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    Drawing Notebook
by N. F. Karlins
 
     
 
Dorothea Rockburne
Open Sesame: Sky Chart
1991-99
at Lawrence Rubin Greenberg Van Doren
 
Dorothea Rockburne
Piero's Sky
1991-94
at Lawrence Rubin Greenberg Van Doren
 
Dorothea Rockburne
Pegasus
1993-95
at Lawrence Rubin Greenberg Van Doren
 
Carole Seborovski
Oscillating Circles and Holes
2000
at Mitchell-Innes and Nash
 
Alan Turner
Puppet
1993
at Lennon, Weinberg, Inc.
 
Alan Turner
Green Rose
1997
at Lennon, Weinberg, Inc.
 
James Castle
Untitled (interior with friends)
at the Drawing Center
 
James Castle
Untitled (doorknobs)
at the Drawing Center
 
John Descarfino
Bikini Island Diary
1999
at Lucas Schoorman's
 
Ellen Phelan
Amaryllis
1999
at Senior & Shopmaker
 
Esteban Vicente
Untitled
1962
at Berry-Hill
 
Henry Lamb
The Artist's Daughters with a Cat
ca. 1939-40
at Davis & Langdale
 
Henry Lamb
Two Girls on a Sofa
ca. 1936
at Davis & Langdale
 
Max Liebermann
Bathing Boys
ca. 1894
at Shepherd & Derom
 
Felicien Rops
The Legend of the Sexes
at Shepherd & Derom
 
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.

*      *      *
As sophisticated and elegant as a little black cocktail outfit spangled with diamonds. That's one way to describe the abstract drawings in "Carole Seborovski: Recent Works," on view last month at at Mitchell-Innes & Nash on Madison Avenue.

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: Drawings 1991-1999 and Recent Paintings," on view through Apr. 8 at Lennon, Weinberg in SoHo, features drawings of representational fragments that conjure up psychological states without declaring exactly what's going on. Some are mysterious and make you stop and ponder them, while others have a frisson about them, like his Puppet ($1,800) in graphite and photocopy on vellum, that hits you right between the eyes. Other drawings are based on pressing parts of the body directly onto the paper. His Green Rose ($2,500) from 1997 combines a female torso with a close-eyed male head. Does her body incorporate him in some way? Is he dreaming of her? Whatever's happening, it's a haunting image. Large monochrome paintings ($8,000-$12,000) round out the show.

Alan Turner, Mar. 10-Apr. 8, at Lennon, Weinburg, 560 Broadway, #308, New York, N.Y. 10012.

*      *      *
Also downtown in the Drawing Center's Drawing Room is a loan show of small works by the self-taught artist James Castle (1900-1977) that includes some pieces from his main dealer, J. Christ of Boise. "James Castle: House Drawings," curated by Jay Tobler, contains a selection of interiors, exteriors of buildings and still-lifes made of soot and spit on found paper. Castle was born deaf in rural Idaho and, after a failed attempt at learning to sign at a special school, remained mute the rest of his life. His sympathetic parents realized that he communicated through his drawings, which they encouraged. The works provide a glimpse into the artist's life and surrounds.

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.

*      *      *
Lucas Schoormans in Manhattan's Chelsea art district is presenting "John Descarfino: Recent Paintings and Works on Paper," the artist's second solo outing. The representational paintings are thinly painted oils of interiors -- classroom, library, motel room, Turkish bath -- with edges that bleed. The colors are muted greens, pinks and neutrals ($2,000-$4,700).

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.

*      *      *
"Ellen Phelan: Still Lives" inaugurates Senior & Shopmaker's new space on Madison Square Park, an area rapidly being tacked onto Chelsea. Phelan, who many will remember for her fan-shaped abstract constructions, has since shifted to representational oils and drawings. Whether painting landscapes, dolls (perhaps her best-known theme), or the current flowers, Phelan's subjects hover in a hazy unreal world, rife with nostalgia.

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.

*      *      *
"Vintage Vincente: Works on Paper from the 1950s and 1960s," now at Berry-Hill on the Upper East Side, celebrates the last surviving member of the New York School, now 97 years old. Esteban Vincente's drawings and collages from this crucial period show the give-and-take that was common between members of this important group.

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.

*      *      *
For lovers of the Bloomsbury Group, Davis & Langdale has two new shows. One is a selection of drawings, oils and ceramics by members of this closely knit community of English artists. The other is "Henry Lamb: Works on Paper," the first showing in this country of works by the artist (1883-1960).

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.

*      *      *
Shepherd and Derom Galleries can always be counted on for an amusing selection of "Works on Paper: 19th & 20th Centuries." Focusing on European works from 1750 to around 1930, the current potpourri sneaks in a John Singer Sargent nude study for his Boston murals, while showing a number of interesting 19th-century German pieces, like Max Liebermann's large watercolor of Bathing Boys from 1894.

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.


N.F. KARLINS is a New York writer and art historian.

 
 
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