Sara Garden Armstrong: Marking Time           By Karen S. Chambers

John Gibson Gallery
568 Broadway
New York, NY 10012
Through June 30, 1999 (by appointment in July)

Of course, knowing an artist's earlier work is always a plus when it comes to viewing new work, but never was that so forcefully impressed upon me as when I walked into the blindingly white and sun-filled John Gibson gallery to see Sara Garden Armstrong's show called "Marking Time: Large-Scale Drawings." The graphite, pastel, and acrylic works, all from 1999, all measuring 80" x 120" (think of them in meters as 2 m. x 3 m.) are called Littoral and then numbered. I've known Armstrong's work for well over a decade: the handmade paper sculptures that shape negative space into environments; the complicated installations that incorporate sound and movement and light that are truly performance pieces; the bookworks that pack all of that information into a portable form (a perfect description of what a book is); and the smaller almost romantic drawings that celebrate the mark on paper. All of that is there in these over-sized and yet perfectly scaled drawings. There is a transparency-so important in her work-in the still charcoal-y washes of gray. There is a sense of movement in the line that is oddly jerky yet fluid. Simply push pinned to the wall, I knew that these sheets would move if the calm of the gallery were disturbed by a breeze just as her Airplayers do using blowers. If I didn't know Armstrong's work so well, I would invoke Japanese brush painters and the stacked up depth of the landscapes of their scrolls. Or maybe Turner capturing a rocky coastline. In fact, these drawings were inspired by the shore of the Brittany coast and the lines left on the sandy shores of Long Island by the tides on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. The artist has layered projections of photographs taken there and traced them, transferring the aesthetic information to a single sheet of paper, and she has drawn freehand. Even though the means are simple, these drawings have all of the impact of any of Armstrong's other work that I hesitate to call 'more complicated.' That would only refer to the physical means used. These 'simple' drawings arc as complex and as rewarding as anything Armstrong has done.

Sara Garden Armstrong's work is included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, new York; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; and Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, among other institutions.
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