Friends of New Orleans artist George Dureau have organized a benefit auction to help defray costs of nursing and medical care for the 82-year-old French Quarter icon. Dureau, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, is confined to a nursing home. Dureau’s personal effects will go on the block at Crescent City Auction Gallery, 1330 St. Charles Ave. The July 13 auction begins at 1 p.m. and features both the studio props that appeared in Dureau’s acclaimed photographs, and a host of domestic objects. Highlights include a 19th century walnut bed; a pair of modernist chairs by Bertoia, and a cypress refectory table that Dureau, a grand entertainer, once used for dinner parties.
You enter the George Dureau exhibition expecting the celebrated interpreter of the human form, an artist who in his paintings, drawings and photography transforms the figure, even when physically compromised, into a thing of exalted beauty. You leave with that impression confirmed, but with another: an impression of timeless technical ingenuity that transcends mere talent, and, more important, a genuinely moving density of meaning.
Of all the artists this city has produced, there are probably none more representative of its iconic mix of flamboyant elegance and earthy eccentricity than George Dureau. Now 82, the painter and photographer was a French Quarter fixture for decades until his recent move to an assisted living facility. Despite his dexterously deft brushwork, most of his international reputation is based on a photographic oeuvre in which all aspects of formal technique are harnessed to his genius for conveying a striking humanistic presence. In this, he profoundly influenced one of his early studio assistants, a young man named Robert Mapplethorpe, who went on to become a New York art star. But Mapplethorpe could not match his mentor’s depth, as even that city’s art critics have noted in recent years. The work seen here is a classic Dureau sampler, and while it is easy to understand the popularity of his flamboyant paintings and drawings, it is his photographs that, while not for the faint of heart, will ensure his place in art history.
New Orleans area art fans flocked in to the Arthur Roger Gallery for the opening this weekend of “Southern Gothic: An Insider’s View by Willie Birch and Paintings, Drawings” and an exhibit of paintings, drawings and photographs by George Dureau.