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3-month citywide arts exhibit opens Sunday in New Orleans


NEW ORLEANS — Collages by jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong, three versions of a work by Yoko Ono, a dream-like video about jazz trumpeter Buddy Bolden, a steam calliope that plays African-American protest music, and a chunk of wall bearing a restored mural by graffiti artist Banksy are among hundreds of works to be shown as part of or during a citywide exhibit called Prospect.4.

Prospect.4 opens to the public Sunday and ends Feb. 25. It's the fourth citywide Prospect New Orleans show, and includes photographs, sculptures, prints, videos and other work by 73 artists from around the world. The show commissioned new works by 32 of those artists.

Armstrong's collages have never been shown in New Orleans before the current display in the New Orleans Jazz Museum at the Old U.S. Mint, said Trevor Schoonmaker, artistic director for Prospect.4.

Armstrong covered reel-to-reel tape boxes with photographs, cartoons, art and words from magazines, newspapers and other sources. A collage also covered his home studio walls, Schoonmaker said.

"This wasn't a Sunday afternoon 'I'm going to make a little artwork.' It really was something that was part of his everyday life, which I think makes it all the more exciting," he said.

Work by nine other artists, including Mardi Gras Indian costumes by Darryl Montana, is in and outside the Old Mint, one of 17 Prospect.4 venues.

Ono's work — a "revisiting" of her 1960s text "Have you seen the horizon lately?" — shows a long line, the question, and "Yoko Ono, 2017." Schoonmaker said it's on a billboard, a mural on the side of the New Orleans Museum of Art, and a series of panels across every advertising slot on one side in a riverfront streetcar.

"It's kind of nice getting an artist's statement instead of just an advertisement," he said.

The video by John Akomfrah, a Briton born in Ghana, will be shown in one gallery of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. Three different screens run simultaneously, exploring Bolden's life and times "in a very poetic ... surreal way," Schoonmaker said. "It uses Bolden as this figure at the forefront at the founding of jazz and a catalyst and a way to explore the city of New Orleans itself as this amazing cultural crossroads that gave birth to jazz."

The calliope built by Kenneth Griffard for artist Kara Walker will stand in a "parade wagon" decorated with her signature silhouettes.

Schoonmaker said Walker wanted a calliope playing African-American protest music, from chants to jazz improvisation, to answer the Dixieland jazz she heard wafting from the steamboat Natchez.

The Banksy mural was to be unveiled late Saturday, with a showing of the movie "Saving Banksy" and a panel discussion among graffiti artists and restorer Elise Grenier, who worked on the mural,

It isn't part of the official Prospect showings. Rather, it's among more than 100 local projects timed with the exhibition. Many are publicized in the Prospect.4 map, guide and website as "P.S. Satellites ."

The mural is among 17 that Banksy painted on vacant New Orleans buildings in 2008. It shows two National Guardsmen — one of them sitting in a painted window — looting a television, with a boom box already in a shopping cart.

Developer Sean Cummings, who owned the warehouse where it was painted, said he tried unsuccessfully to protect it.

"We tried Plexiglas, we tried plywood, we put a reflective clear coating on top of it that's supposed to act like Teflon," but nothing worked, he said. By the time he removed a 10-foot square of the wall for restoration in 2014, he said, it was covered by nine layers of paint and paper.

"People tagged it and painted it and rolled over it and put election posters of president Obama and all kind of stuff on top of the mural," he said.

Those were documented in a blog which Grenier, the third restorer to work on the piece, said significantly helped her work.

Cummings plans to install the mural in the lobby of his International Hotel in December and keep it there for New Orleans' tricentennial in 2018.

Janet McConnaughey, The Associated Press

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