Shotgun Reviews are an open forum where we invite the international art community to contribute timely, short-format responses (250–400 words) to an exhibition or event. If you are interested in submitting a Shotgun Review, please click this link for more information. In this Shotgun Review, Eva Morgenstein considers the artwork of New Orleans–based Dr. Bob.
Tucked away in the Bywater district of New Orleans, Dr. Bob’s Folk Art condenses the city’s attitude into colorful phrases and sculptures. His gallery (which also functions as a studio) occupies a small warehouse and the yard adjacent to it. Through a gate adorned with dolls’ heads and spinning wheels, the yard contains a trailer and multiple other oddities, like lined-up glass bottles and twenty identical pieces of wood.
The general feeling of friendly frankness that these objects produce continues into the building, with various works in progress blocking one’s way to the walls of finished work. Even if unintentional, their position garners appreciation for the process before a viewer can appreciate the finished product, which comes in handy: Dr. Bob’s most famous pieces are centered around the words “Be Nice or Leave,” and there are many of them. In different sizes and color combinations of paint, they have been mounted on wood with frames of bottle caps. They could be interpreted as grossly commercial, due to multiple pieces that are only slightly altered. But the emphasis on the method of production found in the half-done pieces draws one’s attention to the minute changes in style between works rather than their identical aspects.
Dr. Bob’s other pieces include bottle-cap alligators and paintings with the same frank character as his illustrated lingo. Together, they make up a vibrant collection of one artist’s work and aptly summarize the southern hospitality and practicality of both Bywater and New Orleans as a whole: a city whose citizens are welcoming and friendly but don’t tolerate the rudeness or complaint that permeates other large American cities. For good reason, Dr. Bob and his artwork have become embedded in the culture of their hometown.
Eva Morgenstein, who resides in San Francisco, is an EHSS Summer 2013 Intern for Art Practical. She will attend Smith College this fall.