Installation shot featuring Andrea Rosenberg's "Untitled 22.15," "Untitled 26.15" and "Untitled 23.15." (Photo courtesy Allison V. Smith)
Andrea Rosenberg’s images, now on view at Barry Whistler Gallery through December 5, are by turns exquisite and ruthlessly devastating. Dubbed “New Drawings,” the show operates as a documentary of moods — largely fabricated with watercolor and crayon — that share energetic shapes reminiscent of botanical specimens. However, they’re hardly the stuff of primly manicured gardens. Rosenberg notes, “These are botanically incorrect forms that are non-representational. They’re seductive — but they’re like a rose. You know, thorny.”
They range from lean and strident strokes on smudgy blue backgrounds to a dark purple shape that invokes notions of a spreading aortic bruise. The former gives off the heat of hissing ruins, and the latter, Untitled 38.15, is a metaphorical look past the cage of a sternum; it’s a sinewy portal that verges on the specific brand of operatic opulence only despair can conjure. Peer closely enough and you’ll witness an arterial busyness coupled with a joyless palette. For many, it might well be declared the grandest piece in the show. However, it has plenty of competition.
Three pieces (Untitled 22.15, Untitled 26.15 and Untitled 23.15) greet viewers immediately in Whistler’s first gallery room and form a kind of inadvertent triptych. Rosenberg eschews conventional titles and refuses to attach verbiage to her work. She says, “I don’t want to communicate with words. It’s the images that communicate.” And in this age of pages-long explanatory information about the “meaning” of an oeuvre, she’s smart enough to know that the work is the meaning. Thus, her art matches up nicely with a host of feelings that unfurl with rapid-fire speed without the encumbrances of philosophical conceits that have become the branding motifs of community colleges and MFA programs.
Rosenberg’s work is ambitiously sumptuous, frenetic and elegant. The works in “New Drawings” converse amongst themselves and offer plenty of opportunity for viewers to add to their ambitious conviviality. In fact, Rosenberg’s art is reminiscent of ideal dinner guests. They share much — but each flares with a powerfully distinct personality. Most are large in scale (roughly 19×13 would be a good way to imagine them), and their actual space matches the grandness of the best pieces’ internal landscapes and stalking presence.
Andrea Rosenberg’s New Drawings, through December 5 at Barry Whistler Gallery, 2909-B Canton Street, 214.939.0242.