I'm drawn to Scott Fife's preparatory sketches at Platform, done in ink wash on paper as studies for a set of framed prints behind glass. Fife is better known for his massive sculptural heads, featuring celebrities from Frida Kahlo to John Wayne, crafted from cardboard with the connective glue and screws exposed. The gestural nature of his paintings captures some of that sculptural roughness, and yet these pieces are quite beautiful. Their subjects, however, are not pretty. We see Billy the Kid and Jackson Pollock, near the end of his life. With an ashy cigarette hanging from his lips and his face in the shadow of a hard-eyed scowl, it's the quality of the rendering that's appealing, not necessarily the subject himself. Pollock, in duplicate, is shown with dark swaths under his eyes, his lined forehead more inky than not. Known for his irascible character, Pollock's personality comes through in this pair of loosely painted, disembodied heads. These could be studies for Fife's sculptures, documenting the shadow and form of a well-known face as Fife would while crafting his physical portraits. In two dimensions, too, the artist's mastery of his medium is palpable.
114 Third Ave. S., 323-2808, www.platformgallery.com. Wed.–Sat. (closed Dec. 24–27 and Jan. 1). Free. Ends Jan. 3.