Magazine article Artforum International

"Spaces: Antenna, the Front, Good Children Gallery"

Magazine article Artforum International

"Spaces: Antenna, the Front, Good Children Gallery"

Article excerpt

CONTEMPORARY ARTS CENTER

Here's an intimidating curatorial gambit: a museum exhibition venturing to manifest a palpable web of energy spun by a triad of emerging artists' collectives. The collectives are located in a working-class, historically black, increasingly multicultural enclave that is literally on the other side of the tracks from the Contemporary Arts Center, which is situated in a well-trafficked touristic business district. From the outset of this project, potential pitfalls for the museum abounded. On the one hand, ideological and class tensions would be there for the stoking; on the other (and maybe more disastrously), were those frictions to not be prodded, the institution would be guilty of swallowing the various identities of the collectives only to spit them out as a homogenous, depoliticized group showcased out of context.

So give the exhibition's curator, Amy Mackie (assisted by now former-CAC visual-arts coordinator Angela Berry), some credit for the moxie of following through with "Spaces," which presents the artists of Antenna, the Front, and Good Children Gallery, the three most prominent initiatives of a cluster of artists' collectives that sprouted after Hurricane Katrina on or near St. Claude Avenue in the Bywater District. (Three additional collectives contributed street-level window installations.) Crucial to this narrative is gentrification: Some community activists say the collectives are not only gentrifying the area but also failing to represent the district's historical racial composition. While this may be true, the young collectives in "Spaces" are far from "established" in the manner that the older Julia Street commercial galleries are. Only the Front owns its own building, and as the cultural cachet of the Bywater mounts, the cost of operating there may soon prove prohibitive. Of course, all artists' neighborhoods change, and a show like this one will likely only expedite the rate of transformation.

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Some pieces on view address such issues head-on. For example, the mustachioed, champagne-sipping duo Generic Art Solutions known for their staged reinterpretations of works from the art-historical canon played an intense game of Monopoly as an opening-night performance, with a board reflecting the St. Claude scene. Tucked in a dark corner, Ryan Watkins-Hughes's See St. …

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