DemosNews: “Works on Paper, 2008”, Park Avenue Armory NYC
“Works on Paper, 2008”, Park Avenue Armory NYC
By: HermioneSG

Paper is a fascinating medium, fresh and immediate. Its porosity and vulnerability discourage reworking and fussing, permit little of the camouflage that heavy layers of oil paint enable on linen or board. If successive stages of development or correction are necessary, as in etching, these generally occur off stage on the plate. When the final print is struck it stands pure; should the artist adds any further individualizing marks they are generally light and live. Watercolors demand their own sure hand. At best, they exude spontaneity, unmuddied tones and confidant strokes. Usually the white of the paper itself becomes an active and luminous player, no easy task. As to artists’ sketches in graphite or charcoal, often unintended for public view, these prove most instructive of all. Experimentation, line adjustment, quickly captured gestures, a sly glance, the frill of a dancer’s hem, an impromptu visual joke or memento between friends—all yield special insight into an artist’s creative process.

At a large sprawling fair like the Armory show, some eighty vendors’ booths crammed with material, the constraint of paper unifies sufficiently to focus, yet provides a wide, unfiltered field in which to exercise ones taste. The range varies enormously. There are small, resonant Rembrandt etchings like his deeply humane goldsmith, Jan Lutma, and impeccable Durers. My favorite is a Nuremburg belle nuzzled by a wild man (devil? lover?) above a large heraldic skull as coat of arms. It is a treat to gaze at them six inches from one’s nose, relish that mastery of line, form, and shining tone (R.S. Johnson Fine Art, Chicago.)

John Singer Sargent’s effortless touch captures the iridescent scales and languorous belly of a salmon casually splayed across the page (Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York.) Three fresh moderns invigorate one another side by side on the wall: a lively Dufy tangle of slender lines and colored dots, a Larry Rivers abstract acrylic as rich and complex as oil, a goofy Warhol Donald Duck strutting before reflections of himself in fun house mirrors (Accorsi Arts, East Aurora, New York.)

The heavy lidded Hockney head in colored pencil demands attention, and Lautrec’s quick pencil strokes bring alive a wild high stepping dancer, with laughing leer and flying tutu scattered with brilliants. (Galerie André Candillier, Paris.)

Color lithographs by Francis Bacon feature in several booths. My favorite portrays a seated man seen from the back, caged as is this painter’s wont within skew upright lines. Bacon’s firm thick strokes, multi tones, and rich visual texture edge it more painting than print. Nearby hangs a playful Man Ray/Duchamp collaboration: Man Ray’s head with satyr-like horns of hair is printed atop a roulette wheel on an old bond, the whole comprising a Monte Carlo gaming board (William Weston Gallery, London.)

Max Weber caught the voice, slight forward lean, and tickling frill at sleeve and hem of a chanteuse with the slightest quick strokes of pencil (Bernard Goldberg Fine Arts, New York.) Gerhardt Richter overlaid a colored offset print with thick scrim of white and rough pencil marks to beautiful effect (Jorg Maas-Kunsthandel, Berlin.) Fritz Buttman’s big loose charcoal nude relaxes languorously atilt, the extended lines of her contours exploding all over the page (Mark Borghi Fine Art, New York.)

Picasso presides all over the show in lithographs, and drawings of great verve and charm, as always. The most delightful, a little colored pencil quickie, has him on all fours sniffing his coquettish mistress. (Simon Capstick-Dale Fine Art, New York.)

Perhaps the biggest surprise for me, however, and standouts in the show, were the tiny charcoal drawings only 3 ½ by 4 ½ inches by the Maine artist Dozier Bell. Utterly original, velvety black on acetate, they have an unsettling stunning presence. The rush of oncoming waves, the urgent tilt of periscope cross hairs (or gun), the abstract darkness at left, the meticulous rendering of water and sea froth, take one’s breath away (DFN Gallery, New York).

This show's broad look at works on paper, mostly contemporary and modern, offers compelling examples for many tastes. And with most price tags relatively modest, one can even extend that pleasure into one’s home.

[Park Avenue and 67th Street, New York City, February 29 through March 3]

© 2019 HermioneSG of DemosNews

March 3, 2008 at 8:32am
DemosRating: 5
Hits: 6220

Genre: Arts (Reviews)
Type: Critical
Tags: drawings, printswatercolorsposters

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