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by N. F. Karlins
|Since the 1970s, Dorothea Rockburne has been widely celebrated in the art world for elegant, process-oriented works that often include folding the paper or canvas. More recently she has turned her attention skyward, as is amply shown in "Dorothea Rockburne: Ten Years of Astronomy Drawings, 1990-2000" (which just closed at Lawrence Rubin Greenberg Van Doren Fine Art on Fifth Avenue).
During the last decade, Rockburne has lived in Italy, beginning as an artist-in-residence at the American Academy in Rome in 1991. There she became enamored with the skies and their depiction in Renaissance art.
In Open Sesame: Sky Chart (1991-1999), she combines photographs of an 18th-century frescoed room that charted the supposed elliptical orbits of planets around the sun with her drawings in colored pencil on handmade paper. A panel of a Piero Della Francesca polyptych inspired her Piero's Sky (1991-4) ($17,500) with its rich tones and stuttering light in Aquacryl and colored pencil.
Rockburne's own astronomical investigations led her to muse about how her multiple universes might look. As a result of her own observations of the night sky, for instance, she put a sun in her interpretation of the constellation Pegasus (1993-5) ($48,000), a dynamic work on gessoed panel. A star was later confirmed in that constellation, exactly as she had predicted.
In the '90s, Rockburne took on no less than seven fresco projects dealing with the cosmos. Her Northern Sky and Southern Sky (1992) in Sony's Madison Avenue headquarters in New York are marked by pulsating hot colors, predominantly red-pinks and yellow, with thin looping trajectories in primary colors. This 30-foot square fresco secco duo, well worth a visit, can be glimpsed from a short distance by visiting the Sony building and taking an elevator to, of course, the Sky Lobby.
Dorothea Rockburne, "Ten Years of Astronomy Drawings, 1990-2000," Mar. 1-Apr. 1, at Lawrence Rubin Greenberg Van Doren Fine Art, 730 Fifth Ave., New York, N.Y. 10019.
Primarily done in black, gray and off-white, the surfaces of these pieces are exciting and lush, whether crinkled, creased, punctured or layered. One example of their deep, luxurious finish is Undulating/Nature Forms ($7,000), a work that shimmers and leaves your eyes dancing.
Hand-crafted by folding, frottage, cutting and collage, these lively drawings have been made mostly with traditional media like graphite, acrylic, pastel and paper collage -- yet they are radiantly fresh.
The tearing and delicate cutting of various layers, some with iridescent paper underneath, is reminiscent of folk-art cut-papers, while Seborovski's use of applied pieces call to mind textile appliques and 20th-century collage. The use of neutrals and varied textures also brings to mind Art Deco works, and her Oscillating Circles and Holes ($7,500) seems Klimt-like in its patterning. Still, Seborovski has turned out stunning works that are uniquely hers.
Carole Seborovski, Feb. 24- Apr. 1, at Mitchell-Innes & Nash, 1018 Madison Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10021.
Alan Turner, Mar. 10-Apr. 8, at Lennon, Weinburg, 560 Broadway, #308, New York, N.Y. 10012.
The most interesting works in the show are interiors that include Castle's make-believe "friends," whose portraits he displayed in his room. Others allow us see familiar objects in new ways, like his Untitled (Doorknobs). Even more interesting than the drawings are the sewn paper constructions. Castle also made fascinating small books of his drawings, although none have been included in this exhibition.
This is a modest sampling of Castle's works; some here seem more remarkable because of the artist's background than because of their inherent esthetic qualities. It is, however, an exhibition that will leave newcomers to James Castle's drawings craving to see more.
James Castle, "House Drawings," Mar. 4-May 4, at the Drawing Center, 35 Wooster, New York, N.Y. 10013.
Far more imaginative is the sprawling multipartite drawing Bikini Island Diary ($18,000). Descarfino takes a mental trip to a contaminated atoll and dreams up mayhem and disaster on the beach. The set-up allows him to throw in whatever strikes his fancy. The result -- small drawings in a range of palettes of objects, people, landscapes and scenes. His riffs on the theme of masks, for example, include a surgeon, a firefighter and bandit, all in appropriate facial coverings. Some still-lives, like a pair of swim goggles, are playfully cutout and attached to the wall, like repeating leitmotifs amid the rectangular sheets. It's a bravura performance that's a lot more fun than being there.
John Descarfino, "Recent Paintings and Works on Paper," Feb. 24-Apr. 8, at Lucas Schoormans, 508 West 26th St., #11B, New York, N.Y. 10001.
The oils ($28,000-$35,000) and watercolor and gouache pieces ($9,000-$15,000) in this show are wrapped in veils of color that make them partially present and partially absent. Within a single work, Phelan manages to suggest the passage of time, the constant change that inevitably dooms the fragile beauty of her subjects.
Ellen Phelan, Feb. 18-Apr. 1, at Senior & Shopmaker, 21 East 26th Street, New York, N.Y. 10010.
Perhaps it's because of his early training as a sculptor that his compositions, with their areas of black and white with occasional bright patches of red or other colors, always seem extremely weighty. Even when using only charcoal and ink, Vincente looks like he is employing collage. Areas of black or color assert themselves and seem anchored forever. Prices top out at $42,500 for a large collage.
"Vintage Vicente," Mar. 9-Apr. 15, at Berry-Hill, 11 East 70th St., New York, N.Y. 10021.
Lamb was born in Australia, but brought up in Manchester where he studied medicine and became a doctor. He then studied art. Reticent to show his work, he was better known for the company he kept. Nothing new to the Bloomsbury set. He was involved with the Dorelia (Dorothy McNeill, who lived with Augustus John), who appears in several of these works. That is, until he was married to Lady Pansy Pekenham in 1907, who also appears with and without their three children in these drawings. He is best remembered for an oil portrait of Lytton Strachey on loan to London's National Portrait Gallery.
Lamb is an excellent portraitist and very sympathetic in his depiction of children. In one pencil drawing of the pubescent Vivien John (second daughter of Dorelia McNeill and Augustus John) from the 1920s, he captures an odd combination of openness and skepticism that a lesser artist might miss.
Knowing his subjects well was an obvious advantage. That Lamb could rarely bring himself to exhibit his work was not. His range is narrow, but appealing and, finally, visible here. His drawings are priced at a modest $1,400-$2,700.
Works by Henry Lamb (to Apr. 15) and the Bloomsbury group (to June 9) are on view at Davis & Langdale Co., 231 East 60th Street, New York, N.Y. 10022.
My own favorites are a brooding Self-Portrait by the Jewish Hungarian artist Ilka Gedö and one of Belgian-born Félicien Rops's sexual fantasies, The Legend of the Sexes ($3,800). With its butterfly-winged penis, the drawing is typical of the whimsy created out of this roué-artist's own sexual angst. Only the Japanese could match Rops for creative depictions of sexual couplings in the late 19th century. Some eagle-eyed curator should really take a look at his work. A show of his would not be right for the kiddies, but it would be certainly be a treat for adults.
"Works on Paper: 19th & 20th Centuries," Feb. 29-Apr. 22, at Shepherd & Derom Galleries, 58 East 79th Street, New York, N.Y. 10021.