‘Louise Despont: Tide Fulcrum & The Motion of Fixed Stars’ at Nicelle Beauchene

Courtesy the artist and Nicelle Beauchene Gallery
Courtesy Nicelle Beauchene Gallery
Courtesy Nicelle Beauchene Gallery
Courtesy Nicelle Beauchene Gallery
Courtesy the artist and Nicelle Beauchene Gallery

On yellowing pages from unbound antique ledgers, taking loose inspiration from constellation diagrams, alchemy, Himalayan mandalas, Emma Kunz and Persian carpets, Louise Despont draws with colored pencils. She also uses plastic guides that allow her to create, with rapid crosshatching, forms that read as triangles or circles—but only roughly. The soft pencil lines and these implicit Euclidean shapes work so forcefully against the structural precision of Serpens, a red, carpet-like pattern of diamonds and triangles with stylized green snakes drawn across 30 ledger pages hung in a tight grid, that it’s hard to know where to look. The double ledger pages, each creased in the middle from its binding, are hung sideways, with only the top halves affixed to the backing, so that the bottoms swing out gently and further complicate the pattern.

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With Serpens, the answer may be to look neither at nor through, but into. But the 15 Constellation Symptoms, esoteric patterns on tall, narrow pages from an Indian ledger, usually framed in pairs, demand a more complex kind of looking. Drawn against green or blue skies contained in red grids, ornamented with white acrylic dots like needlepoint and small circles and squares of copper leaf, they waver over the line between foreground and background or drawn and undrawn, demanding impossibly equal attention to both.

In part, this is because the soft blues and greens sit so uneasily against the beige paper; The Feast, therefore, a seven-foot-wide panorama drawn in simple graphite with discreet yellow accents, functions more like an ordinary drawing. If Serpens is a moral argument against universalism, insisting that each little figure is its own subject despite the dominating mirage of a total pattern, then The Feast is a partially abstracted but still sensual vision of an amusement park heaven: steps, curves, fountains, flowers, domes, figure-eight shapes alluding to seated buddhas, and angled lines like ski-lift wires crossing wavy dark hills in the background. (Through Jan. 20)

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