Long a local favorite for his diffusely atmospheric vistas of leafy old New Orleans neighborhoods, Phil Sandusky has taken us along a road less traveled of late — 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 on Claiborne Avenue, which appears as a bucolic vista recalling the early days of industrialization in the South.
While most of his pre-Katrina work 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 Hillery, 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 (pictured) 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. Sandusky reveals his flair as a poet of the city's ambient phenomena many take for granted.
Sylistic evolution appears as well in George Dunbar's collages at Heriard-Cimino. Less lush but more playful than what we ordinarily expect from New Orleans' 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, in his eighties, is still growing and going strong. — D. Eric Bookhardt
Plein Air Portraits of New Orleans: New Work by Phil Sandusky
Cole Pratt Gallery, 3800 Magazine St., 891-6789; www.coleprattgallery.com
New Work by George Dunbar
Through Dec. 2
Heriard-Cimino Gallery, 440 Julia St., 525-7300; www.heriardcimino.com