ENTERTAINMENT ARTS & CULTURE

A million points of dark: The thrilling pencil drawings of Eric Beltz

Time doesn’t stand still in Eric Beltz’s new drawings. It expands and contracts, taking visitors at his “Night Skies” exhibition at CB1 Gallery on a fascinating journey made up of moments that let you get lost in their beauty while putting you in mind of much longer time spans.

Each of the Santa Barbara artist’s seven works on paper (most not much bigger than pocket size) makes you think of hours, days and weeks. Years, decades and centuries quickly fill your consciousness, followed by millennia — and beyond.

At a time when attention spans are measured in nanoseconds, and impatience seems to be everyone’s default setting, it’s thrilling to come across Beltz’s out-of-step art. His great subject is the way little gestures accumulate to form meaningful wholes while being dwarfed — but not overwhelmed — by the vastness of the cosmos.

Eric Beltz, “Body of Adam,” 2016, graphite on bristol, 39 inches by 30 inches.
Eric Beltz, “Body of Adam,” 2016, graphite on bristol, 39 inches by 30 inches. (Eric Beltz and CB1 Gallery)

You need to see his graphite drawings up close, from a few steps back and from across the gallery. Each piece changes significantly as the clarity of your vision shifts. The millions of pixels Beltz has drawn with ordinary pencils blend and mix differently.

When vivid, the contours of his sharp-edged shapes recall medieval tapestries and ancient mosaics as well as embroidered fabrics, children’s game boards and digital imagery from the early 1990s. Like Pointillist paintings made with a pencil, their surfaces are composed of myriad blacks, whites and grays that mix in your eye to create forms and suggest depth.

Eric Beltz, “Night Sky, Waning Moon, Clouds,” 2017, 14.5 inches by 11.5 inches.
Eric Beltz, “Night Sky, Waning Moon, Clouds,” 2017, 14.5 inches by 11.5 inches. (Eric Beltz and CB1 Gallery)

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In Beltz’s hands, such illusions are evocative, not seamless. All are riven by internal tensions and the sense that you are looking at two or three levels of reality, mashed but not melded. The artworks of Vija Celmins, Sharon Ellis and Fred Tomaselli come to mind.

Space, like time, is elastic, made palpable by Beltz’s masterful mixing of what we see and what we sense. His devotion and patience stand out in a world fixated on the instant gratification of instant communication.

CB1 Gallery, 1923 S. Santa Fe Ave., Los Angeles. Through July 15; closed Sundays and Mondays. (213) 806-7889, www.cb1gallery.com

Eric Beltz, “Night Sky, Palm,” 2017, graphite on bristol.
Eric Beltz, “Night Sky, Palm,” 2017, graphite on bristol. (Eric Beltz and CB1 Gallery)

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