New York

David Ligare

Andrew Crispo Gallery

This problem of thinking arso arises with David Ligare’s large drawings of sand images. What I mean here by thinking is the continual reevaluation of established ideas, the rigorous questioning, which informs art’s dialectic. Too many artists merely play with variations on an accepted language without ever challenging the validity of its grammar. Painting is particularly vulnerable in this respect as its syntax has been so strictly explored. 

To return to Ligare’s work—he first makes simple marks in wet sand and then records these images in detailed drawings in pencil and metallic powder on paper. These then form the basis for larger graphite drawings on canvas primed with a mix of acrylic and metallic powder. From a distance these canvases look like blown-up photographs due to the grainy quality of the tonal drawing and the silvery grayness of the powder, as well as the meticulous detail. Their craftsmanship is certainly impressive. 

However, Ligare’s work does involve more than just reproductive skill. In a typical work there is a visual balance of horizontal and vertical striations; the gestural elements never interfere with the architectural structuring of the whole. The flatness asserted by this continual reference to the rectangle is emphasized by the lack of perspective. One is aware of a visual paradox in lifting the sand drawing off its horizontal plane onto a vertical one. The basically monochromatic backdrop for the drawing further articulates the surface flatness, and also provides for an easy overall unity. Yet all of this is fairly standard picturemaking, without any profoundly critical rethinking of the grounds. 

On another level, Ligare’s works can be read as visual puns. They are “photographs” made by drawing. Furthermore they are redrawings of drawings. The painterly gesture of the image is contradicted by the painstaking drawing technique as with Roy Lichtenstein’s brushstroke. Finally, though, one feels that while the work is definitely well executed, it depends too much on easily available ideas and is lacking in innovative thinking.

Susan Heinemann