Annette Cone-Skelton is a mark maker, a boundary definer and a creator of environments.
Her projects, which over the years have expanded and diminished in size and scope, have now
coalesced in the current series of square-format drawings on paper and canvas that inhabit
the gallery space. All the work exemplifies the highest standard of craft and concentration.
Each in its visual perfection emits a state of emotional calm, and reveals evidence of its
planned procedure. Her artistic practice has been informed by coming of age in the heyday
of the minimal and conceptual art movements in the early 1970s. As a student, Cone-Skelton
was highly impressed by Josef Albers' Interaction of Color, the color theory treatise by
the Bauhaus artist then teaching at Yale University. This text proposed rules and systems
for controlling the perceptual effects of color and line. Cone-Skelton welcomed such
systems, as they gave her tools to forge a personal artistic practice using the least
manipulation possible and not limited to a single medium.
If boundaries and spatial maps are her canvas, then line is her tool. From early installations
of ropes hung floor to ceiling to pencil drawings made directly on the wall, Cone-Skelton has
honed her line to define and control the viewer's sense of time and space. Since the 1980s she
has settled on the square as her preferred format, a centralized setting to focus and stabilize
her linear patterns, each with its own distinctive emotional weight and rhythm. In this exhibition,
space and time--and the body's sense of these relationships--are, as earlier, still at the heart
of the work. Using limited means--graphite, Instant Rust and Rust-Oleum paint--Cone-Skelton
constructs drawings of pencil lines that stretch from edge to edge and, with slow viewing, take
us beyond the perimeter of the finite square space before us. She carefully paces her lines to
control the negative space in the smallest increments, as in the sublimely placid Untitled,#378.
Conversely, in another densely rendered black on black work, Untitled, #379, the square inside a
square format suggests matter imploding, as if the center-weighted square is sinking into itself.
As varied as are the character of the lines, so too are the number of temporal and emotional
sensations a viewer may experience in the presence of these works.
Recently, Cone-Skelton has experimented with new mediums: Rust-Oleum paint and Instant Rust. The
first, a commercial paint that prevents rusting, is sprayed on almost dry, as in Untitled, 01-05.
Applied here in its brushless form, the paint beads and cakes, creating a tactile plane that is
suppressed and embellished in a regularized ribbon pattern weaving over the entire paper support.
Alternatively, she uses Instant Rust, as in Untitled, 01-19, to produce mottled
variations of tone behind a surface well worked with graphite. In this most recent series of
rust-infused drawings, we see most clearly how process dominates the making and becomes the
revelatory ingredient behind the logic of the work. Iron filings suspended in liquid are
applied to paper and then, when dry, treated with rust activator to start the oxidation process.
The chemical reaction takes place beyond the artist's control, leaving a layer of pulsating burnt
orange tones beneath a regulated web of parallel graphite pattern.
With this step, Cone-Skelton is taking her work somewhere new, and is raising the stakes of her
challenge. In all the rust drawings depicted, individual marks gather strength in groupings that
shimmer like pewter and, in their striated patterns, assert a brisk and commanding tempo. These
works have sculptural weight, but still exude luminosity in both surface and background. In
Untitled, 02-02, two flanking panels of deep rust provide suspended parentheses to a
richly woven excitable tapestry of color, texture, and tone. As layers interweave with other
layers, we have a sense of being drawn to the present, to the physical nature of the work. By
harnessing chance and intention to a multitude of graphic materials, Cone-Skelton has created
drawings whose resonance will be felt for some time.
- Lisa Kurzner