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This article by Nicole Plett was prepared for the December 11, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Review: `Line of Inquiry’ at MCCC

Although curators frequently gravitate toward the theme

show as a vehicle for bringing lots of artists before the public at

the same time, creating a group exhibition that is more than the sum

of disparate parts is hard to pull off. Thinking about a theme and

a group of artists, the curator can make at best only a calculated

guess about the future compatibility — in terms of content

and chemistry — of the work she plans to solicit. And it may not

be until after the work is installed that she learns whether her guess

has paid off.

At the Gallery at Mercer County Community College, curator Tricia

Fagan selected as the theme for a group show our most basic act of

mark-making — the line. She has used this theme to successfully

draw together works by five area artists into a provocative and unified

constellation. On view through Thursday, December 19, "Line of

Inquiry" features multiple works by Joy Kreves, Elizabeth McCue,

Helen Mirkil, Paul Mordetsky, and Harry Naar. Gracefully installed

in the gallery’s three rooms, the show presents work in two and three

dimensions and in all media. And as the title suggests, the viewer

may find the idea of thematic inquiry a helpful vehicle through which

to meet new artists and perhaps see familiar work with new eyes.

"For human beings, the use of line is one of the most elementary

of lessons. From the time we first clutch crayon or pencil in hand,

dashing streaks on paper or bedroom wall, our personal style in `mark

making’ begins its lifelong evolution," writes Fagan in her gallery

notes. The muscle and movement inherent is her characterization of

line are key to the show’s success.

Elizabeth McCue weighs in with both big busy drawings and incredibly

spare and dynamic sculpture. Her three-dimensional works in particular

establish high demands for line. "Ball of Thorns No. 1," a

sphere formed of woven branches and string surrounded by a corona

of dried leaves stands at the show’s entrance. It was a surprise to

discover that its companion piece, "Ball of Thorns No. 2,"

contains no natural materials but is entirely cast in bronze. I was

most taken by McCue’s big pedestal sculpture "Arms of the Night,"

two soaring, determined lines of bronze that push their way through

the air until they meet in a scintillating touch.

Also near the entrance is one of six big ink drawings on paper by

Harry Naar. Naar says he uses drawing as a kind of "visual brainstorming"

before he paints. Working with a single ink pen, he methodically and

meditatively sets down line after line, almost all of the same weight

and width; these aggregate ink marks are both spontaneous and irrevocable.

One resulting nature study, "The View," is as ineffable as

the lines that define it; it draws us into its imaginary space and

satisfies as an abstraction in its own right.

Joy Kreves is a natural choice for an artist who thinks about line;

"linework," she says, "has been the focus of her work

for 10 years." Her "Disc" series is comprised of virtuoso

studies of the beauty and dynamism of well-chosen lines, a meditative

weaving set in a circular frame. Complementing Kreves’ two-dimensional

works on paper and included in the show are her line drawings on porcelain,

from the powerful "Black Rain Plate" to her lighthearted "Noodle

Line Platter" which sports a playful line formed (I would guess)

by a real noodle.

Helen Mirkil, a painter from the Doylestown area, offers, among the

five artists, the most variegated mix of work. Her atmospheric and

expressionist figurative paintings and ink drawings, some embellished

with oil pastel and some with shoe polish, use line and color to evoke

real people and places — not just the way they look but the way

one feels in their presence.

It was not until I approached Paul Mordetsky’s nine landscapes that

I discovered I was looking in a new way. Working in oil and oil crayon,

Mordetsky uses paint to create the illusion of natural form. Yet suddenly

I noticed how line now ruled my way of looking; I found myself seeing

differently. Now the nature study "Full Tilt" hit me as a

dynamic cascade of line, almost as animated as the geologic tilt that

defined the landscape. What more can we ask of a theme show?

— Nicole Plett

Line of Inquiry, Gallery at Mercer County College, 1200

Old Trenton Road, West Windsor, 609-586-4800, ext. 3589. Open Tuesday

to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Wednesday evenings, 6 to 8 p.m., and

Thursdays, 7 to 9 p.m.

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