New Orleans artist Jim Richard’s Inman Gallery exhibition of six tiny collages, one gouache painting on paper and one large oil on linen is so quiet and unassuming it’s been easy to overlook during a summer filled with bigger, flashier shows.
But it deserves the beeline I hope you’ll make to Inman by Saturday to spend time with Richard’s wonderfully eccentric work.
Richard’s strange, crowded interiors bear a family resemblance to English artist Richard Hamilton’s collage Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing? (1956), perhaps the first truly iconic pop artwork. It combined imagery from an Armstrong Floors ad in Ladies Home Journal with cutout photos taken from bodybuilding and pinup magazines and from ads for such then-current domestic appliances as a reel-to-reel tape recorder, a black-and-white TV and a long-reach vacuum cleaner.
But while art historian John-Paul Stonard wrote in 2007 that Hamilton’s crowded interior hinted at “an anxiety that this new cultural order could not be sustained,” Richard’s versions conjure up anxiety about a cultural order that can’t be escaped.
While Hamilton’s classic is populated with a couple — a burlesque woman and a male bodybuilder holding a Tootsie Roll Pop — and a maid, there’s no room for people in Richard’s interiors, which are also cut from home-design magazines.
The closest you get to a human presence is Men Wrestling, in which the grapplers are figures in a sculpture that shares space on a coffee table with a book and, yes, a cup of coffee.
Similarly, in Sticks, the dominant element resembles an African antelopelike sculpture that you might see at the Menil Collection, but it stands precariously on a glass table, surrounded by bric-a-brac.
Art further dominates interiors in works such as Thin Slice and Art in Room. In both collages, a huge abstract painting doesn’t hang but stands at a diagonal, hogging as much floor space as possible. Paintings, sculptures and knickknacks jockey for position in Art and Decor II, and the busy, clashing patterns of upholstery and wallpaper further intensify the claustrophobia.