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''In the Dark''
at Eleanor Harwood Gallery, San Francisco, California
Recommendation by Dewitt Cheng

Francesca Pastine, ''October 21, 2006,'' 2007, graphite and newsprint, 22 x 13 1/2''.

One of the first lessons in Drawing 101 class is that the “negative space” between objects is as important as the shapes of rendered objects. With the discovery of dark matter we might now nervously joke, whistling, that the visible universe is merely what is left over, excluded or extruded from the dark. That conclusion is partially verified by three artists — Joseph Bender, Francesca Pastine and Niall McClelland — who eschew color, preferring the blacker shades of dark. Once your eyes adapt to being “In the Dark,” the subtle joys of tone, texture and context become more important; and maybe your hearing improves, too. . .

Bender’s dark oils or oils/alkyds on 36 x 36” aluminum squares call to mind Ad Reinhardt’s 50”-square black cross paintings of the 1950s. “Addition is Not Subtraction” even employs the familiar cruciform composition; in other works, however, Bender is more severely reductive and monochrome — and ironic, considering titles like “Fabricator of Hidden Riddles,” “Where Dogs and Vultures Meet,” and, of course, “Crepuscular Predilection.” They vary in brushstroke and finish, if not in hue, asserting their materiality as we peer into their opaque “confrontational but contemplative” depths. Pastine works with printed newspaper and graphite in her “Iraq Casualty” series. New York Times cover pages from 2006 to 2008 are obscured with metallic 9B lead strokes, burying most of the type and imagery so that poignant slices of reality — body bags, coffins, a mourner — can expand to assume larger importance. In “Blackout, Section A Series,” she completely coats the paper, suggesting both censorship and mourning. McClelland’sTapestry” pieces are arrays of black page-sized rectangles with worn white creases, folds and puckers. They resemble astronomical charts without stars, or maps without geographical features, and reflect, darkly, both 1960s Minimalism and 1970s Process Art.

Eleanor Harwood Gallery

Eleanor Harwood Gallery

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