55 Orchard Street, New York, New York 10002 212 989 5467 fax 212 989 5642
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James Nelson
 November 21 - December 21, 2014

James Nelson has always made drawings, working largely in graphite or charcoal on handmade Japanese or Chinese papers. Recent exhibitions explored narrative representation: in his 2007 exhibition, Head of a Girl, charcoal drawings of coils of hair veered from near-complete abstraction to representational renditions inspired by a Veronese drawing. For the 2011 show Two-Ton Hammer, Nelson created rhythmic configurations of hammers in charcoal and graphite along with playful renditions of ears in graphite and colored pencil in homage to a long-time musical friendship. After that exhibition, the artist felt the need to return to creating fully abstract works, uniting the nuances of graphite with the boldness possible with charcoal.
 
Nelson’s drawings are subtle and cumulative, the result of an accretion of small marks, erasure, and varying gestures, some discreet, others strong. Works range widely in scale, from letter-size to very large, 84 x 60 inches. The artist notes, “it’s all erasure, whether I’m erasing a mark or erasing the paper with a mark, the additive and subtractive process is the same.” Additionally, Nelson has always been drawn to the fibrous and translucent qualities found in hand-made Asian papers, whose intrinsic properties have guided and inspired the marks of the artist. In these drawings, linear and circular shapes seem to emerge and flow across the paper’s surface. There is a subtle complexity in the tonal ranges Nelson explores within an individual work. In some of the drawings the entire surface is activated, while in others there is a figure/ground relationship that can be evocative of landscape, but never is. As he notes, “foreground and background struggle to replace each other. It’s a wrestling match with the history of the event left on the page.” Nelson cites such divergent influences as Jasper Johns, Old Master drawings, and 10th century Chinese landscape paintings as important influences on this body of work. He equates the activity of drawing with a meditative exercise, “where you try to experience the world as it was before things were given a name.”
 
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55 Orchard Street, New York, New York 10002 212 989 5467 fax 212 989 5642
email info@mckenziefineart.com