By any tangible measure, New Orleans is worse off than it was seven years ago. That’ll happen when the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States comes over for a visit, initial relief efforts and goodwill evaporate (as they inevitably do), and the city is left with magnified versions of its age-old problems and little infrastructure to combat them.
At the same time, though, things have not fallen apart; New Orleans’ center has held. As noted NOLA-phile David Simon eloquently put it in his love letter to the city, Treme, New Orleans is a place that lives on in the American imagination. It serves as ultimate proof of the old-fashioned conservative’s rule that culture, and not politics, determines how a society really operates and congeals. Art has saved NOLA’s life.
The Front formed in 2008 amid this renaissance that preserved New Orleans’ soul in brass and amber. The artist-run, not-for-profit collective features artists that have exhibited internationally, and are now putting on a free show in Birmingham, New Orleans’ longtime evacuee hub. The UAB Visual Arts Gallery is presenting a group exhibition from The Front until September 21st.
Like the ongoing exhibits at beta pictoris this month, The Front is imbued with an explicitly do-it-yourself attitude that dovetails nicely with New Orleans’ occasionally insular sense of resolve. Despite being calling itself a collective, The Front features a vibrant selection of distinctly independent artists working in a variety of mediums, from photography to knitting.
A common element, though, is an offbeat sense of humor, a slyness that’s a little more quirky and highbrow than the earthy good cheer you’d usually associate with New Orleans. What you’re left with is a really staggering assortment of talent, presented in a welcoming and unassuming way.
UAB’s presentation of the artwork of The Front continues until September 21st. The Visual Arts Gallery’s weekly hours are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.–6 p.m. and Saturday, 12-4 p.m. The exhibition is free. The gallery is located at 900 13th St. S. For more details, call (205) 934-0815 or visit the gallery blog at www.uabvisualartsgallery.wordpress.com.