“Working the Line” at Ille Arts in Amagansett

The current show at Amagansett’s Ille Arts Gallery is “perky” to be sure and so is its title, Working the Line. We must ask, however, what makes a “perky” presentation? First, attention-getting techniques are important (like the show’s title), especially when an exhibit is on view during the off-season. Cheerful and colorful works are also essential. It doesn’t hurt to display artists who are underexposed either. No doubt about it, these elements are all present, thanks to the curators-artists Christa Maiwald and Denise Gale.

This is not to suggest that the show is simply entertainment. Nor should we characterize the artists as only emerging ones. Quite the contrary: the pieces convey creativity and technique. Some can even be described as indeed unique. (We also shouldn’t forget that lines are a powerful aesthetic element, as used by Agnes Martin, for example.)

Lines are essential in the embroidery work by Christa Maiwald. While Maiwald is known for her provocative political themes, this series presents portraits of celebrities (like Robin Williams and Whoopi Goldberg). Not only is it fun to guess who the individuals are, but it’s more fun to realize that we got them all correct. This is, of course, due to the artist’s expertise in capturing her subjects’ non-verbal features: Jim Carrey’s facial expression; Sandra Bernhardt’s nose. Maiwald’s work is so realistic it doesn’t appear cartoon-like, which is to her credit. And to think, such effect is achieved through thread and “the line.”

Denise Gale’s oils on paper are also defined by abstract lines that are drawn over a painted bright background. Such lines are often circular where shapes evoke discernible objects like a lasso or a flower. It’s interesting to try and determine exactly what the items are.

Claire Watson’s inks on paper have a similar effect as we attempt to identify what the abstract objects are. We soon realize that the shapes may often represent common items we might all have in our possession. For example, is one particular configuration really a group of paperclips clinging together? Then again, most of the drawings could be designs for a necklace or earrings. Whatever we may think the objects could be, the power of the line is apparent.

Gouache and colored pencils on paper are employed by Janet Goleas to create horizontal lines, resembling stripes. While the works recall an early series of stripes by Ross Bleckner, it goes to prove how appealing and universal this shape is. Other works by Goleas are more fluid and idiosyncratic, producing forms that draw the viewer into the piece. We feel like we are in Alice in Wonderland going through the rabbit hole.

Lines in Michael Chandler’s collages are more subtle with diverse images and figures sharing space. For example, “Solace” features a photograph with the letter S, providing a juxtaposition of shapes. The works, “Nose” and “Louis,” use the rectangular line to mark boundaries between subjects, while “Chain” possesses several X’s in the background to show the importance of lines.

Working the Line will be on view until April 11 at Ille Arts Gallery, 216A Main Street, Amagansett631-905-9894, illearts.com.

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