Edda Jakab's charcoal still life drawings at the Katzenstein Gallery are not as pretty as her work in color that I've seen elsewhere, but they have a lot more going for them in other ways. They have definite weight, both physically -- the objects look solid -- and in the fact that there is some emotional content to them, too.
A twisted cloth, spiky branches, deep shadows reflect a real and particular character informing these works that one doesn't encounter in the artist's more decorative and immediately appealing pictures. The hard light, the closeness of the objects, and the tilted angles at which we see them in the drawings here all help to give them added intensity.
Two of them are somewhat different from the rest: Instead of flowers or fruit, they are portfolios of letters, more geometric and abstract in their straight lines, angles and planes parallel to the picture plane. Here, too, though, there is content, for the muted light and gradations of gray create a somber mood, as if these letters are reminders of happiness gone.
Jakab is one of three artists in "Drawings: Three Directions." Three different media, too: charcoal, pastel and graphite (pencil). Each of Mary Atherton's pastels features an abstract ground of blue, red and white, with color changes and gesture creating light and dynamics. On these grounds are added small bits and pieces of things: twigs, a bit of cloth, an illusory torn place in the drawing's paper. The effect of these works is of wind-swept mementos of time past, but the mood here is sad rather than tragic. The heart in the center of one of these should have been avoided -- it's simply too corny an image -- but otherwise they're affecting, if not deeply moving.
In smallish, tight pencil drawings, Blake M. Conroy shows himself very accomplished technically. His forming of shapes, his textures, his complex organizations are among the well-done elements that comprise drawings of a certain delicate appeal. But the ones here, at any rate, add up to the sum of their parts, no more. One responds, "Oh, look what he can do," but the doing is for its own sake, not in the service of anything larger, and so these come off as skillful but somewhat precious. Still, the skill does impress.
The show continues through Saturday at the Katzenstein Gallery, 729 E. Pratt St. Call (410) 727-0748.