I Left My Heart in New Orleans

Mark Bradford, Post-Katrina Ark for New Orleans, 2008. Mixed media. Photo: Nicole J. Caruth.

Prospect. 1 New Orleans, the largest biennial international contemporary art ever held in the United States, opened to the public today. Produced by U.S. Biennial, Inc. and directed by Dan Cameron, Director of Visual Arts at the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans, the biennial was conceived to help expand on New Orleans’ already rich cultural profile and galvanize art world participation in the city’s post-Katrina rebound.

Art21 artists Mark BradfordAllora & Calzadilla (both Season 4), Arturo HerreraCai Guo-Qiang (both Season 3), Trenton Doyle Hancock, and Janine Antoni (both Season 2) are included in this exhibition of works by 81 local, national and international artists that is spread across more than 25 venues. Bradford’s wooden Ark is located in the city’s Lower Ninth Ward, the area hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina. The artist utilized the shell of a destroyed house and other discarded scraps of wood from the area to construct the piece (in situ above). 

Ghada Amer, “Happily Ever After,” 2008. Photo: Nicole J. Caruth

Traversing installations in the Lower Ninth Ward–where you can also find works by Antoni, Superflex, Wangechi Mutu, Nari Ward, Paul Villinski, Miguel Palma, and Robin Rhode–sheds light on the devastation and loss that occurred three years ago. It is still heartwrenching today. Where the levee breached, sweeping houses off of their foundations and submerging the area under water, installations by Ghada Amer (above) and Leonardo Elrich (recently featured in ArtKrush) rise from the ground. On surrounding lots only grass and weeds, concrete slabs, and steps that once lead to a front door remain. Katharina Grosse’s painting/mural below (top) stands a short distance from the house on the bottom, which still displays the force of Hurricane Katrina.

Katharina Grosse, Orange House at 5418 Dauphine Street, Lower Ninth Ward, 2008. Photo: Nicole J. CaruthHurricane Katrina damage. Photo: Nicole J Caruth

To learn more about efforts to rebuild New Orleans, visit the websites for Make it Right Foundation, a project by actor and philanthropist Brad Pitt; Common Ground Relief, a community-based volunteer organization that offers support to Lower Ninth Ward residents that suffered losses in the wake of Hurricane Katrina; and, of course, Prospect. 1. The exhibition closes January 18, 2009.