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New York Times

April 19, 2002

“Hilary Brace at Edward Thorp Gallery”


Once in a while you come across an art of such refined technique that it seems the product of sorcery more than ordinary human craft. It may be exaggerating to characterize Hilary Brace’s small charcoal drawings this way, but it does suggest something of their beguiling mystery.


Because signs of the artist’s hand are practically invisible, you could at first mistake her postcard-size pictures of awesome cloud formations for photographs shot from the window of an airplane. But a subtle, nonphotographic stylization calls to mind meteorological visionaries like Bierstadt and Martin Johnson Heade. In fact, Ms. Brace does not base her work on any observable source, photographic or otherwise. Rather she improvises by erasing into charcoal-blackened rectangles, bringing to light ragged, fluffy, clumpy or misty cloud forms that pile up into what seem celestial, divinely mountainscapes.


Ms. Brace’s procedure may be easier than it looks, and if you see too many of her pictures all at once they might start to seem formulaic. The Seattle-based artist’s first New York solo exhibition is, nevertheless, truly captivating.


-Ken Johnson

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