Pierleoni's figures have stark strength Art review

June 25, 1996|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,SUN ART CRITIC

Gina Pierleoni's big drawings/paintings of women might be confrontational, but they're not. They're affirming.

Using pastel, charcoal, acrylic and other media on multiple pieces of paper, Pierleoni fashions figures that are certainly big enough to confront you, as much as nine feet tall by three or more wide. They're three-quarter to full-length nudes, so there's nothing between them and you to keep them from meeting you head-on and all there.

But there's nothing threatening, arrogant, taunting, defiant or, on the other hand, pleading, vulnerable or ashamed about them. They stand there, in their awkward, straightforward way, a little smile playing across their ample features, greeting you in all their humanness.

Humanity seems the wrong word here, since it can be taken to imply an abstract moral goodness that's a bit lofty for these figures. They're not Presences, addressing you from a higher plane to bestow some enlightened notion of the meaning or purpose of life.

They're utterly with us, with their unremarkable figures and big feet and open eyes, neither challenging nor questioning -- just looking.

You might think the same image over and over again -- and that's basically what it is in this show at Galerie francoise -- would grow tiresome. But it doesn't for a couple of reasons.

Pierleoni introduces enough variations in color, stance, gesture and the like to add interest. But more to the point, it's hard to get too much of an artist who can convey a sense of self-acceptance and strength even in the knowledge of weakness and fallibility.

If that sounds soupy, as a friend of mine would put it, don't blame Pierleoni, whose works are not the least bit sentimental. Their lack of sentiment, in fact, is one of their most refreshing qualities.

Figures

What: Gina Pierleoni figures

Where: Galerie francoise et ses freres, Green Spring Station, Falls and Joppa Roads

When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, through July 3

Call: (410) 337-2787

Pub Date: 6/25/96

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