Artists in Search of Timeless Things
BY ROGER GREEN
Dureau is known primarily as a painter and photographer. Lately, however, he has been working on a monumental sculptural project: a set of metal gates, with allegorical figures, for the New Orleans Museum of Art. The ornamental gates, on which he is collaborating with sculptor Ersy, is one of the more ambitious percent-for-art projects coordinated by the Arts Council of New Orleans.
In his classical nudes at Arthur Roger — “monumental drawings” in oil wash and charcoal on unstretched canvas — Dureau evokes the volume and presence of figural sculpture while abandoning himself to the spontaneity of gestural drawing. His sweeping, directional brushstrokes accentuate the tactile bulges and hollows of his models’ bodies. At the same time, the broad, monochromatic strokes are charged with relatively raw, even urgent immediacy.
Viewers familiar with Dureau’s art will recognize his familiar pantheon of perfect body types and
muscular dwarfs. In his photographs, Dureau strives to capture glimmerings of the inner spirit that allows dwarfs and amputees to carry on in life, despite their physical handicaps.
His search for the heroic/generic in the specific is a classical project par excellence. Often, the absence of limbs makes his models metaphors for battered Greek or Roman statuary.
Dureau’s new drawings refer more specifically to — indeed, they often portray — classical sculpture. The standing figures in “to Those Who Share the Life” are atlantes: human-figure columns supporting an entablature. The thrusting body fragment in “to Those Who Excel in Javelin” is poised on a fluted pedestal.
In one or two drawings the exuberant brushwork goes slightly awry; “to Those Who Share the Life,” for example, includes a foreground figure whose twisted musculature seems somewhat amorphous. Yet Dureau describes other figures, in complex postures, believably and with assurance. The wrestling dwarfs in “to Those Who Sweetly Surrender” are intricately intertwined, yet convincing.
Overall, Dureau’s new “monumental drawings” balance control and looseness as dexterously as they balance aspects of the specific and generic, the real and the ideal.