Catalogue for the NOMA
1 Collins Diboll Cir,
New Orleans, LA
Texts— Miranda Lash, Alex Rawls
THE PRELIVES OF THE BLUES
11 x 11 inches
Edition of 500
Printed in Canada by Prolific Group
Typefaces—Mercury, Akzidenz Grotesk and Bernard MT
The protagonists in the exhibition Dario Robleto: The Prelives of the Blues are either still in the womb or cold in the ground. Inspired by his time spent in New Orleans, a city famous for its rich history and music, Dario Robleto was moved to ask questions relating to the extremes of human existence: how is musical taste formed in childhood or before birth, and what remnants from songs and their singers will exist a thousand years from now? Robleto was invited by the New Orleans Museum of Art to research New Orleans because his artistic track record seemed sympathetically aligned with ongoing themes in this city. For the past fifteen years Robleto had made thoughtful sculptures, actions, and works on paper, grounded in stories from American history, twentieth century music, and his personal experience. Describing himself as a "materialist poet," 1 he seeks out narratives that speak to our common sense of humanity and chooses materials that correspond to the poetic tenor of the work. These unconventional ingredients have included everything from ground vinyl records and human bones, to herbs, stretched audiotape, fossils, and wartime debris. A consummate fan of music, Robleto also delves into lyrics, beats, chords, and pop culture paraphernalia, parsing out the emotions of longing and rebellion that transcend boundaries of race, class, and geography.
While researching New Orleans, Robleto was impressed by the city's strong sense of tradition and its prevalent desire to pass practices down from generation to generation. Whether it be locally owned businesses, Carnival krewe dynasties, second line parades, or Mardi Gras Indian chants, family traditions are of great importance in this city. Many families remain together even after death, the combined bones of generations decaying in shared vaults in aboveground cemeteries. Resilience is another aspect of New Orleans that made a strong impression on Robleto. Having suffered through poverty, plagues, fires, occupations, hurricanes, floods, and terrible crime, the city has a long history of overcoming adversity. There is a tradition of grassroots solidarity and making-do in the absence of governmental support, a shining example being the continuance of neighborhood Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs. Perhaps what distinguishes the New Orleanian style of recovery is that creativity is an essential part of the coping process. Mardi Gras parades still rolled in 2006, even while many residents were rebuilding their homes. The emerging artist scene experienced a renaissance on Saint Claude Avenue after Hurricane Katrina, even though eighty-percent of the city went underwater. Watching a jazz funeral procession for the great bassist Walter Payton Jr. in November 2010, Robleto noted Payton's widow proudly leading the parade. Sashaying down Bourbon Street, she danced like crazy, handkerchief in the air, while tears rolled down her cheeks.