New York

Blythe Bohnen

Body gesture as one’s means of acting in the world and defining one’s sensibilities becomes explicit in Blythe Bohnen’s drawings. Moving three-inch, six-inch or nine-inch graphite bars on their edges, Bohnen creates a series of twisting and turning forms across the paper. Each drawing explores the range of possibilities within a restricted framework of related movements. For example, one series investigates the sequential rhythms of a down, across and up motion, another the different speeds of a sharp sweep up and then down. The resultant page reads as an alphabet of gestures, a catalogue of the elements used to compose one’s language of expression.

Although Bohnen’s various configurations often conjure up objective referents, in particular veils or drapes, they never actually become representations of forms but remain as records of their facture. In her earlier gray acrylic brushstrokes, the inevitable associations to Roy Lichtenstein lent an iconic emphasis which tended to obscure the origin of the imagery in its making. Bohnen’s new work avoids this pitfall. Because in scanning the forms one’s eye repeats the motions of the artist, one is constantly reminded of the constructive process, that the final image is merely the trace of certain gestures. Changes in value read as alterations in pressure of the artist’s hand; the turning at a pivot point posits a different level of energy. This merging of making and image invites a comparison to Robert Morris’ recent drawings. Bohnen’s process originates in an intuitive gesture which she then explores through its possible variations. Her reasoning is inductive rather than deductive. Morris, on the other hand, sets up certain premises beforehand and then uses repeating blind gesture to approximate his mental image, revealing distinctions between concept and process. Morris’ completed drawing is a single image built up from short, repetitive gestures, while Bohnen’s work consists of a compilation of related images, each composed of one continuous movement. Although Bohnen does design the layout of her pages, the emphasis is on a collection of possibilities for motion instead of a single picture.

––Susan Heinemann