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by N. F. Karlins
Jay Grimm in Chelsea is showing abstract works by five artists that really light up this small gallery.
Claire McConaughy's three Memory Flood pieces in sumo ink on stretched paper, at three feet in height, are physically imposing. More delicate that Pollock's skeins, her watery swirls and smears envelop the viewer in a beautiful, organic drama. Besides the three in the gallery, all in red and white, there's a squarish piece in purple and white tucked into the office that will start you thinking of irises.
Nancy Diamond has about 50 very small pieces arranged salon-style in a corner. Several female faces, a male contortionist and a poodle are among the more distinct images. More evocative are tiny black areas on one drawing that become bugs. For me, she wields her favorite pink tones to greatest effect when bits of human anatomy, flowers and landscapes begin to blur and merge into an Ur-stew.
Second-generation Abstract Expressionism is the jumping-off point for Melissa Meyer's watercolor Pendleton Series. Both of her large (40 x 26 in.) works here start with a grid of washes that is embellished with another, contrasting layer vigorously and sometimes more quietly applied.
Cheery circles and blobs in bright fizzy Pop Art colors provide the energy in Gary Petersen's acrylic-and-ink-on-paper abstractions.
Landscape is clearly the focus of three pieces, all called Eskers, by Carolanna Parlato. This artist has a gift for color and knows how to manipulate acrylic paint to conjure up something gorgeous, but also mysterious, organic and subterranean.
"Abstractions" is on view at Jay Grimm, 505 West 28th Street, Jan 20-Feb. 19, 2000.
Swisher is much more interesting when he lets go a little, as in his latest watercolors, done near his current home in Lancaster County, Pa. Silos, Big Yellow Sky makes you wonder what he'll do next.
"Charles Swisher: Recent Paintings" is at the Bowery Gallery, 121 Wooster Street, through Feb. 23, 2000.
His new Minimalist "Missoula Drawings" use only graphite and gum arabic for the most part. Agnes Martin's use of graphite may come to mind initially, but her cosmic space is really not what this poetic artist is about. The works' small scale (squares from 5½ to 16 in.) undercuts that, and the confidant, deeply centered drawing has an engaging intimacy that leads the eye into them. It is a pleasure to explore his mark-making in Envelop, from five ingredients of a cow, for example. The title itself is a found poem!
Mills shows that he understands texture, the thing-ness of the real world, by using oil or gum arabic to create abstract puckered patterns in silk paper. It's a trait seen in work by Robert Ryman as well, though Mills makes line play a bigger or equal role. A few of the "Missoula Drawings" feel a tad too Minimal, but I left looking forward to seeing more work soon, perhaps with a greater use of texture and tonal variation next time.
"Wes Mills: Missoula Drawings," at Joseph Helman, 20 West 57th Street, through Feb. 26, 2000.
Eisenstein adored satiric graphics of all kinds, from the comics to Daumier and Goya. An early ink drawing from 1916 on a very long thin strip of paper shows about 150 people waiting in a line to buy food items made scarce by World War I.
Later works take on well-known myths and combine them with others. Synthesis: Eve, Europa, Jesus, Torero, dated May 12, 1931, has a nude woman crucified over a bull that is also crucified on a cross. His erotic imagination seems to have been permanently on overdrive.
Some of Eisenstein's sketches relate to his films, but many more explore philosophical musings, make observations or skewer the pompous. His Unemployed Circus Workers is especially poignant given his life-long delight in the Big Top.
His line can be as pure and ethereal as Rodin in one work and seem Surrealist in the next. Eisenstein drew wherever he happened to be and never seemed to be at a loss for subjects. The drawings have as much energy as the man, who once wrote "Drawing and dancing are branches of the same tree…"
"The Body of the Line: Eisenstein's Drawings" is at the Drawing Center, 35 Wooster Street, through March 18, 2000.
Veteran art dealer Joan T. Washburn's latest triumph is "Jackson Pollock: The Colored Paper Drawings," a show that manages to offer a new take on Pollock just when everything about this artist seemed to have been said. These torn and cut monochrome sheets are loaded with nudes, animals real and imagined, hands and claws, eyes, squiggles, patterns and calligraphic signs, done in black ink and sometimes gouache as well. Pollock let himself loose in these works, which date from the five years on either side of his drip paintings (1947-50).
The earlier ones teem with figures, while the later are more abstract and more colorful. The later works are more often horizontally elongated rectangles, too. Was Pollock trying to abandon the figures that haunt the drip paintings and attempting to turn to landscape? Is the increase in calligraphic markings in the later drawings an indication of this? See what you think.
Pollock's drawings are on view through Feb. 26 at Washburn, 20 West 57th Street.
Du Bois's characteristic rounded, stylized figures of the fur-draped and tuxedo-clad rich can be glimpsed here, too, of course. One gem is the lush, highly finished watercolor portrait in his trademark manner of E. Barnard Lintott (1933), shown in a jaunty bow tie and seated in a lounge chair smoking a cigar. A straightforward pencil study of Lytton Strachey's head (1932) is a less unexpected treat.
"Guy Pène du Bois: Drawings" is at James Graham & Sons, 1014 Madison Avenue, through Mar. 4.
"On Paper," through Feb. 19 at Marlborough, 40 West 57th Street.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is currently spotlighting "Northern Renaissance Drawings and Illuminations from the Robert Lehman Collection." These 15th- and 16th- century pieces are the second rotation of works from the Lehman Collection in celebration of the collection's eponymous catalogue.
Four sheets by Albrecht Dürer anchor the exhibition, which contains a few loans from the Met's Medieval department. Dürer's youthful, questioning and powerful self-portrait dominates the sheet that it shares with a sketch of a lowly pillow. The pillow, however, along with drawings of six additional pillows on the other side of the sheet, testify to a long and exacting devotion to recording the real world.
In addition to admiring pieces by Schongauer, Baldung Grien and van Heemskerck, the Met show also presents an opportunity to study several outstanding pieces by anonymous artists. The glorious pageantry and gore associated with a Bear Hunt (ca. 1470-90) is impressively rendered in a sprawling drawing that may be a copy of a tapestry, perhaps changed for a new commission. Whatever its original purpose, it's magnificent.
Another earlier anonymous piece, St. Michael Presenting a Donor to Christ as Salvator Mundi (ca.1400-50), is an utterly absorbing conglomeration of patterns and solid colors in a complex composition crowned by an architectural passage with towers. And there other equally interesting anonymous drawings and illuminations.
"Northern Renaissance Drawings" is on view at the Metropolitan Museum through May 21, 2000.
Another cause for celebration is the Morgan's brand new Rembrandt. Although Dutch, this splendid new addition is on view now, installed in its own case in the entryway. Rembrandt's The Bulwark 'De Rose' and the Windmill 'De Smeerpot:' A View Near the Rampoortje, Amsterdam (ca.1650) is in brown ink and wash. Purchased for $3,742,500 at Christie's last Old Masters sale by "an anonymous friend," obviously a very good friend, the Morgan is showcasing it now, even before its upcoming show of Dutch drawings.
"From Bruegel to Rubens" is on view through Apr. 30 at the Morgan Library, 29 East 36th Street.