New York

Elizabeth Dworkin

Victoria Munroe Gallery

Working on the edge between abstraction and figuration, Elizabeth Dworkin has found her way to a powerful style of expression. The blunt strength of her compositions has a mysterious gravity to it. In her vision, meaning arises in declaratively poetic fashion from surprising juxtapositions of elements of form and color, and qualities like light and texture in surfaces filled with dynamic, scaffoldlike arrangements of planes and slashing brushstrokes. At the foundation of these juxtapositions lies what might be called the graphic integrity of her structures. She has devoted herself equally to painting and drawing, and in her work the two media are intimately related and often overlap.

Focusing on the last 15 years of her drawing, this show revealed how Dworkin has consistently used drawing as a tool for formal investigation as well as a means of expressing feelings and ideas. This dual approach to drawing is already evident in the examples of the early and mid ’70s, of which the pastel Emzorange, 1975, is representative. The grid is the principal structural device in these drawings. In Emzorange, it defines and organizes the surface into various rectangular enclosures containing masses of marks, diagonals and horizontals that function as lines of emotive force. The largest rectangle encloses a subtle explosion of orange hues, and the title is a reference to Monet’s use of that color in his late works (Monet’s orange). In the late ’70s, Dworkin opened up the grid by developing its aspect of enclosure, as she did in Untitled, 1978, an acrylic drawing in which the painterly pigment (mostly red, pink, white, and black) was applied more freely, allowing the image to breathe. The grid has been swallowed into the tactile surfaces of Untitled, 1980, an acrylic and charcoal drawing, as it has in #213, 1986, an oil and charcoal composition in which Dworkin has juxtaposed variously shaped and colored barlike configurations next to and above each other.

Throughout these works, there is a constant flux and shifting of light and color values within a structured framework. It is the gestural energy of the surface, with its rhythmic passages of geometric shapes and frequently brilliant patches of color, that animates Dworkin’s vision.

Ronny Cohen