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Back to Reviews 96

Mark Sheinkman

 Thirty Foot Drawing,

untitled, 5/4/95,



mark sheinkman

at morris healy

by Michael Brennan 
Mark Sheinkman has been showing his 

abstract drawings and paintings, 

experimenting with image, size, scale and 

format, for the past few years. In a 

previous show at Information Gallery, now 

closed, he presented a series of works that 

were marked by limpid gestural 

brushstrokes, painted and developed on 

black-and-white photographic paper that was 

folded over stretchers. This work 

successfully explored the gap between 

painting, drawing and photography. Although 

the images were selected and cropped, they 

maintained a feeling of randomness and 

infinity. Their style could be described as 

calligraphic, but my own feeling is that 

Sheinkman's drawing is a more rigorous 

synthesis of both Eastern and Western 

traditions. Sheinkman has traveled in Asia, 

and his work has been influenced by 

Pollock, among others, as well as by New 

York's own growing Orientalizing tradition 

in abstract painting. Sheinkman, in his 

characteristic manner, explores this 

versatile technique to its limit, in one 

case extending a single monumental image 

across the broad expanse of a billboard 

sign. However, one thing this early work 

lacked was a significant surface, something 

that bonded the image to its ground and 

made it less slippery.

At this point Sheinkman began to produce 

beautiful small drawings that were simply 

graphite on paper. Usually a dense, 

rectangular area of graphite was laid down 

and marks were made by incision or erasure. 

These works were toothy compared to the 

early paintings, but remained equally lush 

and atmospheric. Sheinkman can elicit such 

a wide variety of effects, not all of them 

elegant, from such seemingly austere means. 

All of his drawings have a wonderful hand-

made facture that seems to defy many of the 

mechanical overtones of Minimalism or 

photography, although his work still draws 

heavily from those resources. Sheinkman 

uses the most elementary material means in 

his pursuit of an image. It is his level of 

invention that is most surprising, creating 

a sense of the infinite with hairy lines, 

crustaceous lines or dazzling light effects 

with parallel lines, loopy lines, etc. No 

matter how wildly gestural his line 

becomes, a certain aloof equilibrium is 

maintained throughout the work. Sheinkman's 

routine disengagement with the process 

lends these nonrepresentational works an 

unlikely pop quality.

Part of the charm lies essentially in the 

material. If a pigment can be praised, let 

us now praise graphite; carbon-based like 

ourselves, literally the staff of the best 

golf clubs and tennis rackets, an 

industrial lubricant suitable for velvety 

smudging or smearing, unfixed with slight 

iridescence, a weak tinter capable of 

turning cool blue or warm green-gray 

depending upon the white. Graphite is an 

economic pigment with boundless properties 

that moves like no other when mixed in oil 

or under the eraser. And Sheinkman is an 

artist who fully exploits these properties 

to such a wide degree, with a heightened 

awareness of the positive/negative 

interchange between the metallic black of 

the graphite and the whiteness of textured 

paper or a gallery wall.

In his most recent show at Morris/Healy 

Gallery, Sheinkman presented a wide variety 

of work from the broad raking grid of 

Thirty Foot Drawing to the disarmingly 

personal twin towering verticals of the 

Untitled wall scroll, both 1996. In Thirty 

Foot Drawing Sheinkman has taken a mural-

sized space (similar to his earlier 

billboard project) and filled it with a 

dense, crushing Op-ish hatch. The cultural 

connotations of the wall scroll are 

obvious, but its feeling of endless 

lightness reminded me of Robert 

Rauschenberg and John Cage's famous 

Automobile Tire Print scroll from 1953. 

Both of Sheinkman's drawings challenge the 

viewer with their pronounced imposition and 

soft metal-gray extension into either 

direction, reaching for meaning at the 

limit of means, vision, and tradition. 

Their strength is in their quirkiness, 

which lends new possibilities that lead to 

new responses to something as minimal and 

familiar as graphite on paper.

Sheinkman recently began painting with 

graphite paint on panels. These works are 

not merely uninspired translations of the 

drawings into a new medium on a different 

scale, which proves that Sheinkman 

recognizes the limits and potential 

peculiarities of everything he works with. 

It will be interesting to see how these 

paintings develop, and if they successfully 

advance with the swiftness of his personal 

drawing style.

Morris Healy Gallery, 530 W. 22nd St., NYC, 

June 6-July 7, 1996.

Michael Brennan is a New York painter who 

writes on art.

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