After the Exhibit
On Monday the Exhibit Be art installation officially closed with a full day of music celebrating the extraordinary artists that came together to reclaim the ruined De Gaulle Manor. Local artist Brandon Odums directed this masterpiece of collaborative street art that draws from the emotional charge of the dilapidated complex. The art renders in technicolor the intense personal and emotional struggles that the spartan apartments suggest. The absence of the occupants is rendered present through the thin veneer of spray paint. This installation was able to universalize the internal challenges of individual by moving them to the surface of the buildings. It seems fitting then that the crowd on Monday was circumscribed by these images. As we looked up at the small stage lifted above the crowd, the giant faces that looked down (including that of fifteen year old George Carter who was murdered in October) served as a constant reminder of the true significance of the space.
For its part, the music did its best to extend the impact of the space already created by the art itself. When we arrived the Edna Karr Marching Band was holding court below the small dais. The band’s horns and drums echoed through the space and brought life both to the crowd and to the images. The movement of the dense crowd combined with the seemingly undulating art was truly a site to behold. After some brief remarks for Mayor Landrieu, local rapper Dee-1 took the stage for a remarkably heartfelt set (look for his new record on Mardi Gras day). He was followed by dead prez and an impassioned plea from David Banner for an increase in both community and activism. In what for many in the crowd was the highlight of the day, Trombone Shorty was accompanied by the New Breed Brass Band in a short set of blazing tunes. Shorty was in rare form and the sound magnified the emotion of the scene, tying the activism of dead prez and Banner to the history and traditions of New Orleans. The day ended with a performance by Erykah Badu in her persona as DJ Lo Down Loretta Brown. Badu was clearly overwhelmed by the emotional charge of the space. While it took her a while to find a groove that matched her audience, she ended the day by taking the mic and engaging the audience voice to voice.
As a whole, the day was a tremendous sendoff for a powerful artistic examination of the state of our city and the tensions that inevitably arise between older and newer visions of what New Orleans can be.