Bring on the behemoths

Supersized drawings at Gallery Joe

2 minute read
Larger than you or I: Who says bigger isn't better?
Larger than you or I: Who says bigger isn't better?
Large. Very Large. Very, very large. At Gallery Joe, drawing has been supersized.

Traditional notions of drawing may bring expectations of small, quiet and intimate, but in "Very, Very Large Drawings," the genre speaks in a bold contemporary voice, and ideas of scale and concept are skewed in favor of wide, expansive gestures. For those of us who treasure what drawing has always stood for, it's a pleasure to see artists moving in contemporary directions while maintaining respect for the best traditions of works on paper, including marriage of surface and medium, mastery of line and value, and use of the paper itself as a compositional element.

Jill O'Bryan's behemoth of a drawing (Untitled #10), the largest in the show, measures 132 inches by 80 and falls from near the ceiling edge like a waterfall. The sheet of paper curls slightly at the bottom as though arbitrarily cut to fit the wall. The surface, worked in graphite, is all texture and value, rubbed and nubbled at random, yet with the organic sense of a landscape emerging from the white of the paper.

In the manner of Australian Aboriginal drawings, O'Bryan's piece seems to place the viewer in several dimensions at the same time: at nose-distance from the ground and far overhead, with an attendant ability to induce vertigo if one catches the perspective.

Of all the artists in this show, Sandra Allen, from Boston, moves closest to tradition in her Synapse, a carefully rendered pencil portrait of a tree root and jutting trunk. It's a showpiece of intricate figurative drawing, with tangles of shapes that are both natural and surreally suggestive. There's a monumental scale to her vision that gives the work a fresh dimension, furthered by the stark placement of the trunk against a clean white background.

Color is drawing in several of the works, including Metropolitan Time, by Sabine Friesicke, who here opposes complements and value in a rich grid of dark blue and yellows. Friesicke's carefully plotted compositions exude a rich, playful quality that keeps them from becoming hard and mathematical.

For Allyson Strafella, paper itself is the medium; her indigo blue paper pulp diptych is simple and eloquent, with a singular unity of form and content.

"Very Very Large Drawings" offers a nice balance, preserving the quiet pleasures of close work and attention to detail while celebrating the exuberance of confident size and bold gesture.

What, When, Where

“Very, Very Large Drawings.†Through January 30, 2010 at Gallery Joe, 302 Arch St. (215) 592-7752 or

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