CHICAGO — Monica Rezman makes drawings and paintings of hair. She used to work in the fashion industry, and when she came over to the slower visual world of drawing and painting, she spent a while making careful transcriptions of unraveled wigs that resulted in abstract linear patterns. This transformation of something seen into something interpreted continues in her beautiful show of work at Packer Schopf Gallery.
Most of the new pieces are charcoal and paint on paper. The hair patterns are rendered in charcoal, the overlapping lines swirling in dense skeins that snake around the surface or cluster together in knots. Beneath the charcoal lines are irregularly shaped blocks of painted color in a cool palette of browns, blues, and oranges that have echoes of 1950s design. The color shapes provide a support for the linear drawing that sits on top of them and push the lines forward so they aren’t floating in empty space.
This contrast of line and shape creates an interesting tension between messiness and order, which Rezman pushes further in pieces that are folded, glued, and stacked so that they become three-dimensional. A couple of works are placed on pedestals, their shape clearly paying homage to Constantin Brancusi’s “Endless Column.” Others are more randomly polygonal and placed in a row near the floor level. I found myself responding even more strongly to these, possibly because they aren’t quite as highly finished as the wall-based pieces; they draw attention to both the delicacy and the strength of paper as a material.
If you read about Rezman’s preoccupation with hair in relation to her work, you’ll find a lot of discussion about “rituals of femininity” and so forth. I guess it’s possible to see these works and immediately say, ‘Ah, yes, this is clearly hair and is meant as a commentary on the beauty industry.’ But my reaction was simpler: this is an artist who uses drawing as a means of finding her way into a picture, and it’s that sense of surprise and discovery that absorbs the viewer’s gaze, too.