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Transforming the Page: Line, Washes, and Smudges

October 27, 2004 - January 2, 2005


This exhibition, the second in the newly initiated "Drawings by Academicians" series, is curated by William Bailey, a member of the National Academy. Bailey, himself an acclaimed draftsman, selected 33 works that explore "the transformation of a flat and inert surface into a spatial world created by lines, marks, washes or smudges." Among the eleven artists included are Lois Dodd, Philip Pearlstein, Jake Berthot and Paul Resika. Each artist brings his or her unique vision of what constitutes drawing, utilizing graphite, sepia chalk, charcoal, and ink wash.

Philip Pearlstein's drawings depict his trademark cropped figures, used not as portraits, but rather as objects to create complex compositions with unconventional perspective. In "Models with Two Mirrors and Fish" a male and female figure are shown. While the female is depicted with her back turned to the viewer, we see upon closer inspection that her front is reflected in two mirrors, perhaps a nod to Velasquez' "Las Meninas." Also included are objects presumably from the artist's studio. A large fish hangs over the scene and a curious statue of a little man is seen at the left. The composition creates strange juxtapositions and showcases Pearlstein's meticulous handling of the graphite.

Lois Dodd's drawings are much less complex and more gestural in nature. Her focus is lines, marks, and contour, rather than composition. In "Two Standing Nudes, Back to Back" we see two women -- one from the front, one from the back, creating the effect of viewing one complete figure. The work has the feel of a quick sketch, with cross hatching used to indicate shadows, and the anatomy hinted at, rather than carefully rendered. (right: Lois Dodd, Two Standing Nudes, Back to Back)

James McGarrell beautifully manipulates ink wash, creating luminous, shadowy figures. His drawings in this exhibition were created as illustrations for "Marmalade," a book of poetry by Bill Benton, with each work capturing the mood of the words it accompanies.

Transforming the Page: Line, Washes, and Smudges presents a cross-section of established artists' interpretations of the most basic of all visual marks. Curator William Bailey notes, "Although the motives, instrumentation, and personal styles are varied, all of these artists achieve that transformation which is at the heart of the art of drawing as I see it."

The exhibition runs from October 27, 2004 through January 2, 2005.


Following is interpretive text by the curator:


Transforming the Page: Lines, Washes, and Smudges

In today's art world almost any work on paper might be called a drawing, however I doubt that any of the artists in this exhibition would settle for that definition. The eleven artists I have chosen, despite differences in subject, style, intention, and medium, share a fundamental commitment to the transformation of a flat, inert surface into a spatial field of planes, volumes, light, movement, and air. The lines, marks, and tones used to do this offer their own aesthetic and expressive character; the pressure, speed, and direction of a line can be as important as its placement. This spatial field is not merely a technical or formal element. It is at the heart of an artist's ability to imagine and inhabit the confines of the page as it is manipulated and articulated to form an image.

Paul Resika's fluid, dancing line traps the volumes of his nudes while Charles Cajori's delicate but incisive lines pull the entire page into a planar give and take between shapes. Ruth Miller's tones and lines seek an organic harmony between tree limbs and the air around them. Jake Berthot works with trees as well but in his drawings the tension between conceptual and natural seems more abstract. Nicholas Carone's red chalk drawings activate the entire field as the contours of his figures open and close creating a world in flux. Philip Pearlstein describes the complex relationship of figures and objects with deliberate constructive articulation; slowly paced and aimed at the overall composition. For Philip Grausman the page seems a transparent and infinite space from which light caressing pencil lines lure female curves into solid forms. Joseph Santore finds rhythm and geometry as he explores jumbled groups of objects with explosive intensity. James McGarrell transforms each page with washes of blue creating a dreamlike luminosity. Lois Dodd's backyard nudes are drawn with great economy and in a plain, clear style. Leon Goldin's charcoal drawings are concise and abstract. Their poetry resides in the tension between the physicality of his surface marks and their spatial function.

Ingres, the great French artist, spoke of drawing as the probity of art. It is clear to me, looking at these pieces, that drawing is central to these artists' work.

William Bailey

(June 30, 2004)

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