“Review: Four shows at Arthur Roger Gallery,” Gambit

By D. Eric Bookhardt via bestofneworleans.com

Troy Dugas, "Pride of Samuel Adams," 2014, Product labels on paper, 60 x 60 inches

Troy Dugas, “Pride of Samuel Adams,” 2014, Product labels on paper, 60 x 60 inches

Words are everywhere. They seemed to be taking over the art world not so long ago, even replacing images in paintings as theory-crazed critics predicted the “end of art.” Instead, visual art has thrived as the last refuge of “the ineffable” — stuff that can’t be stated verbally. In this show, words are important but mostly play supporting roles in the works of four artists. For instance, Lesley Dill always used words in her sculptures based on antique ball gowns rendered in fabric or metal. Here her new sculptures sport lacy filigrees of letters that, combined with the spectral creatures who inhabit them, imbue their formal, Jane Austen-esque elegance with a spooky, near incantatory vibe.

In the work of Troy Dugas, words turn up unexpectedly in formal compositions that resemble mandalas or semi-abstract portraits. Close examination reveals they are comprised of shredded product labels obsessively arranged into formal patterns, so the mystical mandala, The Pride of Sam Adams (pictured), is actually cobbled from countless Sam Adams beer labels. Dugas’ portraits involve similar imagistic judo, transforming commercial byproducts into more epiphanous objects.

Elements of pop and mysticism are united in Dave Greber’s 7000-Day Candle series of video altar boxes glowing in a dark, grottolike chamber. Red/Passion is typical, a video altar box in which images of hearts and slot machine cherries surround a candle with the magic words “Lover” and “Power” pulsating behind it; it may only be a matter of time before they appear in local botanicas.

Words become emphatic in the work of Deborah Kass. Her sculptural “Y” and “O” letters are installed by a glass wall so they read either “YO” or “OY” depending on where you stand. Her canvases are no less buoyant, but it is a neon sculpture that really has the final say: Enough Already.