A Bear? Where? Over There

I am a real sucker for charcoal drawings when they are good, and when they are very good,  something gets ignited in my often intellectually-mediated experience of art that I didn’t know had grown cold. The hand being right there in the application of the material to paper, what the great Delacroix called “la touche” (the stroke), makes for a filling up of space that had been blank, is the simplest way to put it. Simple is good. And so is Big Paper at 333 Montezuma Annex gallery in Santa Fe  – in which drawing in broad terms is the medium, and the material from sumi ink to charcoal to acrylic on linen, plants into the visual mind stuffs concrete and material enough to be really satiating.

Alison Keogh’s Clay Drawing Installation moves the urge of drawing into the sculptural – via a collection that samples earth and  river clays of New Mexico into a gameboard in which the elegance of the gesture is as simple as the pigments are actual.

Alison Keogh, Clay Drawing Installation

A more ahem, art historical, way to talk about the show, would be to say how fetchingly un-characterizable is the surface of Shelby Shadwell’s Elephant Man, in which, okay, this crumpled stuff like garbage bags or blackened aluminum foil has a skin like the character of a textile – but is, rather, an illusory shape.

Shelby Shadwell, Elephant Man

I thought of the Irving Penn Richard Avedon photo (also black-and-white) of a black-gloved Dovima between two elephants, her gloved arm outreaching and their trunks swishing.

Wesley Berg, Two Bears

Wesley Berg’s bears, by contrast, are figural, direct, yet extremely emotional. The bear, both upright and recumbent or even injured in works by Berg in this show – well, he strictly is,  he strictly occupies material space.

The recording impulse of  Peter Ligon’s four-panel Carroll and Columbia, an ink-on-paper drawing of the streetscape where these two roads intersect, makes for a piece full of pathos and humor. And in toto there is something mighty western going on here, views of the wide world that aren’t like Milton Avery-tradition landscapes. At all.

Peter Ligon, Longhorn

I loved this show for its simplicity of means yet complexity of interpretations. Gallery is open Thursdays and Fridays at 333 Montezuma Avenue in Santa Fe.

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