Art review: Hilary Brace at Craig Krull


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There’s a rapturous virtuosity to Hilary Brace’s 20 small charcoal drawings at Craig Krull. Created by subtraction — Brace covers sheets of vellum with charcoal and then “draws” with an eraser — her fantastical cloudscapes look untouched by human hands. This unearthly quality is reinforced by the images’ intimate scale: most are under 8 x 10 inches and some are downright tiny at less than 4 inches in either dimension. With their impossibly smooth surfaces, they could be photogravures if they weren’t so impossibly surreal.

For despite the realism of their chiaroscuro light effects, Brace’s images are stream-of-consciousness inventions, created without premeditation or sketches. The predominant cloud-like forms morph seamlessly into rocks, water, mist and ice floes, suggesting natural transformative processes as well as the endless plasticity of drawing, a space where things easily become other things. The resulting landscapes verge in some cases on abstraction; in others, they conjure the atmospherics of J.M.W. Turner or obliquely, the ecstatic light of William Blake.


Occasionally, they evoke kitschy fantasy illustrations so that one expects to see Pegasus or perhaps Golem emerging from clouds or caverns. But eventually they become a bit monotonous. While the permutations of Brace’s technique seem limitless, it may be something of a dead end. Again and again, her works attest to the complex mysteries of intuition and imagination, but with each iteration, the wonder they inspire grows a bit dimmer.

– Sharon Mizota

Craig Krull Gallery, 2525 Michigan Ave. B-3, Santa Monica, (310) 828-6410, through July 10. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Images: Both are untitled. Courtesy of Craig Krull Gallery.