March 27, 2008

James Nelson's coiling, sausagey shapes

In the Philadelphia Inquirer Edith Newhall reports that the faint, lacy pencil-rendered patterns in James Nelson's drawings of a few years ago have given way to bolder, darker, charcoal ones. "Nelson's recent drawings from his series 'Head of a Girl (in play),' at Gallery Joe, also introduce obvious humor to his work. The series' title, taken from the traditional description of a portrait of any anonymous young female sitter, is used here to unite Nelson's subject matter, the backs of women's heads-specifically their hair. Remember Giuseppe Arcimboldo, the 16th-century Italian painter famous for his portraits of people whose heads are composed entirely from vegetables and fruit? Nelson invokes him more than once. He also brings to mind late Philip Guston and the Chicago Imagists, in particular Christina Ramberg. He manages this, though, not through images of hair - or anything remotely realistic - but through configurations of coiling, sausagey shapes. There are several works here that take the hair idea to the limit, such as a deeply vertical drawing, possibly a nod to Rapunzel-length hair, that is an all-over pattern of worm and shell-like shapes, not unlike a horde of heads as seen from above. Eccentric, yes, but a very elegant drawing nevertheless." Read more.

"James Nelson," Gallery Joe, Philadelphia, PA. Through April 26

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