Saturday, July 14, 2007


Last night I joined the quiche-eaters and cleavage bearers for the opening of Floodwall, an installation by Jana Napoli at the Lousiana State Museum. Her installation of 600+ discarded dresser drawers, pulled from the unfathomable scatter of debris found in New Orleans after the storm bears the trademarks of great conceptual art, stripping things down to the base ideas, unadorned, while allowing the material to issue its own fiction.

Visually, it is stunning - a wall of weathered mahogany and cherry, a constellation of metal fixtures. As a recovering assemblage artist myself, I'm still compelled to pick up any stray dresser drawer I see on the side of the road, promising myself it will become the basis of some Joseph Cornell-style poem-box and not just joing the mountain of things yet utilized, but these drawers were gathered as things unto themselves. They are literally and figuartively lost compartments, private places cruelly rendered public by the corrosive forces of nature and the haphazard machinations of man. They are set into a wall half-opened. The first side you meet bears the face plates. All that weathered woodwork is but a tear in the crying jag for the architecturally uniqueness of a city now lying in dumpters or rotting in landfills.

What I was left longing for was contents - where is the underwear, the hidden pistol, the love letters, the tanlgle of charger cables from long discarded cell-phones that occupies all of our dresser drawers? At first I considered it was an artistic failing of the piece until the truth struck me. All that content is gone, like the people that put it those drawers. There were a few with some notable inhabitants, like the ornate curved tiny drawer holding a Catholic Saint card and a lock of hair, but these were the exception. No matter; like all successful conceptual pieces, the empty spaces speak the loudest.

Just like the boarded-up windows and sea of blue tarps I see everytime I go down to New Orleans, valiant struggling to gain its former glory while I try to suppress the nagging uncertainty I have for its success, this exhibit is tender, wounded heavy reality.


  1. Alex V. Cook, all of us at Floodwall thank you: Jana Napoli. Tatiana Clay, Rondell Crier, Rontherin Ratliff & David Lackey.

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