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    Drawing Notebook
by N. F. Karlins
 
     
 
Claire McConaughy
Memory Flood
1999
at Jay Grimm
 
Carolanna Parlato
Eskers I
at Grimm
 
Charles Swisher
Silos, Yellow Sky
1999
at Bowery Gallery
 
Wes Mills
Memory line
1999
at Joseph Helman Gallery
 
Wes Mills
Envelop, From five ingredients of a cow
1999
at Joseph Helman Gallery
 
Sergei Eisenstein
Synthesis: Eve, Europa, Jesus, Terero
1931
at the Drawing Center
 
Sergei Eisenstein
The Arrival of the Notary - Pierrot's Million
1917
 
Jackson Pollock
Untitled (CR682)
ca. 1943
at Washburn
 
Guy Pene du Bois (1884-1958)
Untitled (Trees and flowers with woman's leg on left
at Graham
 
Emil Nolde
Sudseefrau
1914
at Marlborough
 
Frank Stella
Untitled
1958
at Marlborough
 
Albrecht Dürer
Self-Portrait at Age Twenty-Two
1493
at the Metropolitan Museum
 
Rembrandt
The Bulwark 'De Rose' and the Windmill 'De Smeerpot:' A View Near the Rampoortje, Amsterdam
ca. 1650
at the Morgan Library
 
What's new?
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.
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Charles Swisher's show of "Recent Paintings" at the Bowery Gallery shows an artist stretching into new territory. His oils and acrylics of urban rooftops, executed at his former home in Queens, are well made with just the right touches of impasto. They have a well-developed color sense but lack excitement. The best one has two high-rise towers suddenly shooting up in the center, which does show a sense of humor.

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.
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I missed the first show of Wes Mills at Joseph Helman in 1998, but I'm glad to have caught his second appearance there. This young artist has a refined style and uses line in an idiosyncratic and winning way.

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.
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The great Russian filmmaker Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein (1898-1948) is hardly unknown, with masterpieces like The Battleship Potemkin to his credit. His drawings, though, are big news. Approximately 100 of them, out of 5,000 extant, are on exhibition at the Drawing Center in SoHo in their first museum showing in this country. "The Body of the Line: Eisenstein's Drawings" presents work from 1914 to 1948.

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.

Modern masters
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.
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James Graham & Sons is presenting the first show in recent memory devoted to drawings by Guy Pène du Bois (1882-1958), the Brooklyn-born American scene painter celebrated for gently satiric portrayals of the upper class. Ranging from 1904 to the 1940s, many of the earliest of the 75 drawings are his journeyman sketches of Paris and his family. They are more realistic than works in his later, mature style from the '20s on. It's particularly interesting to see this talented artist exploring subjects (including landscapes) not usually associated with his work.

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.
*   *   *
Pleasure. Pure pleasure. It's the only way to describe "On Paper: Selected Drawings of the 19th and 20th Centuries," the huge museum-quality exhibition of modern master drawings at Marlborough. With more than 130 pieces, ranging from Géricault and Delacroix to Auerbach and Botero, there is something for every taste with plenty of surprises for good measure. The seven watercolors by Emil Nolde alone are enough to merit a visit.

"On Paper," through Feb. 19 at Marlborough, 40 West 57th Street.

Old Masters
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.
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The Morgan Library's "From Bruegel to Rubens: Netherlandish and Flemish Drawings," shows works from the 15th to 17th centuries drawn from its own collection. This is the first chance in more than a dozen years to see these treasures. The show places special emphasis on works by Peter Paul Rubens, like his pair of trumpeting angels, and also features multiple sheets from Anthony van Dyck, Jacob Jordaens, Hendrick Goltzius and Jacques de Gheyn II, among others.

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.


N.F. KARLINS writes Artnet.com's regular column on drawings.