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Katherine Sehr's Drawings at Nina Freudenheim Gallery

Linear Truth

While reading the Japanese writer Junichiro Tanizaki’s novel Some Prefer Nettles, I came across the line, “tightly woven in small subdued patterns, magnified heavy and stiff, as strands of chain.” He was speaking about fabric— the crepe and silk brocade of a geisha’s kimono. It reminded me of viewing Katherine Sehr’s “acts of drawing” at Nina Freudenheim Gallery.

Carefully over the last decade Sehr has developed her carpet-like graphemes of delineated twists and whorls into essentially a schema filling any given ruled-off perimeter. Her current exhibition, Linear Truth, perhaps hints at a turning point in the artist’s maturing development. Here again the artist’s compositions on paper, her pen limned tensions and undulations in minute variations of color and density, coalesce in an all-over cellular grid of mass and voids, often producing a sublime monumentality.

At the same time the formal challenges of her art-making process risk creating work verging on a fugue-state of predictability. In her artist’s statement she describes “an accumulation of psychological traces,” which I read as the glyphic residue of a practiced meditative therapy. There is certainly evidence of intense mental vigor behind her best work…but it is difficult not to imagine her becoming something like a machine as she kneels above her paper, meticulously spooling out each puzzling extrusion, then linking them growing over time into a skein of additive ligatures. Her notion of mapping time through an organic process brings to mind the instinctual work of bees building a hive, the foliate interface of lichen growth, the minute skeletal accretions that build a coral reef. Her merging cursive arabesques recall the “renovatio” of Persian-derived ornamentation in early medieval basilica mosaics, door panels and textural illuminations…intimating the meditative, contemplative iterations prayerfully meant to inspire a state of calm and grace.

Sehr’s show at the Nina Freudenheim Gallery runs through July 31.

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