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Monday, April 20, 2009

Tantalize Me

Art Review

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In 1965 Chuck Jones directed a swell animation short titled The Dot and the Line. The story is simple: a line (rigid and boring) falls hard for a hot dot, but she much prefers the undisciplined squiggle.

Now comes "Tender Is the Line" (April 17-June 6), featuring the work of seven artists. The action, at the Portrait Society Gallery (207 E. Buffalo St., Suite 526), concerns drawing, i.e., lines variously configured into smooshes, twists, loops, smashes, smudges and all points in between.

The hands that guide the surest lines are those of Paul Caster, chairman of MIAD's drawing department, and Jean Roberts Guequierre. Caster's sensational gritty heads (is that Hannibal Lecter?) float bodiless, while Guequierre's precise imaginings suggest that life with kids is weirdly entertaining. For this outing, both artists present modestly sized and terrific renderings.

Across the hall, the freshly painted blood-red Gallery B flickers with multiple candles all in a row, the better to showcase Madison grad student Claire Stigliani's kinky fairy-tale takes, which include collaged and corseted ladies. Stigliani certainly doesn't lack imagination, and it's clear that she impressed gallery director Debra Brehmer, who devoted an entire room to the young artist. For a few weeks prior to the Gallery Night opening, I watched as Brehmer (down on her hands and knees) sorted through piles of drawings from the chosen seven for "Tender Is the Line," trying to decide what to include and which pieces would look best where. Any artist exhibiting in Suite 526 can rest assured that MIAD educator Brehmer has their best interests at heart.

I would have titled this exhibition "Tantalizing Is the Line," simply because it entices far beyond the "tender." You'll find lines aggressive and life-sized; lines controlled and classical (Steve Ohlrich); and dark and introspective lines (Steve Lubahn) that intersect with lines barely there. Take your pick. Each artist will be available for commissions through the gallery.

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