New Orleans, Louisiana.- The Ogden Museum of Southern Art is pleased to present “Jimmy Descant: The Shape of Louisiana Commenting on the Shape of Louisiana” on view at the museum from January 19th through April 8th 2012. Jimmy Descant (a.k.a. “the Rocketman”) is an assemblage artist known primarily for his use of found objects to create retro-futuristic rocket ships inspired by the quality of earlier craftsmanship, Art Deco, science fiction and the spirit of exploration and optimism prevalent in mid-century America. In The Shape of Louisiana Commenting on the Shape of Louisiana, Descant uses the shape of his native state as the foundation for a series of assemblages that speak to the cultural, political and natural environment of Louisiana in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the failure of the Federal levee system in New Orleans, and the BP Macondo well oil spill.
When Jimmy Descant started creating assemblage art, he saw in the parts he was finding at thrift stores and flea markets his own vision of what craftsmen before him knew; that details, many unseen, were the true key to vision and expression. Having no art history or technique training, he has found myself in the realm of artists past and has compounded on those past ideas of found object assemblage and made it his own. The rocketships were first due to an old vacuum cleaner found at a New Orleans flea market and it’s futuristic art deco lines. Now after 15 years the form takes a larger shape – a tactile mural, a bowling ball planet, a vision of potential; and what were sequentially numbered now have creative titles, purpose, and positivity. There is no welding in his work. He finds parts that have never seen each other that mesh naturally and forms his style in a clean professional fit. his rocketships neither contain or depict any form of guns, bullets, or bombs; they are for the peaceful exploration of time, space, ideas, and cultures. But some political/social assemblages may include tools of violence to make a point.
Recycling is a major key, and the finding of the raw materials is a large share of the end result, of which he is a professional in acquiring the vintage and beautiful in out of the way places. After losing all at his former home and shop in New Orleans, he has found that the world is still full of inspiration and the means to get to the realization of those visions. In other words, there will always be more stuff out there in the world. Traveling everywhere in America, he knows he will never run out of raw materials from the Golden Age of manufacturing. Though rockets are his specialty, he is not just the Rocketman, but a severe Reconstructivist seeking the cool and inspiration. Descant now lives and creates in Salida, Colorado, but will always be a New Orleanian.
Louisiana businessman and philanthropist Roger Ogden first saw “Blue Lagoon”, a Southern landscape by the early 20th century artist Alexander Drysdale, at a Baton Rouge, Louisiana art gallery in 1966. Captivated by its beauty, Ogden, a college student at the time, persuaded his father to help him buy the painting for his mother as a Christmas gift. For a number of years to follow, father and son continued the habit, fostering the younger Ogden’s interest in Southern art. The collection Roger Ogden went on to assemble was one of the first to focus solely on Southern art, helping to identify and define the genre. By the mid-1980s, Ogden had collected a full range of paintings that recounted the history and changing aesthetics of painting in Louisiana. The collection included 19th-century portraits by Jacques Amans, landscapes by William Henry Buck, Richard Clague and Clarence Millet, and works such as Mother Louisiana, an allegorical portrait of the state of Louisiana by Dominico Canova. Gradually, he began to expand his collection by including artists from other Southern states, and broadening the scope of works to include sculpture, photography, works on paper, self-taught art, and mixed media. By the 1990s, the Ogden Collection was recognized by art historians and collectors as one of the most significant of its kind in the nation.
The concept for creating a permanent public home for the Ogden Collection was based upon a unique public-private partnership between the University of New Orleans Foundation and Ogden. Since then, the Collection has grown, through the generosity of donors from across the United States, to become the largest and most comprehensive assemblage of Southern art in the world, establishing the Ogden Museum as the preeminent resource on art and culture of the South. Concrete plans for the Museum’s future were laid down in late 1994 when the public announcement of the founding of The Ogden Museum of Southern Art was made in December by Ogden and Dr. Gregory O’Brien, Chancellor of the University of New Orleans. The concept for creating a permanent public home for the Ogden Collection was based upon a unique public-private partnership. It was built upon a gift of works from the Ogden Collection to the University of New Orleans Foundation to establish a museum of Southern Art, to be constructed in a complex of buildings in the Lee Circle area of the city. By 1999, the museum’s five-story Stephen Goldring Hall was under construction and its historic library was under restoration.
Goldring Hall, featuring 47,000 square feet of exhibition space, stands as part of a larger, three-building complex that includes the significant 1889 Howard Memorial Library (later renamed the Patrick F. Taylor Library) designed by the important American architect and Louisiana native, Henry Hobson Richardson. The only one of Richardson’s buildings in the South, the library will house the museum’s 18th and 19th century art collections, its new Goldring-Woldenberg Institute for the Advancement of Southern Art and Culture, an orientation theater, studio and classroom spaces, and a technology resource center. The Library was made available to the University of New Orleans Foundation to house the earlier works in the Ogden Collection. Extensive improvements to the Library totaling $3 million were recently completed in the first phase of the structure’s restoration. Programs related to the architecture and the life of H. H. Richardson will be an integral part of the activities presented in this structure. Adjoining the Library, and included in the 20,000 square feet of space, is the new Clementine Hunter Wing dedicated to the art and life of this noted Louisiana self-taught artist. This will also be the permanent home to the Museum’s educational initiatives, including classrooms and a technology center. Visit the museum’s website at … http://www.ogdenmuseum.org