John Adelman, illness 47, 615 Nails. COURTESY OF DARKE GALLERY

Darke Gallery
April 13-June 2

Despite getting off to a seemingly unpromising start – gel ink pens as the medium, bone-dry conceptualism as the method – John Adelman’s obsessive drawings at Darke Gallery have a delicacy and beauty that makes looking at them a surprisingly rewarding experience.

What looks from a distance like a dandelion beginning to disperse turns out to be, on closer inspection, what its title says it is: 47,615 nails or, more accurately, Adelman’s layered tracings of thousands nails. (I’m content to take his word for the exact number.) Another drawing, Erased Painting (46,573 paintchips), includes not just 46,573 paintchip tracings but the word “paintchip” printed it 46,573 times.

In text-only drawings, Adelman moves through the dictionary, writing each word and its definitions until completing the formula; each new work takes its title from the last word of the previous drawing. Adelman was working on the word “elixir” when gallery owner Linda Darke asked him for the show’s title. The word has a nice ring to it that goes well with Adelman’s concoction.

The former art critic for the Houston Chronicle, Devon Britt-Darby is an artist and freelance writer.