Art in the Time of Empathy

Art in the Time of Empathy

Art in the Time of Empathy is the largest exhibition in the gallery’s 40+ year history, featuring over 70 invited and represented artists. Playing off the iconic title of Gabriel García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera, artists address the many aspects of quarantine, politics, social justice, science, and community in a time where physical distance has redefined these dialogues. A time capsule for our period, Art in the Time of Empathy is an exploration of the human side of this moment, an opportunity for a community to pause and reflect on the many perspectives of a shared experience.

The exhibition features artists who used this time of sheltering in place to re-examine their studio practice and to contemplate themes of separation, normalcy, politics, social justice, and a return to nature and to self as well as pieces curated to speak to the changes happening today. Demond Melancon and Meg Turner confront the devastation of COVID-19 and the price paid by frontline workers. Frahn Koerner, David Halliday, and Jacqueline Bishop address the physical separation of social distancing and the complex emotions that follow. Ted Kincaid unpacks the shocking, divisive, and hateful state of American politics.

The renewed force of the Black Lives Matter movement demanded action from many artists. Whitfield Lovell and Leonard Galmon present striking portraits of Black Americans, and George Dureau’s photographs from the 70s celebrate Black bodies which historically have been excluded or appropriated in Western art. While being painted in 1991, Douglas Bourgeois’ Mistaken Identity addresses the extreme police violence against Black people and rings as true today as when it was painted. David Leventi’s 2010 photograph of a prison interior and Deborah Luster’s revisiting of her One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana photographic series from the turn of the 21st-century address the social inequity in incarceration. An-My Lê documents the moment in 2016 when the confederate monuments were removed from the New Orleans landscape. Mario Moore’s 2020 painting During and After the Battle of Antietam is a depiction of The Battle of Antietam—the deadliest war in the US and gave President Lincoln the confidence to deliver the Emancipation Proclamation.

Some artists approach these complex issues with humor. Richard Baker’s paintings of vintage cookbooks speak to gender roles and the increase in cooking at home during the lockdown. Still life paintings by David Bates and Amy Weiskopf consider the experience of quarantine and its associated activities. Douglas Bourgeois’ 2020 painting creates a fictional graduation yearbook recalling memories and experiences sorely missed amidst strict new remote school protocols. Joseph Havel’s sculpture of a stack of translucent books and Jim Richard’s painted backyard scene created during the COVID lockdown speak to the solitude of open time. James Drake’s 2016 collage You Owe Me Money evokes the economic downfall, devastating unemployment, and financial difficulties that people around the world are facing due to the pandemic.

Other artists focus on our community, its struggles, triumphs, and resilience. Canadian painter John Hartman’s 2015 portrait of New Orleanian Doreen Ketchens recalls a time when music and people filled the French Quarter, now uncomfortably quiet. Robert Polidori highlights the devastation of hurricanes with his piercing photographs of the aftermath of Katrina in New Orleans. Robert Colescott’s 1996 painting confronts his racial identity and Robert Gordy’s painting correlates the devastation of the AIDS crisis to that of the COVID pandemic. Dawn DeDeaux looks ahead towards a fascinating socially distanced future caused by climate change with her Space Clown series.

Art in the Time of Empathy

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