Harrell Fletcher, heavy metal kid, 1999

black ballpoint on white paper

 

MARKED: BAY AREA DRAWINGS, LEUBSDORF GALLERY, HUNTER COLLEGE, NEW YORK

Organized as a curatorial sampling rather than a comprehensive survey, “Marked” presents a lively, if rambling, selection of Bay Area artists. It stretches the concept of “drawing” to uncommon lengths (to mean almost any work incorporating paper), and extends to collage, installation, and even sculpture. Among the work that maintains clear ties to traditional drawing is Laurie Reid’s wall-sized (90 x 60 inches) “Nearly.” Created from heavily diluted watercolor on display paper, its striking presence is both elegant and unassuming, suggesting an updated Chinese scroll painting. The paper is allowed to fall naturally, unmounted and only push-pinned at the top, curling up slightly at the bottom edge. Pigment is employed in extremely faint, washy tones that outline the petal-like components of two large, composite shapes. Initial readings may tend toward filmy close-ups of chrysanthemum-like clusterings or gnarled bark. But ultimately, that sense of figure-versus-ground is disrupted through the relief-like effect of the wrinkled paper—where washes have penetrated and imprinted it. Once that perception dominates, the work presents a varied but continuous surface, just as ripples punctuate, but do not rupture, the surface of their water matrix. Another sensual Minimalist is Sheila Ghidini, who coats her feet with a variety of pigments and then literally dances across the paper. Although this approach is not an entirely new one, she handles it with considerable aplomb—generating images that are at once earthy and ethereal. “Tai Chi,” for instance, resonates affectingly with the immediacy of her movements, and encodes them within a rich residue of smudged and crusty charcoal. Cherith Rose employs a very different strategy, focusing on fragmented, present-day realities through a tightly orchestrated collaboration of drawn and collaged elements. She fashions assemblages where vignettes of divergent scenes merge in ways that are both jarring and oddly cohesive. Telescoped urban fragments insert themselves suddenly into other vistas, like juxtaposing a rear-view mirror’s panorama with the actual landscape around it. But perhaps the most powerful imagery here occurs in Barry McGee’s untitled installation. A collection of framed drawings along with a hand-painted liquor bottle, this work has the presence of family portraits on a shelf; all the images, however, depict the same dejected presence. This bleak and disillusioned figure recalls a variety of graphic icons from Depression-era political cartoons. But he is removed from the Classic contexts of his origin—shifted from Social Realist scenes of the dispossessed, to flat, mono-color grounds, resembling vintage signage, or else the abstract weightlessness of newsprint. Contemporized by his placement on half nostalgic, but noncommital, backdrops, he conveys a profound personal pathos, intensified by isolation in a “don’t worry, be happy” world.

Deborah Everett

Brooklyn, New York
2002

 

Rigo 01, lost duck/6-23-98 (found lost bird flyers), 1999

Xeroxed paper

 

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