Photo-Realistic Drawings Trick the Eye at Chelsea Gallery

By Mathew Katz on February 1, 2013 8:48am 

CHELSEA — Who needs a camera when you've got a crayon?

An Inwood-based artist's new exhibition at Chelsea's Von Lintel Gallery features amazingly realistic sketches that look just like black-and-white photos. 

The images of river-washed pebbles, fog-laden trees, and snowy mountains may seem like the stuff of a "National Geographic" photo shoot, but Joseph Stashkevetch sketches them by hand using a conte crayon — a sort of large pencil — on rag paper.

"People come to the gallery and argue that these can't be drawings," said Stashkevetch, 54. "That's not what they're about for me. Its representation is just a platform to hang other stuff on — it's sort of the vocabulary I'm losing."

Each sketch in the exhibit — called "The More Things Change"  is based on a picture taken during a month-long hike Stashkevetch took in Bhutan six years ago, with each named after "The Rosary Sonatas," a collection of Baroque music that he was listening to at the time.

Done in black and white, the drawings are meant to be more about the contrast of light and shadow than the brightness of any colors.

"Growing up, I was captivated by black-and-white movies," he said. "It's all about what light does — how it wraps around objects."

The drawings are some of the most complex that Stashkevetch has ever done, with details on every part of the frame instead of just in one point, designed to draw in a viewer's eye, he explained.

"I'm more attracted to subjects where it's not something so specific that you focus on," he said. "These are subjects that allow the viewer to come in and find their own place."

"The More Things Change" runs until Feb. 23 at the Von Lintel Gallery, 520 W. 23rd St.

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