BY D. ERIK BOOKHARDT Jul 22, 2019
Billed as the first “multi-mural exhibition of large-scale artwork” in the CBD, “Unframed” suggests a new status for street art in New Orleans.
In a city where artistic self-expression long has been abundant, street murals make sense in a way that typical graffiti scrawls rarely do. Along St. Claude Avenue, even the most raw street murals contribute to the evolving visual smorgasbord, but the CBD sets a higher bar, and the five murals in the “Unframed” project suggest a new level of approval by the city establishment.
This marks a stark departure from the shared history of murals and revolutionary movements across the Americas, a history epitomized by 1920s Mexico City — a city that today embodies a more varied mix of insurgent and establishment concerns. Contemporary New Orleans’ murals reflect a related blend of activist, community and establishment aspirations.
The most prominently situated mural is the boldly colorful work by the New Orleans-based international artist known as Momo on the side of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art (925 Camp St.). Employing a mix of graphic design and spray-paint impressionism, Momo’s visual version of jazzy ambient music makes abstraction playful and fun.
The colorful geometry of Carl Joe Williams’ mural (at 827 Tchoupitoulas St.) evokes a blend of African design and Euro-American pop art influences in a massive abstraction that pulsates with rhythmic echoes of New Orleans’ vibrant musical traditions. Brandan “B-Mike” Odums and the Young Artist Movement’s realistic mural (at 636 Baronne St.) of a black man lifting a child in his arms appears symbolic considering the stylized waves below, suggesting that learning to swim is a metaphor for approaching life’s challenges.
The mysterious figure in the Polish duo Etam Cru’s mural (at 600 O’Keefe St.) appears amid an intriguing mosaic of Slavic folk art patterning. New Orleans’ own Team A/C’s (designer Adam Modesitt and architect Carrie Norman) black-and-white line mural of a domestic interior (at 746 Tchoupitoulas St.) literally turns our expectations of our familiar everyday world inside out.
“Unframed” is sponsored by the Arts Council of New Orleans (www.artsneworleans.org) and the Helis Foundation (www.thehelisfoundation.org).