Work on Paper

Neilsen Gallery/Boston

(Orig­i­nally published in Art New England, Volume 3 Number 3, February 1982.)

A drawing each by Philip Guston and Adja Yunkers, artists whose visions have been widely envisaged in recent years, properly heralds this group show of work on paper. Guston’s drawing is unbe­guiling and unre­lenting; Ponies by Yunkers is arch, delicate, diagrammatic.

Guston’s heavy, clunky shapes are suggested in Eliz­abeth Dworkin’s abstrac­tions in dense, moody massings and clumps of paint. The aggression of the forms is reit­erated in fast, angry, drawn scrawls. Yunkers’s influence can be felt in Chris Widmarth’s elegant drawings with thin, breathless pencil lines and delicate masses of water­color in gray, pale brown, and baby blue, with cut-out triangles revealing another piece of white paper below.

In Joan Snyder’s ironic land­scape, a cut-out cartoon dolphin and palm trees cleave to a rose wall­paper shore and a sea of thick blue paint. That paint is so thick that it becomes a collage element, a material rather than a medium. In another painting, a pink and red abstraction of frames within frames disin­te­grates in a mirror image of thick mustard-yellow paint.

In Paul Rotterdam’s Night and Fog series a yellow and pink passage arises from a mound of marks collected from the great, delicate rain of lines of black and grays as a kind of resur­rection. The rapid, lyrical vari­a­tions of gray in Knight’s Dream reveal a diagonal structure in which the fall of marks, the whiteness of edges, and the formality of compo­sition lend tremendous power to every vari­ation, as when a curved line echoes a straight one, or in the dash of drops of inky black.

Gregory Amenoff uses thick black lines to describe a frame within a frame and to surround the distinct shapes of the compo­sition as various abstract objects in a still-life construction. The forms and the lines surrounding them have a vigorous, unswerving intensity that recalls the still lifes of Max Beckmann and Georges Rouault. Porforio Di Donna’s Sorrowful Mysteries is a series of five large, somber drawings, dark and melan­choly musings. Strings of white lights, patterns of earthy reds, or passages of thinner blacks occa­sionally pierce through the darkness to suggest a city at night or frag­ments of archaic pottery.

Three wonderful series of six or eight rectangles, drawings in enamel by Jake Berthot in white, black, gray, and flesh pink, are like dream sequences, suggesting figures and objects in scrawls and scratches. Each rectangle is like a picture of a picture, moving through a series of trans­for­ma­tions. The tremulous drawings are like jottings, hiero­glyphics, messages in bottles, unreadable post­cards, ideas coming into being, the first appear­ances of the not-yet-visible, the impal­pable images taking form before our eyes.

by Rebecca Nemser for

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