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Coincidence Gallery showcases four talented New Orleans artists. 

Hot Molten Art

Out Of The Fire: Four New Orleans Artists
Coincidence Gallery
Through Aug. 28

Inferno, a studio space and glass foundry in New Orleans, is introducing itself at Coincidence Gallery in a group exhibition of four of its artists, "Out of the Fire." This title suggests that its produce has cooled down, but unhot it's not. This is an excellent and inspiring show, and you have one week left to see it.

Gary Oaks' bound and predetermined pilloried male figures tower above the viewer like modern crucifixes absent the crossbar. Missing the minor advantage of outstretched arms, this arrangement confines its captive further. In the "Three Believers" three aging faces, betraying, betrayed or regretful, perch atop vulnerable, malnourished bodies that are both formed and immobilized by the same wrapped material from the neck to their downward-pointing toes. Oaks has released only their hands from the rope wrapping to permit them a stance of meditative repose.

"The Zarathustran" features Nietzsche's solemn mustachioed head, while "The Stranger's" identity has been withheld. He appears genetically related, however, to the glass head of Oaks' other work "It's Still in my Head." The latter is a modest little piece in comparison to its totemic brethren, but it grows marvelous on close inspection. Writhing and tangling discreetly inside the clear glass bust is a used typewriter ribbon, imprinted with vestiges of the poetry that is the artist's other expressive discipline.

Mary Jane Parker is represented with a sampling of two bodies of work. A couple of small cast-crystal sculptures link her to the Inferno's glass-casting culture. Both of these pieces are the kind of work you just want to own. Beautiful, poignant, a little painful but carefully so, they prompt you to imagine fitting them into your house somewhere. But it is her paintings that fit best in your subconscious. From the "Constellation" series (coming soon to 1708 Gallery), Parker presents four works. These are tormented images of headless women suspended in a night sky. Titled after the constellations that are configured over her subjects' gaunt, naked bodies, the paintings begin to exhume dark superstitions of scientific inquiry. They reveal poses borrowed from a late 19th-century French study on the sleep tendencies of women diagnosed as hysterical.

The psychological tension of the show is mitigated in part by Patrick Martin and Roberta Eisenberg, who add a bit of menacing wit and some jujube color. Both artists are aware of the comic possibilities of engaging the viewer's oral impulses. Martin has strung a line of opalescent glass pacifiers on the wall, about mouth high, just to see if you are still in the mood. Beside the pacifiers is a dicier piece featuring cast-crystal padlocks affixed to a rusted chain. It's such an effective merging of opposite materials and reversing of metaphors: The sugary glass effectively makes the rusted chain seem warm and trustworthy by comparison.

Eisenberg's little cast animal faces peer out of their strange realm behind the wall. They are cute, creepy and culturally ubiquitous, standing in for many associations. From the mahogany paneled trophy walls of the well-to-do, to the rear windows of redneck cars populated with a hundred fluffy creatures, they look the part of nature summarily subdued. Assuming the surnames and positions Eisenberg gives them through their titles, they are the cuddly spirit animals and/or the clueless faces of the exceedingly
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