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Fritz Bultman's resonant drawings hum like a plucked violin string, leaving an after-image of their path in the air.

Figuratively Speaking

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Fritz Bultman: Drawings
Reynolds Gallery
Through Aug. 21, 1999

Fritz Bultman (1919-1985) was an early participant in the Abstract Expressionist scene and a protégé of Hans Hofmann. Under Hofmann's inspiration, Bultman defined his own artistic tenets in reaction to the rigid system of aesthetic principles asserted by the Bauhaus, an influential group of architectural purists who had essentially assigned Piet Mondrian as the final word in painting. In Bultman's journal he notes: "Painting until now has relied on the cubist or precubist recession of forms into space. … I sense the retina as full and painting too must be full with the unmeasured coincidences of vision. Everything on earth is full of life and death, only in the void of outer space is there receding recessive space."

Bultman loved the human figure for its volume and plasticity and its absolute revelation about life, both visceral and metaphoric. The graphite drawings currently on view at Reynolds Gallery demonstrate this awe for the sensuous physics of the body.

Each Bultman drawing hums like a plucked violin string that leaves an after-image of its path in the air. Bultman accomplishes this in some figure studies via a technique of erasing fissures into his lines. In others, he draws and then obscures adjacent lines so that there are ghost images accompanying each confident mark that declares his form. This manner of representing the human body gives it a breathing, stirring restlessness and also initiates its degeneration into the abstract. In many of the life studies, Bultman superimposes geometric shapes or furious lines of energy upon the sinuosity and curl of his sitters.

Bultman places his figure in the forefront of the picture to command the same intimate space of his non-representational painting. Very little of the picture is unoccupied by volume — usually just one corner holds a quiet void in the drawing, often leaving a dormant triangle for the cubist's eye.

A curiosity of Bultman's drawings appears occasionally in the heads of the models. These are much more explicit and static than the rest of the body. They are often disproportionately smaller, and oddly prettier. Does this indicate a ceremonial or archival nod to the identity of the model, or an opportunity to demonstrate his lovely Picasso-like ability to extract a delicate profile from a few lines? Or does it reveal Bultman's own obsession with the sensuality of his subject as he explores the meaning and essence of the body only to remember that the person he is drawing would like to see how she looks? I do not mean to suggest banality or flaw. If anything, this discreet departure in attitude may emphasize the degree of subconscious rapture that Bultman feels for his larger theme and how he compresses that rapture into his syllabus of vital concerns, simply garnishing the

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