June 12 – July 11, 2015 / Opening Reception: Friday June 12, 6-9 pm
Dapper Bruce Lafitte, My President Is Black (The Lafitte Projects), 2014 Archival markers on paper (9th series), 18 1/2 x 24 1/2”
“The Lafitte That the Dapper Know Of.”
– Dapper Bruce Lafitte
P339 Gallery presents the fourth in a series of 4 exhibitions by African-American contemporary and folk artists from the American South, guest-curated by Diego Cortez, New York free-lance curator, advisor, editor and author. Previously curated exhibitions by Cortez include: Terrae Motus, Fondazione Amelio, Villa Campolieto, Ercolano (1984), Julian Schnabel: The Recognitions Paintings, Cuartel de Carmen, Sevilla (1988), Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1981: The Studio of the Street, Deitch Projects, NYC (2006) and Hank Willis Thomas: HOPE, John Hope Franklin Center, Duke University (2011).
Dapper Bruce Lafitte: The Lafitte Projects presents seven 2014 drawings in diverse sizes with archival marker on paper created by New Orleans artist Bruce Davenport Jr. aka Dapper Bruce Lafitte. These 7 works are part of a larger series devoted to Bruce’s neighborhood and housing project known as the Lafitte Projects located off Claiborne Avenue and Orleans Avenue in the Sixth Ward of New Orleans.
The Lafitte Projects presents six medium-sized densely-drawn, fully-populated urban scapes shaped by Dapper’s wicked satyrical bent. Works include: The Jive Ass Mayor Got 10 Years, where a jubilant Lafitte crowd reacts to the news of Mayor Ray Nagin’s 2014 conviction for bribes, money laundering and wire fraud. My President Is Black recalls, on the other hand, a joyous street crowd as if reacting to the news of President Obama’s first election win in 2008.
A large vertical work on paper, Rip Lafitte Projects, and axial to the exhibition, represents a shift in Dapper’s technique away from the previous ‘crisp people pictures’ to a greater emphasis on nature and landscape. This tendency continues in his 2015 Civil War works which function like traditional Japanese or Chinese war scenes–where ideologically-engaged masses of humans are dwarfed by mountains and trees.
In this large and singular work–Rip Lafitte Projects, streets and lawns disappear and are replaced by a palette of muddy water–nature claiming its course. Hurricane Katrina and the flooding of the 6th Ward in 2005 is depicted. Dapper’s title Rip Lafitte Projects is centrally emblazoned on a long green roof. Life boats are crammed with people, floating autos and an actual sign made at the moment—SOS—is painted on another roof.
The aftermath of Katrina initially led Dapper, then Bruce, to begin his artistic journey. He then asserted “I want to leave a mark on my city NEW ORLEANS like KATRINA’S JIVE ASS did.”
Dapper Bruce Lafitte, as he prefers now to be known, always constructed an overhead or bird’s eye view to illustrate the assembly of his neighbors in the use and possession of public spaces. Street life and street culture is central to Dapper’s work. It thus aligns with the late 20th century’s cultural achievements of graffiti art, rap and hip-hop, break dance, double-dutch, 2nd line processions, brass bands, marching band parades at Mardi-Gras, bounce music, freestyle street basketball, Mardi Gras Indian revelers, etc. It is part of an extensive tradition of African-American culture which has enriched New Orleans and the world.