Sunday, April 7, 2013

Troy Dugas at The Arthur Roger Gallery; Casey Ruble at The Foundation Gallery

In the art world, some people wonder if this is the worst, or the best, of times. Neither of the leading art world capitals, New York and London, have produced any truly exciting new art or artists in ages, but the silver lining is that tedious trends like "postmodernism" no longer rule, and vital regional art scenes like Nola and Los Angeles have never been more highly regarded. This quiet revolution that transcends the prevailing "isms" is exemplified in Acadiana-based Troy Dugas' large cut paper collages. His well known mandala-like compositions like Jewel Pride, top, are so precise they look digital; only up close is it clear that they're cobbled from product labels. Here the wastes of consumer culture appear transformed as if by a gesture of aesthetic judo into something surprising and sublime. His new portrait series, loosely derived from art history and online police reports, also employs a similarly strategic use of product labels. Fayum Blue, left, exemplifies his transcendent remake of mug shots reconfigured from engraved French wine labels into something more akin to a shimmering Hindu deity. By transforming the waste products of mass production into unique objects of wonder, Dugas melds the dynamics of op art, pop culture and classical mosaics into an intriguing new gumbo of expanded visual consciousness.

Cut paper collage takes a muted turn in Casey Ruble's small compositions of street scenes that can look almost bland, as if the collage maestro, Matisse, had entered the realm of Nancy and Sluggo. Even her New Orleans vistas can look almost prosaic, but by all means look again, for there is a deft precision and almost Zen-like vision at work here. Like Walt Whitman or William Carlos Williams, Ruble poetically probes the mysteries of the familiar. Her ethereally minimal world may seem understated at first, but it is well worth a visit. ~D. Eric Bookhardt

The Shape of Relics: Work on Paper by Troy Dugas through April 20, Arthur Roger Gallery, 432 Julia St. 522-1999; The Offing: Works by Casey Ruble through April 20, The Foundation Gallery, 608 Julia St., 568-0955. (Above left: Magazine St.; Right: West End Boulevard, by Casey Ruble.