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The Writing's on the Wall

Paint will get you close to an artist.

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But it can often feel like drawing gets you even closer.

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You feel as if you are sitting on the artist's hunched shoulder, a co-conspirator in the creation. There is something intimate and direct in looking at the visible weight of the artist's hand on the pencil indicating aggression, control, contentment, caution.

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The majority of works in Kiang Gallery's Marked Proximity: Drawings, Up Close and Personal! jibe pretty closely with a groove the gallery has been working for a while: serene, controlled, minimalist and conceptual works. The show's exclamatory title promises thrills (!) most will not find on display. What one will find are some expected control-heavy works by artists like Annette Cone-Skelton, Medford Johnston and Jill Baroff. Drawing, in this case, is less an example of what a difference the medium makes and more an indication of its usefulness as another tool for artists to pursue their personal formalist agendas.

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There are unexpected delights, too. Despite her abstract approach, artist Gloria Ortiz-Hernandez brings a surprising amount of emotion to her progression of drawings from light to dark, which mimic the course of a day.

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The artist who really throws you for a loop, because she so succinctly uses the delicacy and intimacy of drawings for dramatic effect, is Los Angeles artist Kelly McLane, who offers the only clearly representational works in the show.

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Done in soft, faint pencil strokes, McLane's drawings suggest scenes already being eroded by a faulty memory.

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McLane depicts troubling, primal dramas. In "The Party Line (When the party is over)" a child's birthday party appears to have taken a wrong turn. One unseen figure holds a knife in his meaty grip. A grown-up is rudely sprawled on the sofa. The poignantly chubby birthday boy holds a balloon and wears an expression suggesting someone who dreads storms and is waiting for a rain cloud to spill its contents.

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Violence lingers at the margin of the moments McLane records. But it's the lightness of her touch that shows the potential of drawing to offer fragility and profundity in equal measure.

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Marked Proximity: Drawings, Up Close and Personal! at Kiang Gallery, 1545 Peachtree St., Suite 225. Tues.-Fri., 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat., noon-5 p.m. 404-892-5477. www.kiang-gallery.com.



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