Suzanne Simone Baptiste Louverture, 2020
Creole Tête-à-tête, 2020.
The Baroness Micaela Almonester de Pontalba in the Hôtel de Pontalba, 2019
Tea and Light Refreshments at the Creole Habitation, 2020.
by Mayer Rus
Venus Over Manhattan has inaugurated its new gallery on New York City’s Upper East Side with an exhibition of new paintings by Andrew LaMar Hopkins. Curated by Alison Gingeras and entitled “Créolité,” the show features new portraits, miniatures, and architectural tableaux, all related to the complexity of Creole identities and the antebellum history of the Gulf States in the American South.
Hopkins paints lush depictions of quotidian life in 19th-century New Orleans, paying particular attention to the lives of people to whom his own personal history is linked. Born in Mobile, Alabama, in 1977, the artist traces his lineage to a major Creole family descended from Nicolas Baudin, a Frenchman who received a Louisiana land grant in 1710. Largely erased by the Civil War, and subsequently underrepresented in the official historical record of the South, the complex histories of Creole cultures along the Gulf Coast are Hopkins’s central subjects. Informed by rigorous research and personal experience, his paintings project a uniquely focused historical imagination.
“When I walk around the French Quarter of New Orleans, I’m inspired by looking at the beautiful architecture of a street scene with buildings from the early 19th century, and I let my imagination run: What would this block have looked like 200 years ago?” Hopkins explains.
Drawing upon his family’s history and his expertise as an antiquarian, Hopkins carefully researches the architecture, material culture, and daily life of Creole people circa 1830, in cities including New Orleans, Savannah, and Mobile. In numerous paintings on view in Créolité the distinctive elements of antebellum architecture create the compositional structure, even overshadowing Hopkins’s human subjects.
Rendering scenes in exquisite detail, the artist deconstructs and reimagines an idealized antebellum history of Southern port cities, often injecting overt references to queer culture. While the occasional Creole dandy or erotic male nude might appear anachronistic in Hopkins’s period depictions, they excavate the often-repressed histories of LGBTQ people in the antebellum South. Likewise, his queer characters echo Hopkins’s own biography and his parallel practice as a drag queen. Hopkins’s alter ego, Désirée Joséphine Duplantier, is a retro grande dame from New Orleans, and the subject of one of the artist’s most riveting portraits on view at Venus.
The show runs through November 6. venusovermanhattan.com