Andrea Chung in Hyperallergic 11.22.17

Pleasant Surprises in the Swamp at Prospect, the New Orleans Triennial

Newly restructured as a triennial, Prospect 4 opened in New Orleans last weekend; despite technical challenges and an overly broad theme, it yielded some satisfying moments.

Prospect New Orleans, the biennial founded in 2006 in response to Hurricane Katrina, opened this weekend in New Orleans as a newly minted Triennial. Massive in scale, the new schedule would presumably give the organization more time to organize, fundraise, and create a stronger exhibition. But some events have a harder time than others making changes, and if this iteration of the Triennial is any indication, Prospect 4 is one. Opening day, art was still being installed. Worse, there has been little improvement in exhibition design and visitor experience, so finding the locations of art in this show remains an exercise in frustration. Sites are poorly marked — when they’re marked at all — and the printed site map doesn’t help. It clearly indicates all the locations of art, but not which artists are at these locations.

All this would be forgivable if what was at the sites made the trip worth the effort. There’s not been much buzz about the artwork, though, because a lot of it disappoints. Some of the blame for that lies with artistic director Trevor Schoonmaker, who took few risks. The theme of the Biennial, Prospect.4: The Lotus in Spite of The Swamp, might easily be summed up as an exploration of oppositions, which is almost too broad to be meaningful. The show draws inspiration from a blossom in the mud. Beauty grows from ugliness. Redemption exists in the ruin. You get the picture.

We see the theme play out through boldly colored installations and transformative figurative sculptures exploring how colonialism has impacted the city (Rina Banerjee, Penelope Siopis), delicate site-specific sound works juxtaposed against noisy landscapes (Hong-An Truong, Radcliffe Bailey), and provocative text based art (Runo Lagomarsino, Jillian Mayer). These constitute some of the strongest points in the show. There are less successful works, too, but I’ll leave the bulk of those for the more fleshed-out review. A taste of what’s in store below.

 

The Ogden Museum of Southern Art

Chung covered the room with her custom cyanotype print on watercolor paper. Inside the room feels like being wrapped in warm ocean water (though apparently it’s supposed to be scary because there are floating fish bodies depicted.)

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