Sunday, November 22, 2009

Long a local favorite for his diffusely atmospheric vistas of leafy old New Orleans neighborhoods, Phil Sandusky has of late taken us along a road less traveled--at least, for him. In this city it is not surprising to see a plein air painter working at an easel in front of a French Quarter or Uptown landmark, but to find one daubing away across from a CBD Walgreen's or chain hotel is another matter. Yet this show encompasses all of the above, and there is even a canvas featuring the WATERWORKS, above, on Claiborne Ave., which appears as a bucolic vista recalling the early days of industrialization in the South. While his pre-Katrina work mostly rendered genteel Uptown byways in a gauzily impressionistic style that was often lovely if almost predictably sweet, his work right after the storm rendered its ravages with the unflinching candor of a social realist. Here his flair for wreckage appears in DEMOLITION ON HILLARY ST., a site of mechanized
destruction rendered as if by a modern day Monet. But other intrusions of modernity into otherwise timeless vistas appear in works like FIG AND CARROLLTON, a view of urban desolation redeemed by balmy pastel light. MUSTANG ON PEARL STREET, above right, contrasts the pop contours of a car with the ancient cottage behind it as impressionistic brushwork evokes the humidity on a balmy day when the sun-baked pavement transforms the air into a dense presence with a shape-shifting life of its own. Here Sandusky reveals his flair as a poet of this city’s ambient phenomena that most of us take for granted.

Stylistic evolution appears as well in George Dunbar’s collages at Heriard- Cimino. Less lush but more playful than what we ordinarily expect from Nola’s dean of decorous minimalism, these artfully repetitious forms recall the hypnotic sequencing in some of Philip Glass’s electronic music compositions and reveal a lightness of touch unexpected in this most rigorous of local artists who, at 80-something, is still growing and going strong. ~Eric Bookhardt
 PLEIN AIR PORTRAITS OF NEW ORLEANS: New Work by Phil Sandusky
Through November
Cole Pratt Gallery, 3800 Magazine St., 891-6789; www.coleprattgallery.com

 MULTIPLES: New Work by George Dunbar Heriard-Cimino Gallery
Through Dec. 2
Heriard-Cimino Gallery, 440 Julia St., 525-7300; www.heriardcimino.com

As seen in Gambit