New York

Nancy Steinson

Atlantic Gallery

Nancy Steinson’s sculptures consist of polygonal sheets of painted steel framing partially visible interior spaces. Germinus (all works 1988) folds around a single volume; the more elaborate metal origami of Gayan’s Passage twists along the ground like a ribbon, or a fallen, dismembered box kite. The harsh geometric forms are occasionally relieved by wavelike curves that snake along the work’s contours. Flat, irregularly shaped steel bases echo the shadows cast by the angled masses. Though the sculptures tend to tilt and lean precariously, as though top-heavy, they are for the most part narrow and vertical, and hence suggest figures. The titles reinforce this reading: Annunciation lunges forward like an angel in a Renaissance painting, while Akhenaten is a more stable, ceremonial figure. Other pieces suggest rocky or mountainous landscapes; Temple of Forgotten Time, a boxy form resting on spindly legs, evokes architecture. The sculptures range from approximately one to five feet in height, but the strength and austerity of their forms conveys a sense of monumentality, as though they were intended as studies for much larger pieces.

The three series of charcoal and pastel drawings included in the show, though small, also possess a grandeur exceeding their diminutive scale. Often patterned with strong diagonal strokes, the drawings maintain a wispy softness that contrasts sharply with the rough, rusted surfaces and harsh lines of the sculptures. These extremely compressed horizontal compositions also suggest landscapes: though drawn from memory, the sketches are named after locales familiar to the artist. The works in “Hanover I-II” recall shadowy mountain ranges, while the luminous turquoise-and-pink backgrounds of “Plymouth I-III” convey the mingled light of twilight skies. These works seem to float, as if suspended on their light-filled backgrounds, and as such also retain the quality of geometric abstractions. As in the sculptures, the curves and triangles of “Hudson I-VI” enclose voids. Landscape materializes briefly, only to be exposed as a string of folding planes. Steinson’s drawings and sculptures reveal a power transcending their modest size and muted palette. Her lunging, reaching forms aspire to something more ambitious and grand; her work might benefit from being realized on a scale commensurate with her vision.

Lois E. Nesbitt