Gale Antokal suspends her drawings in an ambiguous space between reality and abstraction: a lone pine shrouded in mist; a temple-like pavilion on a hill; the twinkling lights of a city viewed from afar. Seemingly small moments in time, her images lodge in the psyche and form an ineffible identity of place.
Working from photographs, she crops in on forms that transcend time and place, leaving enough detail to invite empathy, although not enough to identify. By narrowing the field of vision, she distills scenes into memories, situation into subconscious.
Early in her art career, Antokal created color-rich pastel portraits of mundane solid forms – bowling balls, plates. Over the years, her focus shifted to evanescent events and places. Her signature, fragile drawings worked in a mixture of pastel chalk, graphite, white flour and grey ash, utilize a grainy mist she applies with her fingers. These materials carry associations alive in her art: flour signifies sustenance while ash links to death. The tug of mortality is ever present.
In 2014, during a residency at JSS Italy in Civita Castellana, she made a “small discovery” that led her to her most recent work, a series of mystical landscape tondos. “My teacher and friend Jay DeFeo exemplified how just a change in material and enjoying the sensuality of its properties can trigger a new and exciting direction. This is what happened using graphite wash on Yupo [a polypropylene ‘paper’]. It still surprises and enthralls me.” From a distance, her drawings appear more realistic than they are; up close, they dissolve into abstraction. Figures melt into shapes; edges blur into softness.
A native of New York, Gale Antokal earned her bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Long Island University before moving westward to study for her BFA and MFA in painting from the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland. In 1986, she joined San Jose State University’s School of Art and Design as a lecturer. She is currently an Associate Professor in San Jose’s department of art and art history. In 1991, she was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Visual Arts Fellowship. Her work resides in many private, public and corporate collections, including the Four Seasons Hotel in Dubai and the Millennium Tower in San Francisco.