Sunday, February 28, 2010

Deckbar at Bienvenu, Carlson at d.o.c.s.

Adrian Deckbar’s new WATER’S EDGE series of acrylic and pastel paintings at Bienvenu is all about water in general and the Honey Island Swamp in particular. We know water is tricky stuff, sustaining life most of the time, but furiously threatening everything when riled. The sunny, picturesque façades of her swamp scenes conceal the implacable cycle of creative destruction that lies just beneath the surface. At first, they seem to be as much about the light that dances over the shimmering forests, duckweed and moss of these amphibious landscapes. In the title piece, WATER’S EDGE, pictured, the glow is as mystical as a Maxfield Parrish landscape, but in others the tall cypresses, dense thickets and gnarly roots exude an earthier energy associated with things ancient, or even chthonic. Because she has long valued craft and decorousness in every aspect of her paintings, they could suggest a peaceable kingdom where all creatures exist in a state of static harmony. Louisianians know better. Nature is a delicate balance of beauty and danger, and Deckbar, a New Orleans native, subtly hints at that possibility in work that is contemplative on the surface even as it is fraught with obliquely implicit intrigue.

Thor Carlson, a local sculptor originally from Minnesota, is fascinated by nature as expressed in “the heartbreak of the American farm, and the alluring mystery of the sea.” But mostly his stuff suggests apocryphal 19th century relics, industrial designs that never found a following. His craftsmanship is as precise as his sculpture is enigmatic. DEEP SILENCE suggests a miniature iron submarine rather like a Lilliputian version of the Confederate submarine that once stood outside the Presbytere at Jackson Square. Others feature mysterious fittings, chains, pulleys, smokestacks and tapered beams made from exotic woods that seem to curl back upon themselves like giant question marks. Not quite Steampunk, they suggest a lost Galapagos of invention, a vein of industrial design where form followed folly, not function.

Adrian Deckbar: WATER'S EDGE
Through March 28
Gallery Bienvenu, 518 Julia street, 525-0518;
Thor Carlson: ISOLATION
Through March 4
d.o.c.s Gallery, 709 Camp St. 524-3936,