Like a breeze that cuts through the sweltering summer heat, “West Coast Drawings: Drawings VIII” refreshes the viewer and reignites our interest in the very basic practice of art. The work on view-mostly ink, graphite or charcoal on paper-recalls college life-drawing classes and lessons on texture and line. Continuing their annual summer tradition of exhibiting drawings by promising West Coast artists, Koplin Del Rio’s eighth installment of “West Coast Drawings,” curated by Norman Lundin, runs concurrently at Davidson Galleries in Seattle, Washington, with drawings by forty artists from up and down the coast. The show at Koplin Del Rio in Culver City featured a diverse range of artists, mostly from the Northwest, including several with growing national reputations such as Eric Elliott and Seattle-based Ann Gale.
The gracefulness and simplicity of a sketch is generally difficult to read as a finished work, often because it actually is a study for a painting, but the rawness and vulnerability of its unadorned nature reminds us of the qualities we most enjoy in a piece of art. Although its title betrays the secret of its fate to be soon replaced, likely by a slick painting on canvas, Seattle-based Margie Livingston’s Study for Zinc White Over (2006), constructed of intersecting curved lines in charcoal, leads the eye from top to bottom, side to side fluidly, ultimately fulfilling the experience of having examined a complete picture. Fred Birchman’s Cherry Picker (2005) is rendered in parts with the precision of a true draftsman, yet it appears smudged elsewhere, as if in an afterthought the artist decided that it was too technical for his taste. The desaturated palette, save for blocks of muted yellow or teal, lends an eerie sense of abandonment to the picture, like a forgotten plan for a brilliant new invention that has been tucked away in a desk drawer.
Another Seattle-based artist, Etsuko Ichikawa, presents her signature glass pyrographs on paper: drawings made, in the artist’s words, “by drawing hot molten glass, leaving the immediate charred tracery of my movement with the heat.” For Ichikawa, these pieces are said to be about “encounters,” and that sentiment rings true with the viewer. The fleeting visual whispers trace the surface like smoke, suggesting the impermanence of relationships, and of one’s own feelings, over time.