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Holy Rollers and Bad Boys

TV preachers divide the world into saints and sinners, but most of us know there's a little bit of da nasty and da nice in human nature. Saturday Night/Sunday Morning at City Gallery East is an exhibition that ponders that moral culture clash.

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Saturday Night/Sunday Morning is more than happy to speak in absolutes and tends to uphold the Berlin Wall division between juke jointing and holy rolling.

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The greatest weakness of the show, beyond too much work (111 artists in all), is an over-reliance on conventional imagery to connote the barometrical extremes of jammin' and prayin'. Surely there are better ways to express devotion than Bob Gore's black-and-white photo of a beatific child captured like a porcelain dust catcher with his hands clasped in prayer?

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Also over-representing Precious Moments piety is that perennial photographic subject, the churchy hat lady who attests to a strain of proud divadom running through African-American culture. But at this point, she has become so overused an icon, she threatens to pass into cultural stereotype.

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The hat lady finds her Saturday night evil twin in the numerous unimaginative images of a performer wailing on the sax or shrieking out a ballad to convey some general atmosphere of "party down."

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A far better indication of the kind of gutter-crawling depravity that would send folks rushing tout de suite for the moral shelter of the pulpit is offered in work by Thomas Alan Harris and Don Perry. Used condoms, discarded clothes and cheap liquor bottles are strewn on the forest floor in their still life images of the kind of "good times" generally followed by assault charges and STDs.

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But some of the best work mixes up the sacred and the profane in unusual ways. A portrait of P. Diddy in his Jockey shorts laying in a gold lamé pool float looks like some blinged-out baby Jesus, and a wonderful evocation of the holy sacrament of male vanity can be found in Amanda Marsalis' photo of a playa having his pencil-thin mustache groomed to lady-killing perfection.



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