In the art world, some people wonder if this is the worst or the best of times. Neither of the leading art 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 New Orleans 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 are so precise they look digital; only up close is it clear they're cobbled from product labels. 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 (pictured) exemplifies his transcendent remake of mugshots 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 more muted turn in Casey Ruble's small-scale compositions of street scenes that initially can look almost bland, as if the collage maestro, Matisse, had entered the realm of Nancy and Sluggo. Even her necessarily more baroque New Orleans vistas can seem almost prosaic, but look again, for there is a deft precision and an 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