FROM UKRAINE 111” to Thom Bennett’s photos of dilapidated roadside signs to assemblages of found objects and other pieces by Shannon Landis Hansen and Jordan Hess.
The Contemporary Arts Center presents the ninth edition of its Gulf South Open Call show. Titled “Remember Earth?”, its works address environmental issues including climate change, pollution, coastal erosion, natural disasters, environmental racism and more. There are works by 54 artists from Florida to Texas.
The CAC also presents work by artists currently in residence, Britt Ransom and a.r. havel. Ransom is working on sculpture incorporating 3-D printing techniques. “Oh Holy Filth” is a collaborative altar project by havel, Xiamara Chupaflor and Koko Barrios. The CAC also has DJs, cash bars and more during its White Linen festivities.
LeMieux Galleries also is hosting a juried group show. Among the artists is Jimmy Descant, a former New Orleanian best known for his Deluxe Rocketship assemblages, turning things like vintage vacuum cleaners and appliances into rockets with the stylish curves of space age design. He is installing two large-scale rocket ships in Orlando prior to the show.
Though Descant’s returned to the city for recent Jazz Fest art booth appearances, he’s largely moved on to assemblage work based on the West, and he has lived in Tucson for the past four years. His works at LeMieux combine photos taken by his father of then-Sen. John F. Kennedy with assemblage elements to give him outfits invoking Indigenous American tribes and Mardi Gras Indians.
Stella Jones Gallery at Place St. Charles features the work of fine art painter and illustrator Charly Palmer. His distinct portrait style is found in the image of John Legend on his “Bigger Love” album. Palmer recently was chosen to design the cover for the NBA 2K22 video game, and he has done previous video games and numerous children’s book covers.
Most of the participating galleries are on Julia or Camp streets. Arthur Roger Gallery has exhibitions of sculpture and video by Stephanie Patton, tapestries by Troy Dugas, paintings by Brian Guidry and works of geometric abstraction by Pard Morrison. At Octavia Art Gallery, “Digital Reality” features several artists exploring uses of technology in the creation of art, with projections, holograms and NFTs, as well as accompanying paintings.