Deborah Dancy in The Bottom Line

The Drawing Center, The Bottom Line , June 26, 2013

Currently on view until June 29 at Sears Peyton Gallery is a collection of luminescent paintings and drawings in the exhibition Deborah Dancy: Chasing the Light. The entire exhibition, including both large-scale paintings and smaller works on paper, possesses a radiance that is both eccentric and sincere. Although the pieces stand successfully alone, the works become particularly inspiring when viewed together.


Dancy uses drawing in her paintings and works on paper to bridge the gap between abstraction and figuration through the intersection of line, color, and gesture. Dancy’s finished works highlight her process of adding and subtracting paint to attain a particular color palette and surface texture. Her architecturally drawn lines are fundamental to the compositions, holding their own prominence without taking away from the colors that cushion them. Where sharp edges meet soft tones, a conversation between severity and serenity begins and continues throughout the show. Although the style in which Dancy paints seems impulsive, the overall organization of shape and color indicates thought and control.


Dancy’s overlaying of muted tones with bright geometric forms creates portals of depth and perspective. The pieces, although flat, attain a sculptural quality through their presence in the space which is only further exemplified in her works on paper. The smaller-scale drawings with acrylic on paper mirror the sculptural quality in Dancy’s previous mixed media work, where collaged additions of outside imagery and illustrations generate moments of clarity in their abstract environments, adding another material dimension to the works. Similarly, Dancy’s works on paper in the current exhibition highlight layering to achieve sculptural attributes on an intimate level through drawn lines.


Although the work is progressive in its take on abstraction, the show is never overbearing. The pieces hint at a narrative by way of imagery and titles—as in Gates of Paradise (2013), where the linear forms hint at an opening into a dreamlike setting, and Ships Passing (2013), where triangular shapes point to ship sails—but the construction is never fully completed, leaving room for the viewer to fill in information as he or she sees fit. The titles share enough to make the viewer wonder what the relationship is to Dancy’s quest for light, but not enough to take away from the pieces’ inexplicable value.


Looking forward, Dancy’s geometric depictions parallel drawings by Susan Hefuna (b. Germany, 1962) which inform NOTATIONOTATIONS, a collaborative performance with contemporary choreographer Luca Veggetti (b. Italy, 1963) produced for The Drawing Center by Brett Littman and Joanna Kleinberg Romanow this fall. Over the course of three nights, Hefuna will trace webs of chalk lines on the floor that Veggetti’s dancers will progressively erase through body movement in a mapping of people and places.


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