A year-and-a-half ago, Marti Koplin retired, her partner Eleana Del Rio took over, and Koplin Gallery became Koplin Del Rio Gallery. "Drawings VII," this summer's installment of the biannual exhibition that began more than a decade ago, presents a focused selection of generally strong depictions of the human figure.
Landscapes, still lifes, abstractions, Surrealist-inspired phantasms and indescribable hybrids are in short supply in this group show, which zeroes in on bodies, many nude and most rendered with such attentiveness that they're a pleasure to see, particularly because they're far from idealized.
Among the 80 drawings by 47 artists, standouts include vividly realistic portraits by Steven Assael, Ira Korman, A.J. Smith, Robert Schultz, Bruno Surdo, James Valerio and Bill Vuksanovich. All of these meticulously realized images emphasize the physicality of living flesh by depicting it against the flat backdrop of white, gray or black.
Other artists provide settings for their figures. In general, as narrative specifics increase, realistic details decrease. This is true in engaging works by Stephen Cefalo, Warren Criswell, D.J. Hall, Zhi Lin and Kerry James Marshall. All balance precise observation against narrative suggestion, loading believable scenes with potent emotions.
A handful of artists forgo the human figure. The ones that sustain attention do so because they endow landscapes, animals and objects with the significance we usually reserve for encounters with people.
Katherine Doyle's charcoal and pastel drawing of light streaming through trees is magical. Hilary Brace's pair of postcard-size charcoals on Mylar are mysterious. Peter Zokosky's four monkey pictures are endearing without anthropomorphizing our genetic relatives. And Rebecca Morales' intimate still life brings a rare touch of color to an otherwise black, white and gray exhibition.
Less buttoned-down seriousness and more unpredictability would add to a tradition that's beginning to look a little too staid.