Leslie Lowinger at Dolby Chadwick Gallery

by Debra Koppman October 2000

The City that Does Not Reveal It's Secrets

Many People Doing Many Things - etching

The most successful prints by Leslie Lowinger at Dolby Chadwick Gallery manage to exploit many of the specifically rich qualities of print media without calling excessive attention to printmaking as a process. The exhibition interweaves several series of works on paper and cloth, playfully moving between moods in an environment which alludes to the rhythms of music and dance. The elegant no-frame installation using magnets and metal stands designed by Ben Frombgen aids in the creation of a space where works of art are more accessible than they would be were they encumbered with the weight and reflections of more traditional framing.

As you walk into the exhibition, you are immediately thrust into a kind of syncopated rhythm which seems to carry the upbeat of city life at its best. A tension is set up throughout the exhibition between the worlds of form and not-form, as Lowinger makes extensive use of irregularly shaped, elongated cutout plates which become the clearly defined matrix for vague figures to roam amidst swirling and dotted overlays of pattern and energy.  Forms apparently expand and contract moving through the spaces of organically shaped plates which seem to suggest some sort of pulsating biological actions. Often cut from the same plates, the images are visually linked through the corresponding shapes of their cut edges, while another rhythm is set up using the white space of the gallery wall to create additional organic shapes. The breaks created by these blank spaces help keep the energy focused while one’s vision moves through the sequences. 

Some of the pieces function almost as “moving images,” an effect realized through the spacing, the sense of sequencing, and the presence of indistinct, often silhouetted, but obviously human forms. A large silhouetted female form appears in one panel of one of these large scale “moving images,” and then appears again alone on one of a series of etchings on silk whose mood is quieter and more reflective, providing a link between two otherwise very distinct groups of images. The Mystery Series includes three etchings on white silk, which hang from individual floor stands in front of white curtained windows, and waft in the breeze. The not quite black images appear almost translucent, are just distinct enough to notice, and appear as mysterious and enigmatic characters in some kind of obscure shadow play. These works are the most focused of the pieces in the show, evoking a great deal from very few carefully chosen elements. They provide a calming breather from the energy-spiked mood of the rest of the show. It would be wonderful to see this idea extended to include an entire theater-like installation.

Although all the work on display is technically proficient, the least successful pieces appear to focus too closely on the printmaking technique as an end in itself and show a related fascination with color without a clear need for its use. The large-scale gridded piece entitled People and Situations, made of many small scale prints hung to together, suffers somewhat from these problems. The piece is filled with beautiful colors, fantastic textures, interesting shapes, well printed forms, as if it couldn’t decide what it wanted to be due to a surplus of possibilities. Alternatively each one of these frames could potentially function as the beginning of one focused series of images where issues of scale, form, content and color could have more space to evolve into clearer statements.

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