I love lines. I love lines that seem to come from deep within us as we put pencil to paper. Lines made by the human hand are our identities, our autobiographies and our self-portraits. Our personal rhythm. Few artists express an eloquence and eroticism through line as well as Dallas artist Andrea Rosenberg. Her 41 mixed-media drawings are on exhibit at the Barry Whistler Gallery through December 5.
The show is succinctly called “New Drawings.” The works are titled “Untitled” and recorded by numbers. Although the lack of titles offers no hooks for the viewer, it reveals much about Rosenberg’s private nature. She is reluctant to tell you too much about herself. She is reluctant to be on stage, usually plays it safe and is somewhat uncomfortable outside of her studio. In that space, she is secure and relies on her own self for inspiration. Her personal and recognizable focus for the past several years has been — as she puts its — the forms of “not botanically correct” flowers. Rosenberg is stubborn in her resolve to be her own inspiration and is somewhat solitary: “I don’t go out much” and “I am only fearless in my studio.” She readily admits to being “uninformed” — she doesn’t read art journals nor does she frequent galleries.
Representing a year’s worth of work, this introspective show is evidence of a cathartic and productive adventure in exploring forms — which just happen to resemble flowers. Yet no ‘real’ species of flower can be identified. The floral shapes are excuses for making marks. The subject of Rosenberg’s fixation is not as important as ‘going for a walk with a line,’ although her rhythmic, swirling lines are more like dances than walks. The lines start and stop with bold assurance, yet they also quiver and drift with a sensuality and fragility.
The ‘flowers’ are visions from within, and they bloom large; the pencil or oil stick is their soil and sun. Some are smudged and smoky, almost obliterated, thus veiling and protecting their bodies and vulnerability. But even if she is protecting her flowers (her self), Rosenberg is unusually open and fearless with color. She brazenly splashes and seeps the paper with red, yellow, pink. Maybe on the petals. Maybe not. Maybe on the leaves. Maybe not. The colors add strength but not definition to the shapes. And the colors are intense, another fearless feat, because she uses costly, Japanese, water-color pigments.
Nor is Rosenberg stingy with size. “Untitled 49-15″ is more than five feet by four — with a blast of orange jetting up from the bottom of the page. In”Untitled 41-15” — more than four feet tall — the lines crash upwards against the paper’s barrier, as if searching for breathing room. A grouping of smaller drawings (one is only a foot tall) command a wall, while inviting closer looks. But the largest drawing — saturated generously with a rich, blood-red, paper-drenching stain — is left unframed and unglazed, “so that viewers will be absorbed into the colors and line,” says Rosenberg.
You will note many different kinds of paper, including the smooth, popular Yupo. Having drawers full of papers collected over the years, the artist says she picks them randomly and innately, just as she does when choosing colors. She was determined not to allow her explorations to be hampered by anything pre-meditated or derivative, but to be intimate and immediate.
As her private journey was to go public, Rosenberg left the editing in Whistler’s capable hands. After culling through her year’s work — almost twice the number of drawings in the show — Whistler chose what he thought would make a strong exhibition. The elegant and imaginative installation, which Rosenberg first saw on opening night, delighted her. She was astonished by the unexpected associations. She hadn’t considered relationships among the drawings as the completed pieces went from working wall to storage drawer.
The year would soon be over, and she had to get right back to drawing her autobiography, line by line.