The de Menil Gallery Archive

"Every Border Can Be Crossed" by Ellen LeBow

March 31–June 6, 2016

Crowded with characters, Ellen LeBow’s works draw on influences that range from Asian images of the deities to Haitan Vodou symbols to the Irish Book of Kells. “My focus has been on the pure life and sensitivity of the drawn line unhindered by color, tonal changes, or surface texture,” she says.

Large-scale black-and-white compositions cover hard boards with smooth coatings of kaolin clay. On the boards, LeBow paints broad areas of black ink, then with a small knife draws through the black to the white clay beneath. The artist finds the knife, like a brush or a pen, a responsive tool that enables spontaneous, expressive lines—crude or smooth, slashing or studied. With this technique, white lines become luminous and layered figures transparent.

LeBow has described her works as “spiritual diagrams, teeming with the almost uncontainable and infinite rhythms of things entwined, going at each other, all caught up in a greater, bolder design.”