'Women Figure' evokes positive response


October 24, 1990|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

"What's in Her Mind: Women Figure" at School 33 (through Nov. 30) sounds like a show about content. But that's only partly, maybe even less than half, true. That's not to say that this is only a partly successful show. It succeeds in eliciting a positive response, but not perhaps in the way the three artists or curator Heather Tunis had in mind. The merit, in other words, is not always and never exclusively in the message.

Nancy Ring's pastels are closest to "state of mind" works. Figures exist in a world of skewed perspectives and fragmented images, some of them demons, some objects of history or art pTC (the sphinx), some as ordinary as a bird, a chair or a porch. Ring reinforces her concern with the complexities of the unconscious by creating her works on assemblages of pieces of paper. Eerie color and striking effects of light, especially in "Cabra," attract for themselves as well as for what they lend to the atmosphere of the picture.

Susan Moore's untitled oil pastels of large heads are perhaps closest to curator Tunis' description of these artists' works as "straightforward and enigmatic." The largest of them, almost 7 by 12 feet, is a diptych with the same face represented twice, differently colored and differently shaded, staring straight out expressionlessly. One can project all sorts of things into the mind behind that face, as blank as Garbo's in the famous last shot of "Queen Christina." But the more one looks the more one is intrigued by Moore's surface texture and color -- and the more one wants to get close and consider these faces as abstractions. Eventually, it doesn't matter what's in this woman's mind, or whether she's following the instructions of Garbo's director, whom the actress asked what she should think about while he was shooting the last shot. Think of nothing, he replied.

Julie Schneider's beautifully rendered pencil drawings have somewhat the same effect on the viewer. One notices the light, the delicate shadows, the folds of clothes, the carefully detailed hair in which it seems possible to distinguish every strand. When her subject matter shares common ground with us, as with "Lilith Series: Sometimes She Came Back" and "Heroes Series, Judith, Scene 4," it's more interesting than when it's vague and deliberately enigmatic, as in "Secret D." In the end one cares much less about whatever "Secret D" may be than about that light, those shadows, that hair.

The upstairs gallery presently features "New Sculpture by Nicole Fall," whose steel and ceramic works are delightfully colorful, human-scale, crazy looking evocations of -- what? Undersea life, most often, but fantastic undersea life; these rippling, globby and bulbous forms would scare you to death in a dream (or down a dark alley at midnight), but in the non-threatening atmosphere of the gallery they're fun.

Unfortunately there's no space to adequately describe "Hearth," Ivy Parsons in the installation space. Suffice it to say that it suggests the flickering fire of a prehistoric hearth and makes you want to sit there and lose yourself in thought (which you can). It's enveloping, peaceful, contemplative.

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