DRAWINGS 2

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Self-Portrait on Mirror, 1970, Charcoal 72.’1 x57.2cin. (2812 x22Y in.)  Collection: Mrs. Joseph B. Barron, Boston, MA

From exhibition catalog: American Portrait Drawings, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C., 1980

Abeles is a painter and a sculptor as well as a draftsman, but drawing became an essential concern for him in the late 1960s, about the time when this inventive self-portrait was made. His work was then shaped by two basic realizations: ‘That art could be black and white"; and that his drawings were more original and directly expressive—less inclined to eclecticism—than his paintings. (It is only recently that Abeles has begun to work again with color; he gave it up in 1967.)

Artists have long used the mirror as an aid to portraiture, but few have thought to step on the mirror and explore a radically foreshortened perspective that is, perhaps, both surprising and significant in the unaccustomed degrees of prominence accorded certain parts of the image. It is interesting, for instance, that at a time when the artist reportedly drew with soft pencils attached to a two-foot stick, he shows us neither his arms nor his hands. Almost the entire torso, historically a locus of human spirit, is eliminated. Casually shod feed become the static origins of image and form; the edgeless mirror plane floats ambiguously within tile pictures space in an unresolved relationship to the paper’s surface. A small, intensely drawn head peers down and out—or up and in—from its perch of wrinkled trousers. In Abeles’s serious use of such devices, one senses the respectful purpose with which he explores tile figurative tradition.

 

Sinclair Hitchings. "Statement." In Abeles, Recent Drawings. Durham, N.H., 1971.

 

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©2001 by Sigmund Abeles