Sculptors' drawings deserve a long look Down to the letter, Grimaldis show of varied works requires inspection, introspection.

January 10, 1996|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,SUN ART CRITIC

Everything is relative, and how a work of art strikes you depends partly on where you're coming from. The works of three artists in the current Grimaldis show of drawings by sculptors make the point well.

Take the Richard Serra drawing: a black rectangle of oil paint stick, centered at the bottom of a white piece of paper. That's all. Pretty austere, right?

Ah, but let's approach it a bit differently. There are three artists in this show whose works consist of black images on white pieces of paper: Ulrich Ruckriem, Jene Highstein and Serra. Let's first visit Ruckriem's three untitled pencil drawings, which look like big black letters -- an H, an I, an upside-down T.

At first their straight edges look so rigid, and their blacks so uniform, that they appear totally unmodulated. But on closer inspection, the repeated verticals of pencil strokes set up a dynamic within the letters, and even the ripples of the paper have a gently fluid feel to them. So there's something going on here, reserved as it is.

Now turn to Highstein's black, untitled, mixed-media oval. The oval shape itself is softer than Ruckriem's straight edges; here and there pencil marks escape from the oval, as if searching for someplace to go; and mists of tiny black dots, like rain, hover at the top and bottom of the sheet. Already we're in a more romantic world than Ruckriem's, and the broad, washy tones of black within the oval add richness like the sound of deep strings playing a melody.

Now turn to the Serra, and the tactile thickness and cascading surface of its black rectangle take us into a realm even more heavily emotional, entirely appropriate to a drawing with the title "A Sorrow Beyond Dreams." A lot less austere than it seemed at first.

Of the other four artists in this largely distinguished show, Joel Shapiro's anthropomorphically juxtaposed bands, in his untitled 1992 drawing, are positively joyous. They resemble a figure doing cartwheels while changing colors -- from red to black to green -- and the smudges and strokes at their edges even look like motion lines. His untitled 1995 drawing, on the other hand, with its contrasting rectangles and fierce reds, might be a battle scene drawn by an abstract artist descended from Delacroix.

John Van Alstine's two jaunty drawings recall his sculptures; they also exhibit a line reminiscent of Claes Oldenburg's, combined with sensitive use of color. Even Van Alstine's signature fits in with the general mood of these drawings.

The works of the other two artists here prove less rewarding. Mel Kendrick is a fine artist, but his 9- by 16-foot drawing "Split Spiral" comes across as bloated and over bearing in this gathering. It has less to say than most of the rest of the company, and says it louder. And Pello Irazu contributes two obvious, self-indulgent works consisting of black velvet cutouts on paper silk-screened pink.

'Drawings by Sculptors'

Where: The C. Grimaldis Gallery, 523 N. Charles St.

When: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays; through Jan. 27

$ Call: (410) 539-1080

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