Selections from the International Drawing Annual 6

This year’s Selections from the International Drawing Annual 6 at Manifest Gallery boil down to a duel between two conceptions of pictorial space. On one side, representing a traditional approach to an illusionistic environment is Lance Moon’s 34” X 46” graphite on paper Untitled (Child With Bull).  On the other, California artist Alexis Manheim’s True Love Machine –a 42” X 46” work of ink, pastel, and graphite- epitomizes a shallow, post-cubist, abstract space.  Hung as if facing-off, each of these pictures make a persuasive argument for its own graphic vision.

Untitled (Child With Bull) is not the largest of the nine drawings in the exhibition, but its emphasis on the horizontal makes it feel that way. Moon’s unlikely pairing of a bull at rest and a child playing on the beach feels like the depiction of a Buddhist proverb (one of the Ten Bulls?); and a series of disparities: a small child and a large bull, dry land and turbulent water, are integrated into an unlikely, but nonetheless believable whole.

The key to Moon’s spatial veracity lies in an acute awareness of value and its modulation. I have no doubt (and hope for the child’s sake) that (Child With Bull) is based on photographic reference. But rather than mimic the distorting effects of photography, Moon chooses to underscore a pre-Modernist sensibility by making the transition from each passage of light and dark subtle in extremis. While this speaks highly of Moon’s proficiency with graphite (not the most undemanding medium for such work) Untitled (Child With Bull) is a tough picture to pin down. After a time, the narrative material gives the impression of being forced, and as definitive as Moon is with a pencil, the picture provokes vexing questions of content and offers no satisfactory answers.

Challenging (Child With Bull)’s dominance of space is Alexis Manheim’s True Love Machine. Whereas Moon strikes with restraint, Manheim’s multi-colored evocation of child-like naiveté hits with a looseness and freedom that borders on the self-indulgent. Her depiction of all manner of flags, airplanes, and spiders, criss-crossed by pastel lines that never quite describe form is so convincingly unsophisticated, that it appears to have arrived straight from the hallowed halls of kindergarten.  But it takes a lot of work to make it look to have taken no work at all, and True Love Machine’s simplicity belies a mature understanding of art’s sub-atomic structure.

Though Manheim hints at landscape, True Love Machine is for the most part a pat-standard run at a shallow cubist grid.  The potency of the picture comes out of the rapid shifts in surface incident that the artist seems to relish in.  Every aspect of Love Machine is activated in some way, and while usually a recipe for disaster, Manheim keeps from overburdening the eye by making active areas of gestural ink work seem passive by their relationship to vigorous line.

The tensions that bristle between Untitled and True Love Machine are engrossing, but their size and proximity suck the air out of the diminutive Parallel Space and starve the other seven works on display of attention. Works by Kristen Estell, Melanie Lowrance, and Jennifer Purdum all deserve genuine consideration. In fact, Purdum’s conception of space and use of transparency in Domestic Mori is more complex than anything in either Manheim’s or Moon’s pieces, but the imposing nature of the two large rivals seem to turn the other pictures into mere spectators. Only Roberto Osti’s Carpe Diem appears able to break free, and only then because it college-dorm-room-poster look is woefully ill-suited to the rest of the exhibition.

Last year I criticized Manifest’s INDA 5 for presenting a decidedly homogenous view of drawing, while also noting that Selections equates more to a random sample, than a representative body of works in a print publication. I thought last year’s exhibition exuded a clear bias towards tight representation and a straight forward approach to drawing. I am pleased to note that this year’s show is a significantly more diverse lot. From graphite to typewriter ink, these works all range in size, media, and approach; and most of the pictures on view invite close inspection, if you can pull away from the heavyweights.


-Alan D. Pocaro


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