Dedicated to covering the visual arts community in Connecticut.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


John Slade Ely House Center for Contemporary Art
51 Trumbull Street, New Haven, (203) 624-8055
Invitational Show of Painting and Drawing
June. 9—July. 8, 2007

There is no particular theme that runs through Invitational Show of Painting and Drawing, the present show at the John Slade Ely House. But the pleasure of mark-making on a surface is a noticeable touch point for many of these artists.

With Anne Doris-Eisner, this pleasure is poured into energetic landscapes of natural forms and textures. Doris-Eisner is showing four large acrylic works on paper in one of the upstairs rooms. While there is clearly a joy involved in the creation of these drawings, they are also the outgrowth of and a response to personal tragedy. According to her artist's statement, "Having faced the death of my child, I liken my survival to that of a tree struck by lightning which still puts out new branches." The sweeps of paint suggest sedimentary stone, striations of decaying wood, the rush of water and the rolling contours of hills. The images look like they were composed with big wide brush strokes but that apparently is not the case. According to her statement, she "rarely" uses a brush in a traditional manner, preferring instead to "draw, scrape, pour, crave, drag and twist the media with objects other than brushes."

Most of our earliest acquaintances with mark-making is referenced in Thomas Hebert's drawings. He uses color crayons for his large but delicate drawings of toy trains. There is a sense of soft affection and nostalgia in these renderings. He lightly defines the outlines and details as though gently tracing the tips of his fingers over childhood memories.

I've profiled Bob Gregson before. He is represented in this show by some of his "Constructed Paintings". His work is displayed in the foyer and on the walls along the staircase. He assembles wood blocks, often painted, into shapes that amount to something of a geometric puzzle.

In contrast to Gregson's austere yet playful minimalism, Kim Sobel creates florid paintings, applying a mix of acrylics, gamsol, oil, oil medium and wax on linen. Sobel's works are abstractions that are strongly suggestive of flowers, foliage and other natural forms. The colors are rich and the selective use of wax on the surface adds variety. But while I enjoyed the colorful energy of these works—again there is the evident pleasure in marking a surface—I was also bothered by the sense that they failed to cohere as compositions.

That Rhea Nowak is consumed by mark-making is evidenced by the several artist's books she has on display. The pages overflow with scribbles, washes and curlicue lines. They represent the idea of text and pictures rather than the fact. Gabriela Galarza-Block's oil paintings also jump with marks, like the lines, ladders, circles and dots of "Deconstructive." In some of the paintings, the forms of houses are suggested. This is made most explicit in "Familia." The overlapping images of houses bring to mind family in the sense of many who live under the same roof and yet are in completely different places.

Although Amanda Durant's work, like that of Thomas Hebert, is representational, there still stirs the sense of pleasure in marking a surface. This is most obviously true in her encaustics. But it also shows in the keenly observed (predominantly) urban landscapes where she used charcoal or gouache.


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