Art We Love – It’s Right There in Black and White

For many people art is all about color. Each of us has emotional responses to specific colors (don’t get Barbra Streisand going on orange) and lots of us even dream in color. But how do you tell a story, provoke a reaction, or pull someone into a work of art without color? The pieces here provide the answers, and they demonstrate that you can do all that in a remarkable range of techniques.
Rice Pollack Gallery

Ellen LeBow He Cradles the last one 24×16 at the Rice Pollack Gallery

Ellen Lebow, He Cradles the Last One (incised ink on clayboard, 24” × 16”), Rice Polack Gallery

Ellen Lebow has created a mysterious world with each stroke of her knife into the inky black surface of this clayboard. Cutting through the darkness to reveal the light, she sets a scene that is both beautiful and just a little menacing. Her Plague Doctor series references the black plague of centuries past that is of course so timely today. She’s created powerful depth of field by modulating the thickness and the density of the lines, and the result is both enigmatic and the most vivid thing you’ve seen in black and white.

Manuel Pardo, Mother and I (pencil on paper, 24” x 36”), Gary Marotta Fine Art

Manuel Pardo, Mother and I (pencil on paper, 24” x 36”), Gary Marotta Fine Art

It’s not the tools you have, it’s how you use them. How many of us if given a pencil and a sheet of paper could create something with this much charisma? Just simple lines and no shading, yet this girl has personality. The artist had the courage of his convictions – each line is confidently laid down and never second-guessed. It’s not about perfect proportions or anatomical correctness, it’s about bringing a character to life on the page. And lest you think this is all he can do, it’s worth a trip to the gallery to see the ladies he brings to life in glorious color.

Jim Bakker, Ellen’s Queen Anne’s Lace (cyanotype, 13.5” x 12.5”), Bakker Gallery

Jim Bakker, Ellen’s Queen Anne’s Lace (cyanotype, 13.5” x 12.5”), Bakker Gallery

All art is alchemy in a sense, with the artist transforming a blank canvas into the Mona Lisa or a block of marble into David. But with a cyanotype, the term seems especially apt. Blueprints are cyanotypes, but beyond the practical application of copying building plans, artists have been employing this photographic printing process for almost 200 years. Here, Jim Bakker has created an elegant and evocative work. Anyone can lay an object on a piece of photo-sensitive paper, but Bakker’s unerring eye has composed something ethereal and timeless.

Phyllis Ewan, Storm Clouds Gathering (archival pigment (digital), 12” x 14”) – AMP Gallery

 

Phyllis Ewan, Storm Clouds Gathering (archival pigment (digital), 12” x 14”) – AMP

This is one of those pieces that called me over and kept me asking questions. I saw biomorphic forms creeping over the crisp lines of the graph paper, but wasn’t sure what story they were telling. As it turns out, these “storm clouds” are part of a series the artist embarked on in response to the pandemic. She drew every day, and the graph paper is for her a symbol of order in a world of chaos. I think this piece is a Rorschach test; each of us will see different things and feel different emotions. But it will make us think and make us feel, and that is a high standard for any work of art.

 

George Rogers is an artist and ceramicist. After a career in museums including the MFA in Boston and the Smithsonian, he and his husband moved to Provincetown full time four years ago.