Regina Granne: Increments: Drawings, 1970-1995 at A.I.R. Gallery
April 29 – May 24, 2009
111 Front Street, #228
Brooklyn, 212 255 6651
Regina Granne’s graphic work—spare, sure-lined renderings of nudes, still lifes, and interiors in graphite or pastel pencil—grapples with the question of how we know things and locate meaning in the world around us. Her finely tuned, pressurized arrangements present the rational and unexpected in equal measure, layering scalar contrasts and dramatic foreshortenings into a careful, tightly structured grammar. Her particular skill is an ability to make her forms at once known quantities—with histories and associations folded into them—and empty, cipher-like abstractions.
Twenty five of Granne’s works on paper were gathered together in “Increments: Drawings, 1970-1995,” a mini-retrospective at A.I.R. Gallery this spring and for a hand-bound exhibition catalogue by Brooklyn print house The Crumpled Press. Granne is a painter, too, and she displays in both mediums an interest in the registers of figuration: maps and drawings populate her oils, arranged on tabletops with 3-D objects like flowers and toy soldiers. But where the paintings model form in pigment and shadow, the drawings are resolutely, nakedly linear. It’s all contour, joints, and structure, and the negative space takes on an intensity of pressure that verges on dislocation. Looking at the work, you “know what all this is,” Granne notes in the catalogue’s interview. “It’s a room, with a figure, and a book on a table, and yet something is wrong, or…not what [you] expect to see.”
In Large Still Life with Pears (1976), Granne juxtaposes a foreground still life with a reclining nude. The pears on the table, as large as the figure’s head, are rendered in simple contour, like the foreshortened face, torso, and arms of the model, and endowed with the same sense of poised arrangement.. Granne employs a number of strategies to obfuscate the true distances between things, cropping out the edges and corners of spatial planes (tables, beds, walls), or using the barest of surface details (architectural molding, the bump of a shoulder blade) to indicate the presence of weight beneath.
Granne worked until the mid-1960s in an abstract vocabulary, a background that doubtlessly refined her keen eye for locating formal patterns across varying depths and distances. But she is less interested in the flattening of space per se than in the states of being of her depicted objects. What is the visual data before us, and how does that add up to a flower, a face, a believable depth? What are the angles of “increments,” the specific shifts of perspective and portrayal, that alter our understanding of what we see? How can we equate a semicircle of pears with a model’s neck and shoulders, and keep them simultaneously distinct?
Hanging rugs and illustrations frequently appear in the later interiors, such as Marika and Jacopo (1993), which pairs Jacopo Bellini’s contrapposto St. Sebastian, curved across the open page of a book, with the ‘real’ weight of Granne’s reclining model. These quoted depictions are as much about definitional categories of image and object as they are about temporal pauses, our desire to make something static from the flow of information around us.Horizontal Still Life (1980) (illustrated in the catalogue though not on view at A.I.R.) arranges its vases and flowers with an exactitude that verges on the decorative, their thrusting stalks and angular handles static as an architectural frieze. Precisely situated in undelineated seas of space, Granne’s forms feel at once boldly declarative and alarmingly precipitous, shifting meditations on perception, object, image, and transience.