Obviously, what matters is not the medium but how imaginatively it is utilized, as we see in two major drawing shows at Tulane and Loyola respectively. Vital Signs at Tulane's Newcomb Gallery features drawings that take cues from digital technology but otherwise cover the waterfront in style and content. For instance, in Reed Danziger's gouache, watercolor and graphite drawings " curiously diverse forms, some organic and arboreal, some crystalline, and some reminiscent of antique Asian line drawings " are all somehow integrated into sweeping visual orchestrations that suggest nothing in particular yet are somehow intriguing. Their size and complexity contrasts with Leah Rosenberg's smaller and simpler Moments of the Day, comprised of loose vertical rows of acrylic dots of various colors and sizes. Most are small and red, setting off the others in a vibrant way that causes their pristine hues to resonate the inner essence of color with an understated, childlike enthusiasm.
Speaking of dots, Jill Gallenstein weaves countless tiny circles and dots into elaborate, lacy psychedelic fractals of ink on paper in works like Ex Nihilum or The Nature of Things, where they suggest decorous arrangements of subatomic particles, or the cellular reproduction of psychedelic sea life, all fascinating for purely visual reasons. Hints of science fiction appear in the large charcoal drawings of Annie Han and Daniel Mihalyo. A Dangerous Act depicts a gossamer, dark arch materializing over a parking lot like a colorless antimatter rainbow, perhaps a bridge to a shadow dimension. And a screen print by Chitra Ganesh is impressively if perversely polymorphous, as if a Hindu Peter Saul had set out to deconstruct the ancient Ramayana epic using bits of seedy Bollywood movie posters. Finally, Vanessa Woods' hauntingly lovely collage drawings blend motifs from Kandinsky and Jacques Cousteau into oddly marine abstractions that evoke the aqua-cosmic abstract paintings of Will Henry Stevens, who taught art at Newcomb for much of the first half of the 20th century. All in all, it's an inspiring array of innovative approaches to drawing, with or without digital manipulation.
The Pencil and Paper show at Loyola was also inspired by technology in the form of the Russian space program, which, on learning that ballpoint pens don't work in zero gravity, used pencils instead of spending millions, like the Americans, to devise a pen that did. This show also draws more from local and regional artists so there are more familiar names; yet because many are known for their work in other media, what we see is often unfamiliar and quite different from what one would find poking around Julia Street galleries. Amid familiar-looking works by Franklin Adams and Carol Leake are some eloquently whimsical grotesqueries, including Musical by Brad Benischek, a large drawing that depicts whimsical country folk in the woods being entertained by space aliens. And The Cut, Meryt Harding's depiction of a female face in agony, somehow implies all that needs to be said about genital mutilation in Africa. Finally, Gerald Cannon short-circuits the whole process with blank sheets of paper impaled by a pencil like a stake through Dracula's heart. Drawing may not be dead, but that doesn't keep some people from trying.