‘"Is This Drawing?"’

Its distracting title notwithstanding, the Concordia exhibition Is This Drawing?' features some intriguing visual work by outstanding Austin artists

Detail from John Cobb's <i>Baptism by Fire</i>
Detail from John Cobb's Baptism by Fire

Is This Drawing?

Gallery @ Concordia, Louise T. Peter Center, Concordia University, through March 11

The exhibition at Concordia University features an array of 21 area artists. Five artists presented drawings, and four artists presented prints on paper. David Croft and Sylvia Betts chose the artists, who then "self-curated" their work for the show. The title of this show was a distraction to me, a question that forced me to answer, "Is This Drawing?"

(Artists Name / Is This Drawing? / What Is It?)

Bale Creek Allen / no / axes

Robert Anderson / yes / ink on paper

Sylvia Betts / no / painted collage

Theresa Bond / no / painted assemblage

Katherine Brimberry / no* / linocut on paper

Cap Brooks / no / ceramic

John Christensen / no / steel models

Sunyong Chung / no / porcelain (sketchbook included)

John Cobb / yes / graphite and copies on paper

Tom Drucker / no* / lithograph on paper

Linda Genet / no / wool sweater

Cassandra James / no* / monotype on paper

Doug Jaques / no / paint with pastel on top

Denise Elliott Jones / no / collaged prints on paper

Lynda Young Kaffie / yes / charcoal on paper

David Kroft / no / livestock markers (aka oil paint)

Karen Martin / no / assemblage

Cathy Savage / no / painted print collage

Margie Simpson / no* / monotype on paper

Mark L. Smith / yes / charcoal on paper

Dan Sutherland / yes / graphite on paper

(*contains strong elements of drawing)

So, I'm a big John Cobb fan. He presents a large panel with graphite, photocopy, and red ochre transfer sheet. It's the pieced-together sketches underneath a painting he's developing called Baptism by Fire. Oddly, in his artist statement he claims, "This is not a drawing." What he's getting at is the transitory state of the piece. Cobb wants us to know that the graphite we see now on the panel will be obscured in the final form. It's a very complicated drawing of underbrush and a man that will be destroyed by paint. That's one of the cool things about painting. You plan with drawing, then you wipe it away.

Dan Sutherland's tiny graphite drawing Synthetic Thicket has soft-edged grays and gentle petal-like curves that are hazy and peaceful. Sutherland is able to play with an intimate scale, mysterious mists, stellar composition, and abstract imagery. Another great drawing is Joint, by Robert Anderson. It is a dense quagmire of fine hatch marks. It has a tangled web of caves and crevices that defies perspective: There is no horizon line, no source of light. Anderson works meticulously to each edge of the paper, turning the work. This work holds the eye while it wafts with dark doodling; it quietly asks you to get lost in it.

Margie Simpson has portrayed a seated woman in an untitled black-and-white monotype. Her statement says she "tried to pretend it was newsprint ... be as spontaneous as possible." She certainly achieved this desirable freshness. This monotype was created by wiping and smudging black ink on Plexiglas then pressing it onto damp paper. It's a one-take process; the effect is not unlike that of toning a paper with soft charcoal, then lifting out forms with an eraser.

I enjoyed ceramic artist Sunyong Chung's notebook. It featured colored-pencil thumbnail sketches of details later incorporated into her colored porcelain. Alongside the drawings are recipes for tinting and coloring the raw white clay. I like the steel works presented by John Christensen. His elegant forms are prototypes for larger works to come. He presents a simple steel piece called Bait, as well as the best artist statement of the show: "A swirling leaf, a fisher's trap, a lover's glance, can all start a drawing."

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Is This Drawing?, Concordia University, David Croft, Sylvia Betts, Bale Creek Allen, Bob Anderson, Sylvia Betts, Theresa Bond, Katherine Brimberry, Cap Brooks, John Christensen, Sunyong Chung, John Cobb, Tom Drucker, Linda Genet, Cassandra James, Doug Jaques, Denise Elliott Jones, Lynda Young Kaffie, David Kroft

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