Tight compositional cropping, a technique found in many of the works on display, is applied in a unique way with the photographic "portrait" work of Ann Hamilton. Each of her four 29 1/2-inch by 42-inch prints depicts a single face, distorted and ghostlike, floating in a dominating field of black. The artist achieves this effect by resting a small camera on her tongue and snapping the photo of the subject at close range. By using the interior of her own mouth as a cropping device, Hamilton seems to be addressing how our own individual perceptions can either inform or interfere with an objective image of others.
Of the handful of artists who chose landscape as their subject matter, perhaps it is Cecily Brown who conveys its lushness and immediacy most effectively. Brown continues a theme found in her abstract-expressionistic oil paintings included in the most recent Whitney Biennial by portraying emergent forms amid slashing fields of color. Employing a palette ranging from washed-out flesh tones to neon yellows and greens, her single, untitled monotype depicts signs of an ambiguous figure being, quite literally, consumed by its surroundings. A more benign take on vegetation can be found in Ellsworth Kelly's decorative line-drawing lithographs, respectively entitled "Lemon Branch" and "Fig Branch," as well as Georgia Marsh's austere, Japanese-inspired etching of barren trees in the snow "Cold Moon 2."
In the exhibit's only example of purely conceptual work, neo-minimalist Mel Bochner carries on with his career-long practice of examining the nuances found within familiar systems and structures. Each of his two 18-inch by 24-inch embossed mono-prints contains overlapping daubs of color superimposed by a lightly contrasted block of wording. In the work entitled "Indifference," Bochner strings together the word indifference and a seemingly endless procession of its synonyms; such as sloth, coldness, coolness, disinterest, and so on. This string of wording creates a run-on sentence that constantly reiterates itself, essentially static in terms of content or narrative. Thus, in a witty twist, Bochner uses the rigid sentence construction to simultaneously flatten both the verbal and the spatial planes.
From Alex Katz's two close-cropped portraits and the photo-realism of Chuck Close and Richard Estes, to the illustrative cartoon work of ever-versatile Red Grooms, the exhibition is the visual equivalent of a tray of appetizers. Whether you are familiar with the contributions that mostS "Works on Paper" is on display through Aug. 20 at the Reynolds Gallery, 1514 W. Main St.
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