the Laura Russo Gallery, 805 NW 21st, through June 26
A curious exhibition at the Laura Russo Gallery this month subtly explores some of the differences between drawing and photography, iconic and representational spaces, and allegories and documents. The show is a collection of post-9/11 drawings that local art hero Henk Pander based on sketches and photographs that he made at Ground Zero in 2002.
Pander's ink-hatched scenes depict the area immediately surrounding the site of the fallen towers. In The Wall, police in gas masks guard a fenced perimeter while a man looking suspiciously like Pander makes sketches off to the side. Pander turns away from the wreckage in Observance to capture the crowd of mourners--sightseers at the scene of our greatest tragedy. Modes of Grief shows a small crowd huddled in a group hug in front of the skeletal remains of a destroyed building. The drawings are highly photographic; space is compressed and organized in the flattened ways that monocular lenses typify. The crowd shots are too instantaneous to be derived from plein-air sketches. The effect is that these are hand-drawn snapshots, documents from the human hand rather than an unfeeling machine.
There are two drawings of particular interest in the show, and they are of essentially the same scene. Both Homeland and Parent depict a young, hippie-ish mother in a tank top and cowboy hat with her two children flashing the peace sign as a swarm of anti-terrorist, heavily uniformed enforcers occupy the background. From this point on, however, the drawings could not be more different. Parent is drawn in the style of the rest of the exhibition; it looks photographic, flatly set on a city street. Homeland, however, jettisons all attempts at recreating realistic space or documentary veracity. Now we see the same mother and children from the back, again flashing their peace signs at a gang of intimidating robo-officers. Instead of being set on the streets of Manhattan, though, space has become completely ambiguous, and the narrative falls into the nature of storybook allegory rather than documentary realism. Faceless, the mother and children become universal everypersons, opining against government force in a timeless, space less vacuum. Rather than being tied to a singular moment on a downtown sidewalk, Homeland escapes the limitations of the factual document and becomes an eternal, haunting scene. CHAS BOWIE