Lines that move 

Lines that move
Blacks, Whites and Shades of Grey
Through Sept. 4 at Comma Gallery
813 Virginia Drive

While many venues for art are shuttered for the summer, Comma Gallery bravely brought a fine art show that's now down to its last days. Blacks, Whites and Shades of Grey mixes the iconic work of national artists with the local art scene, and the beauty of the drawings comes from their strength in form and light. Sensual color has no place here; instead, form and life come from the austere yet powerful qualities of black-and-white art.

For starters, Lincoln's log cabin, with its dramatic sky, snaps the mind into an almost forgotten reality — that of right and wrong, and of moral strength and courage. Yet it also foreshadows the ominous, legendary melancholy of which Lincoln was a sufferer. Other depictions of American patriots by Charles Turzak (1899-1985), an artist from the Great Depression years, dominate the gallery.

The son of Czech immigrants, Turzak's exceptionally fine woodcuts, mounted in series, were first issued as graphic novels; many are now embedded in our collective unconscious through their use in school textbooks. In addition, his 1930s scenes, such as the stylized "Dancers" and "Under the Bridge" uncannily evoke the Great Depression, a feat perhaps too easy to achieve in today's uncertain times.

The minimalist studies by Eleanor Dickinson, one of the most respected figure drawing artists alive today, share psychological depth in common with Turzak's humanistic depictions of the founding fathers. Dickinson, who resides in San Francisco, implies form and spirit with a few strokes of the pen, distilling the figure down to its essence. Hands, in "Die," reach toward the viewer, and are somehow three-dimensional, with volume, force and strength that would be taken away by shading or nuances.

By contrast, Orlando-based Patrick McGrath Muñiz's drawings are vast, rich topologies of faces, folds of cloth, light playing on scenes in endless classical chiaroscuro tones. A native of Puerto Rico, the artist's themes are emotionally contemporary and ask important questions about the place of religion in our pluralistic times. "Nihil Novi Sub Aquila" mixes Roman soldiers with medieval knights and Nazis holding a saffron-robed Christ at the crucifixion, conveying timelessness to the message of forgiveness and redemption.

Other artists, including Frank Dienst and Jean-Marie Goutinn, contributed work as well and adds to the brooding sense of seriousness that pervades the gallery. The lack of color allows the themes to stand out strongly, and where there is a bit of color, it's vivid for being so rare. Great narratives, the beauty of the human form and a sense of purpose and compassion all reach out from the artwork.

More by Rex Thomas


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