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17th National Drawing and Print Competitive Exhibition

William Downs, "Softy"
Ryan Paker, "Tropism 1"
Samuel Adams, "Anthropoid 6"

By J. Bowers | Posted 4/12/2006

17th National Drawing and Print Competitive Exhibition

College of Notre Dame’s Gormley Gallery

Through April 28

Goya-Girl Press director Amy Eva Raehse is known for singling out cutting-edge contemporary artists. The College of Notre Dame’s Raehse-curated 17th National Drawing and Print Competitive Exhibition is an impressive assembly of work that, at its best, subverts the basic definition of drawing and, at its worst, still manages to impress.

Many of the drawings—most notably Wendy Kawabata’s “Memory Drawings,” featuring pointillist clusters of white and red ink on green tea-stained paper, and Samuel T. Adams’ “Anthropoid 6,” a juxtaposition of humanoid figures and machine parts inked on a glassy slab of Mylar—are reminiscent of blueprints, diagrams, or maps, . This similarity neatly unifies the show, but the standout pieces are the ones that toy with the concepts of line drawing and map imagery. Marc Leone’s compelling “Crater” drawings are composed of layers of graphite rubbed onto paper, then eroded away to produce an actual depression in the center of each piece, creating rich variations in texture, depth, and shading. In his drawings “Rudy Red Foolish” and the superior “Inside of Me,” William Downs commandeers the rigid restraint of vintage graph paper with soft charcoal and conté crayon figural sketches of human bodies curled into fetal positions, limbs distorted, faces stretched and duplicated, like conjoined twins (Downs’ “Softly” pictured). There’s something subconscious about these drawings—simultaneously playful and sinister, the figures look ready to slink out of their hard-lined environments and drift, ghostlike, onto the floor.

Of course, this exhibit isn’t all about maps and blueprints. Rebecca Aloisio’s “Untitled” is a swirling, mollusklike black mass, the result of mixing graphite and turpenoid to create a substance that has the consistency of ink. It has a minimalist, Japanese air about it, while exhibiting the wild abandon of Western abstract works. On the purely figural end of the show, Fay Ku’s “Warrior Girls” is a charmingly sinister graphite drawing of three fat-cheeked, pigtailed Asian youngsters brandishing knives, arrows, and dead-eyed impaled female heads. Julie Gamble’s mixed-media drawings, including the bizarre self-portrait “Me,” are skeletal, prehistoric birds, deer, and other half-skinned creatures. Gamble’s beasts occupy a strange and unique middle ground between biological diagrams and anthropomorphic cartoon animals.

Though woefully lacking substantial background information on any of the artists featured—a few artist’s statements or a description of the selection process would have been welcome—the 17th National Drawing and Print Competitive Exhibition is a solid and elegant body of work, devoid of the “filler” pieces that so often round out the rosters of large juried shows.

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