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Review: Barry Pelzner’s ‘A Thin Black Line’

Friday, October 03, 2014

 

Barry Pelzner's 'A Thin Black Line'

Dashing and flitting across paper, black linear forms swirl and mix, combining to create abstracted assemblages in artist Barry Pelzner’s newest body of work, "A Thin Black Line," at Froelick Gallery. Each piece is the culmination of a meticulous drawing process in ballpoint pen, an obvious amount of labor showing through in the thousands of lines and hatchings present.  

Using only black ink and white paper, Pelzner has produced a series that plays with our perception of space and depth. Through his mark-making, which creates dark and light areas based on the amount of pen hatchwork used, many of the flat paper works seem to bulge and recess, floating off the page and sinking deep within it.  In "Illuminate II" (2014), this is especially present, as the bulbous forms seem to be breaking the boundary of the paper, becoming three-dimensional in the process. In opposition, other pieces, such as "Condense" (2013), lie comfortably and satisfyingly flat, while somehow retaining a pull towards its dark spaces.    

In all the works, there is a constant push and pull between chaos and order. In several pieces, there is the visible decision to make strong, strict outer borderlines that contain an inner image, but trapped inside is a swirling organized chaos. 

In others, the middle of the work is contained, solid, comfortable, but as the edges are approached, thin lines dart out and escape the confines, misbehaving and revealing their disorder. This visual effort to contain and organize chaos is furthered by the use of negative space – most affecting in the several pieces that simply have an empty white square at their center.  

Barry Pelzner's 'A Thin Black Line'

Through the use of linear forms, as well as the use of negative space and depth, an incredible amount of movement is created.

In what could easily have only existed as static, unvarying drawings hanging on the wall, there is instead a lightness, and a buoyancy even with the heaviness of the darkest sections. Existing like communicative linear networks, the works allow the viewer’s eyes to bounce and jump around, moving along in time with the sporadic but controlled lines, engaging in their language.  

Barry Pelzner's 'A Thin Black Line' is at the Froelick Gallery, 714 NW Davis St., Portland OR 97209

Open Tuesday-Saturday, Sept. 30-Nov. 1, 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

 

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