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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