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Invitational returns

The obsessive line is theme.

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The Arkansas Arts Center's finances may have been anemic of late, but its drawing collection is meaty. The Arts Center recognizes that this spring with the welcome return after seven years of an exhibition of its own creation — the Drawing Invitational.

This "11th National Drawing Invitational: New York, Singular Drawings," April 20-Sept. 9, will feature work by 10 emerging Brooklyn artists in an exhibition curated by Charlotta Kotik. Kotik, the former chairman of the Department of Contemporary Art at the Brooklyn Museum, is the first outside curator for the exhibition, created in 1986 by former director Townsend Wolfe to introduce contemporary artists whose work is either in or would be a good fit in the Arts Center's permanent collection.

The energy and spontaneity of gesture — made with pen or pencil or crayon rather than a medium like oil that has to dry — is one of the strengths of works on paper, especially those intended as final products rather than drafts for paintings. Kotik has assembled a group of artists whose gestures are repeated and dense to the point of near obsession. These artists' lines may suggest unbounded space, such as the multicolored whorls of Ati Maier, Kotik said, or the quantum infinity of a single cell, such as the complex organic creations of Daniel Zeller. Morgan O'Hara's drawings are inspired by live performance of music; she has made 100 drawings to commemorate the 100th birthday of John Cage. Artist Dawn Clements creates life-sized interior landscapes, two-dimensional rooms; Karen Schiff extracts details from medieval manuscripts to enlarge and elaborate on. Reed Anderson cuts out shapes from his paper and layers other sheets underneath; Michael Waugh's lines, inspected closely, turn out to be sentences. (Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, stepping just a tiny bit on the Arts Center's toes, just bought one of Waugh's works). David Kramer's subject matter is Americana and what the next generation will be able to achieve. Il Lee's work draws in dense ballpoint, scribbles that produce depth.

"All the work is aesthetically very beautiful," Kotik said, work that "involves you in viewing because there is so much happening." It is also going to be fun, she said.

The exhibit runs April 20 through Sept. 9.

April is certainly not the cruelest month then, because there two more exhibits scheduled at the Arts Center that month. "The New Materiality: Digital Dialogues at the Boundaries of Contemporary Craft" includes 30 works by craft artists using digital technology. Fo Wilson is curator; the exhibition runs April 13 to Aug. 5. "Dan Massad: Recent Work" features the Pennsylvania artist's photorealist pastels incorporating the Golden Ratio. The show runs April 13 to June 10.

In May, the Arts Center joins the state's celebration of the centennial of former Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller's birth with the exhibition "The Rockefeller Influence." George Bellows, Jean-Baptiste Corot, Honore Daumier, Edgar Degas, Eugene Delacroix, Charles Demuth, Alphonse Legros, Henri Matisse, Odilon Redon, Diego Rivera, George Romney, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Maurice Utrillo and James Whistler are among the artists whose works, which came into the collection through the Rockefeller family, will be exhibited.

The exhibition will also provide the story of the major role Winthrop and Jeannette Rockefeller played in the early years of the Arts Center, which opened a new facility to the public in 1963 after being put under the auspices of the city in 1961. The nearly 60 works in the show include etchings, lithographs, porcelain, photographs, bronzes, watercolors, oils and rugs.

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