Looking Back to Look Forward
Photography and the Blues at the Historic New Orleans Collection
Clarence John Laughlin
Sometimes the stress of the present is best seen through the lens of the past. Before the holidays ramp up and Thanksgiving has you doubting your self-control, a visit to the Historic New Orleans Collection (HNOC) is in order.
The timing couldn’t be better, because this week launches a new exhibition and features a unique music event.
Located in the heart of the French Quarter, the HNOC opened its new exhibit called “Clarence John Laughlin and His Contemporaries: A Picture and a Thousand Words” on Nov. 15. It will run until March 25, 2017.
Laughlin was a Louisiana native who became known for his surrealist and experimental photography. His reputation for isolation is tested by the exhibit’s items. Curators included not only his own work, but letters and art prints he exchanged with other artists, editors, writers and curators throughout his career, which began in the 1930s and continued until his death in 1985.
By featuring his correspondence in addition to his photographs, the curators have provided a more complete picture of the artist. In an inspired choice, many letters received by Laughlin have been paired with his responses, of which he made and saved carbon copies. These letters “underscore Laughlin’s deliberate and uncompromising approach to his photography and prose” according to the curatorial statement.
The bulk of the exhibit has been sourced from the HNOC’s own Clarence John Laughlin Archive. Additional works, especially those by artists whom Laughlin collected, have been loaned by the New Orleans Museum of Art. Photographers included in the show are: Brassaï, Wynn Bullock, Imogen Cunningham, Carlotta Corpron and Edward Weston.
The free exhibit is located at both the Laura Simon Nelson Galleries for Louisiana Art and the Boyd Cruise Gallery at the Williams Research Center, 400–410 Chartres Street. The galleries are open Tuesday to Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (excluding holidays).
Plan your visit for this Friday, Nov. 18 and you can leave the exhibit at 4:30 p.m., grab a snack, and then return to HNOC at 5:30 p.m. for an installment of its Concert in the Courtyard series. Designed for guests aged 21 and over, the $10 admission includes three beverages (choice of white wine, craft beer or soft drinks).
The lineup scheduled for this event is the Colin Lake Band. Lake is a Seattle native who moved to New Orleans six years ago and has been an important part of the local music scene ever since.
Lake is based in a Blues tradition and uses a distinct vocal to deliver lyrics that resonate with listeners. His skill at the guitar and lap steel power through his original songs, as well as the Blues standards he occasionally plays.
He has opened for the incomparable Dr. John and Gary Clark Jr., and played nationally at festivals that include Alabama’s Hang Out Beach, the Austin City Limits Music Festival, the Key West Songwriters Festival, as well as the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and the French Quarter Festival.
The Concerts in the Courtyard show will be held at the HNOC facility located at 533 Royal Street, and guests should be prepared to stand during the performance.