October 16, 2011

Art Review: June Fitzpatrick knows where to draw the line


When I first learned June Fitzpatrick would dedicate the entire year at both of her galleries to drawing, I wondered if that wouldn't drain the well. But her shows have only gotten stronger throughout the year. "Drawing the Line #8" is a great show featuring seven excellent artists, most of whom have footing both in Maine and New York.

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Dudley Zopp’s “Terrains 7,” at left, 2010, watercolor and graphite on paper.

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Avy Claire’s “P. serotina, 11.08.23-28,” 2011, ink on Mylar.


"DRAWING THE LINE #8" -- Drawings by Emily Brown, Avy Claire, Patt Franklin, Marilyn Honigman, Benjamin Potter, Claire Seidl and Dudley Zopp

WHERE: June Fitzpatrick Gallery, 522 Congress St., Portland

WHEN: Through Oct. 27

HOURS: Noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday

INFO: 699-5083; junefitzpatrickgallery.com

Not only has Fitzpatrick kept her flavor while sticking with drawings, but she also seems to have further refined it. Her shows at her MECA space have kept an air of sophistication and elegance while being surprisingly accessible. I think the key is that we have become comfortable with seeing works on paper presented unframed even in leading galleries: Only two of the seven artists' work are framed. The result isn't simply more casual -- it brings us literally closer to the processes of the artists. By more easily sensing the intention and actions of the artist, we can better see their talent, effort and intelligence.

The most obvious examples are Avy Claire's 8-foot-tall ink on Mylar trees made from lines of script, in which Claire writes out phrases from the news she hears on the radio. That the trees are all virtually the same terrific drawing only points out their internal logic. Doing Internet searches from her phrases, for example, could lead you to pinpoint the exact times and dates she worked on these drawings.

Moreover, I have never seen drawings anywhere in which the real time of their making is so well spelled out to the viewer. Claire writes out words as she hears them from the radio, and any viewer can read them at the pace of the spoken word and feel the piece come together in real time. It's brilliant.

Patt Franklin's drawings are also large and unframed, and made with rhythmically insistent marks. Associating regular mark-making with Monet or Seurat leads many people to think of such an approach as a well-developed style, but more often than not, it has a pixilation effect that does more to limit the artist's range than anything else. Franklin's work comes across this way to me: The inverted "V"s could be replaced with virtually any mark in black pastel to achieve a similarly swirling space. It's the only work in the show I don't really care for.

Benjamin Potter's cut lead sheet "drawings" are also so visually tactile, we can't help but see what he has done. All three pieces have been punched with holes and bent into freestanding semi-cylinders (certainly they are drawings, but they are good sculptures, too) with loose, natural world rhythms: A disbursing wave on the beach, a stand of trees and the staccato kernels on an ear of corn.

Even Potter's "Corn" has the feel of a diorama and so helps to coalesce the overall landscape feel of the show. The only work at odds with the unspoken theme is Claire Seidl's ink on Mylar, "The Long and Short of It," a vertical black-and-white piece in which white forms float freely on a black ground. Seidl's "Middle of Nowhere," on the other hand, is so atmospheric it could be nothing but you in a foggy landscape.

My favorite work in the show -- by Marilyn Honigman -- is just as atmospheric but with incredibly subtle and sophisticated mark-making among roiling clouds in groundless, mystical skies. Honigman's graphite drawings are intimate and gorgeous. They read perfectly from afar and, from an intimate distance, dissolve completely and deliciously into elegant abstraction.

Unfortunately, there is only one drawing by Emily Brown. "Dormant" is a view of the branches of a deciduous tree in winter. The drawing is as spare and cool as its subject, reminding me of Neil Welliver and Alex Katz. Brown is first-rate, and I wish she had a bigger presence in the show.

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