Funny, angsty, urgent show considers the boundaries of drawing

Drawing Connections capitalizes on the form's low-key charm

Drawing is the Carey Mulligan of the art world. It's not as showy and glam as painting, art's Keira Knightley, but drawing has a low-key winsome charm all its own. In fact, its subtlety can be its greatest asset. Drawing Connections at City Gallery Chastain is focused on artists who often gravitate toward the form. The exhibit has the quiet appeal of funny, angsty, urgent notes slipped in the hushed sanctuary of a library or church.

Some of the work stretches the stylus-to-paper concept. Leslie Kneisel uses embroidery and fabric paint on fabric to create works that most probably wouldn't characterize as drawing if curator Karen Comer Lowe wasn't saying so. Likewise Chung-Fan Chang's paints her graphic neon shapes directly onto the gallery wall in "Zhou's Land." A single drawing in swirling spirograph ballpoint stands apart for its mildly icky but evocative look of curly hair. Kneisel and Chang's inclusion demonstrates that Lowe is clearly interested in testing the boundaries of what we think of as drawing.

The merest whiffs of pencil on paper, Ben Smith's frail drawings resemble costume sketches for some unsettling stage production: elderly Asian men ride turtles, The Seventh Seal clowns confront the Grim Reaper. In "Off Into the Distance of Still Waters," Corrina Sephora Mensoff's small works in pen, ink and watercolor are literal studies of a rower in a small boat moving across a lake. Mensoff has turned the series into a video work that seems redundant since the small drawings are already so foreboding.

A longtime top-tier Atlanta artist it's good to see back in the game, Kojo Griffin has taken a tonal shift from his drawings of trauma and abuse. In two small but potent works brimming with mystery and a quiet pain, Griffin transforms charcoal and tattoo ink into powerful evocations of a couple grappling with the enormity of existence. In the darkness shrouded "Floating," the couple sits, embracing on the roof of a car surrounded by a maelstrom of floodwaters. Corrine Colarusso's "Drawing at Night" series of ink on black paper drawings suggests visual expressions of ecstatic states but also fireworks, jellyfish floating in a black sea and starry constellations. The pieces explode with compressed energy.

An off-the-leash imagination defines artist Benjamin Jones' drawings. Jones' pieces are standouts mostly because they're so head-swimmingly wacko. His signature figures look like baby dolls loved so hard their hair has worn away and their limbs have turned the color of dirty pavement. In two of the more charming pieces, Jones fills visual space with a frenzy of the figures. Bald-headed babies with candy corn teeth and ant-mound bodies repeat on his paper backdrops like wallpaper designed by the neurotic women of Grey Gardens. In a smaller work another baldie, whose face is covered with eyeballs, bares its Chiclets teeth in an unconvincing grimace, like a 5-year-old trying to scare the wits out of you. Like much of the work in Drawing Connections, Jones' piece, called "Horrors" is, in fact, a delight.

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