Five Myles February 7 – March 15, 2009
Although Five Myles may have aimed at inclusiveness in its current group exhibition of drawings by Rebecca Smith, Mildred Beltre, and Rana Khoury, it reads as three solo shows. Each artist’s diverse sensibilities are reflected in titles naming their individual aesthetic concerns. While American Rebecca Smith’s “Drawing” makes use of tape to generate line, Dominican Mildred Beltre’s “Animal, Vegetable and Mineral” employs line as obsessive, repetitive marks made in cellular patterns. Lebanese calligrapher Rana Khoury’s “Drawing with Words” applies line to equine shapes composed of Arabic script populating watercolor landscapes.
“Writing is the ultimate ‘drawing’ of ideas,” writes Rebecca Smith in explanation of her exploratory drawing with tape. A sculptor known for her hand-painted steel wall pieces, Smith explores the material qualities of various tapes bearing institutional and commercial associations, as well as arrangements of delicate, postal stamp-sized aluminum foil squares and lavender ribbon. Smith’s tape drawings recall the preparatory procedures for her sculptures, which utilize tape sketches to visualize the scale and composition of the fabricated sculpture.
Khoury’s calligraphy delineating horses echoes Smith’s statement linking drawing and writing. The Arabic script functions as the horses’ outline and as linguistic signifier of Khoury’s native tongue. In this sense, Beltre’s repetitive shapes also become an obsessive, repetitive writing through marks.
Beltre and Khoury’s drawings are by contrast more complete as products yet less experimental by format than Smith’s. Perhaps this is because both artists’ drawings are contained by the perimeters of the paper’s conventional page, or because their imagery lacks an immediate context for the space. While Smith’s prior tape works focus on the formal relationship between text and line, her installation responds to Five Myles’ unconventional battleship gray colored interior and imperfect armature of lighting rigs (which recalls the Modernist grid also often skewed and twisted in Smith’s steel sculptures). In addition, the string with suspended tape squares is an homage to Five Myles director Hanne Tierney’s puppet shows.
The mission of Five Myles—to advance public interest in innovative experimental work and exhibit culturally diverse artists—is duly represented in this show. Though the questionable experimental nature of Beltre and Khoury’s work and the resistance to marketability of Smith’s tape drawing installation may attract less attention from a commercial New York art world, this exhibition reminds us of the integrity and openness to diversity of the non-profit, off-the-radar Brooklyn gallery vital to establishing and nurturing a sense of local community.
GREG LINDQUIST is an artist, writer and editor of the Art Books in Review section of the Brooklyn Rail. He is currently a resident at the Marie Walsh Sharpe artist residency.