BCA’S 24TH Drawing Show
by Elizabeth Michelman
Flat, Flatter, Flattest.
“Feelers,” the Boston Center for the Arts’ 24th Drawing Show at the Mills Gallery, is a biennial juried selection of 60 works from 56 artists hailing from as close as the Boston area to as far away as Iceland. Visiting curator Susan Metrican, director of the arts at Brandeis University, sought to capture a “certain something” about contemporary drawing practice through associations to Edwin A. Abbott’s romance “Flatland,” a dystopia of a two-dimensional world. The flat inhabitants of this plane can only know others by reaching outside their own perimeters to “feel” them. Feeling, however interpreted, may be an essential component of all forms of art. But Metrican’s exploration of the term seeks to pinpoint how some “drawings” heighten our awareness of what qualifies as “flat.”
Risking a painterly touch, Metrican has grouped works in different areas according to their color. In one alcove, glowing yellow, beige and ochre tones successfully draw together unlike forms. But the device may work too well. It distracts attention from the internal coherence of individual works and the more subtle ways in which many of them connect.
Uniform color planes affect our perceptions of flatness and depth. The first piece in the show, which may be better appreciated when leaving, is Liz Nofziger’s “Ground Lock,” cutouts of transparent orange vinyl covering the gallery’s front windows. The filter separates the “dimension” of the art gallery from the street. It puts a frame around movement in
the outer world, and it emotionally distances the viewer by canceling out nature’s expected hues. Also in the same room, testifying to the immateriality of the perceptual plane, is a curious drawing by Jenene Nagy. “P5’s” burnished expanse of graphite marks appears to float above the paper at least an inch off the wall. Around the corner, in prickly contrast, hangs Heather Clark’s grass-green wall relief, “Catoctin Mountain.” An eight-foot-tall isometric map stitched together from layers of AstroTurf, it clearly qualifies as a “feeler.”