Otherworldly ink

Rossitza Todorova

Rossitza Todorova’s “The Levy” is one of her many enticingly abstract drawings.

Rossitza Todorova’s “The Levy” is one of her many enticingly abstract drawings.

Photo By David Robert

Artist Rossitza Todorova’s journey has brought her from her native Bulgaria, where she lived until she was 10, all the way to Northern Nevada, her current home. Now, in her new show, “The Journey,” at the Sierra Arts Gallery in the Riverside Lofts, Todorova reveals glimpses of her travels, both geographical and artistic, in her stark, abstract, black-and-white drawings.

The pen-and-ink sketches have deceptively prosaic titles—"The Levy,” “The Valley,” “The Summit.” But the actual images are enticingly unclear; the swooping lines and intricate patterns of cross-hatching are open to interpretation. Todorova’s finely detailed renderings give the drawings depth and distance. The pictures can be read as straight-on landscapes or aerial views. Curving arteries of white space, contrasting with frenzied layers of ink, could with equal ease be a gloomy attic filled with mysterious junk or a knotted mass of exposed muscle.

“The Marker,” the show’s strongest piece, appears to be a desert landscape. Two white tree trunks arch up and out, partially hidden by feathery strokes of ink that suggest bent pine branches bristling with needles. What’s remarkable about the image is the sense of violence and energy that surges through it: the strong, decisive lines slicing through the background like a wild wind; the sinister, startlingly bold splotches of ink staining the ground like blood. You get the feeling that there’s a story here, and it’s probably an unhappy one. The strength of the work is that it immediately challenges the viewer to create that story in his or her mind.

Another interesting work is “The Turn in the Road.” Here, the lines stand out boldly against a harsh, white background, making maximum use of negative space. As with all the pieces in this show, the black-and-white palette is relieved only by the occasional hint of pencil. Curving lines, sinuous but anxiously choppy, pour into the center, suggesting a choked, urban freeway, seen from above. Simple and spare, the precise pen strokes and intriguing composition invite further study.

It’s a shame that there aren’t more large works in this exhibition. The pieces in the collection range greatly in size, and the larger pieces tend to be more successful. Many are about the size of greeting cards, and the small scale diminishes their impact; they don’t share the lavish, almost obsessive detailing of the bigger works. Nor do they give the viewer the same unsettling feeling of peering into desolate, alien worlds. But, at their best, Todorova’s drawings take the viewer on a darkly evocative journey to parts unknown.

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Afternoon tunes

If you’d like to grab some culture on your lunch break, the Sierra Arts Gallery also offers a taste of fine music with free weekly concerts every Friday, featuring local musicians playing jazz, blues, and more.

The series kicks off Jan. 21 with the String Beings String Quartet, and continues through April 15.

Future shows include Squeek Steele Ragtime Piano, the Bob Moss Trio and the Mazer & Smith Ensemble.

The concerts run from noon to 1 p.m. and are open to the public. A list of upcoming performers and concert information is available at www.sierra-arts.org.