An Anglo-American artwork for the tricentennial of one of the world’s favourite cities.

After much sweat and a few tears, the job is done. On February 14 2018 Robin’s biggest undertaking to date, a history of New Orleans in pictures, was completed, and the following day the artwork was captured by the British Library’s digitisation team. Now the artwork will be shipped to the Historic New Orleans Collection (HNOC) in the city’s French Quarter, ahead of their tricentennial Art of The City: Post Modern to Post Katrina exhibition.

New Orleans: Between Heaven and Hell is a joint effort between Robin (the artist) and his brother Simon (creator of the accompanying interactive guide) in collaboration with the HNOC. Gallery visitors will see a panorama of the city as it is today, before going closer to explore the underpinning parade of visual vignettes depicting 170-plus episodes and themes from the New Orleans story. Each vignette is explained in the interactive, where visitors can digest microhistories prepared by British writer Catherine Woodhall. From there, visitors can go deeper, linking into documents and photographs in the vaults of the HNOC in a multi sensory journey curated by visual historian Sarah Borealis in collaboration with archivist Bobby Ticknor.

This educational project has taken more than two years to come to fruition and (needless to say) it involved considerable research. New Orleans visual historian Sarah Borealis spent time in England, working closely with Robin to develop a comprehensive timeline of events, from the arrival of the early European settlers up to the present.

The work goes on show in a preview exhibition in May, and will be part of the Art of the City show when work on the Seignoret-Brulatour House, a famous French Quarter residence currently being adapted as a permanent HNOC gallery, is completed later in the year.

We are indebted to Priscilla Lawrence and Daniel Hammer (HNOC director and deputy director respectively) for the faith they placed in us, and also to Jan Gilbert, curator of the exhibition, for her wise and creative input. We must also thank the research staff – and Bobby Ticknor in particular – for their help and guidance.

Also worthy of note: Creative carpenters Graham Kemp and Rob Shanks (without whose special drawing table the project would not have been possible); David Ankers, of Radio WWOZ New Orleans; Steve Sweet (HNOC internet and interactive development); New Orleans photographer Ryan Hodgson-Rigsbee; New Orleans historian Mikki Pfeffer; Randy Sparks of Tulane University; Daniel Usner at Vanderbilt University, Nashville; Tom Harper at the British Library; Rachel Lyons, archivist for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation; David Williams and Charlie Vodanovich of the Seymore D’Fair Foundation; and independent British film-makers Daniel Bone and Christine Smallwood.

See Press Release

Simon Reynolds

Photo: Cuauhtemoc Garcia

Sarah Borealis

Cathy Woodhall