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Posts tagged DRAWINGS
Although I missed the display of Elizabeth Taylor’s clothing and jewelry at Christie’s, I was able to see Robert Rauschenberg’s private art collection at the Gagosian just before it closed. It’s eclectic but unsurprising. There are some Native American artifacts and some Americana. There’s a great four-panel Marilyn painting by Andy Warhol, and an intimate, book-sized wood assemblage by Damien Hirst. And there are lots and lots of drawings, which seem to have been exchanged among Rauschenberg and his artist friends (including Cy Twombly, Brice Marden, John Cage, Merce Cunningham and Trisha Brown) like postcards. Walking through the gallery I thought to myself, it’s good to have a lot of artist friends.
I liked Marden’s proto-architectural drawings, which clung tightly and intriguingly to the thin, hard line between abstraction and figuration. But I was most intrigued by the drawings by choreographers Trisha Brown and Merce Cunningham. The two drawings by Brown are composite images of moving body parts — feet in one, and hands in the other — that capture the flickering meanings folded into a single gesture. Merce’s drawings are more like scratchings, incorporating musical notation, sketches of the human figure, line diagrams, and text, all in order to capture, on a sheet of paper, with pen and ink, a dance. These seem less like drawings than like notes Cunningham is making for himself. Although there are codified notation systems to record dance, is it an exercise in futility? Dance might simply be something that cannot be held on the page.
Years ago, for a second-semester project in architecture school, I drew the interior perspective of a cafe space with saucers and cups on each table. My critic was so shocked when she saw it that she started laughing. An architectural drawing is supposed to be the facts of the building, a description of what it is, and nothing more. It’s up to the architectural rendering, which has crasser, more commercial, connotations, to present the image of the building, a projection of what the life inside it is like. The drawings of the late modern American architect Ralph Rapson, who lived and worked in Minneapolis, dance in the gap between the two. While they’re accurate dimensionally and proportionally, like proper drawings, they also capture all-at-once the mythology of the building.
Repson’s drawings are cartoon-like but held in check by the conventions of architectural drawing — standard hatch patterns to indicate materials like wood and stone, and carefully constructed perspective lines — that describe the structures with a designer’s clarity and certainty. His drawings have more life, more joy, than conventional architectural renderings, especially contemporary, computer-generated renderings, with their elegant, hyper-real chill. Rapson has a heavier, more sensual hand than an architect. Every line carries substance and shadow. Unlike Le Corbusier’s renderings, for example, which are only populated by abstract, big-limbed scale figures, like Le Modulor, Rapson’s are populated with ladies and gentleman, children, animals and vehicles, all going about their business. They’re brimming with activity. It could reflect a distinctly American, suburban, postwar joy. And it could be the pleasure of drawing.
There is yawning gulf between drawing and sculpture, between the presence of a sheet of paper and that of a full-bodied object in space. Sculptor Richard Serra’s drawings from the early 1970’s to the present, on exhibit now at the Met, reach across that divide. There are drawings that are imagistic, offering views of objects. There are drawings that are diagramatic, sketching configurations for sculptures. There are drawings that are architectural, huge paint-covered linen panels stapled to the wall, that play against the gallery floor, wall and ceiling. And, most thrillingly, there are drawings that are so thickly encrusted in eddies and streams of paint that they become sculptures themselves.
Each type of drawing has a different power. The sketches are the least compelling. While they depict forms clearly they’re unrelated in spirit to Serra’s sculptures, which are so densely material. (There is one stunning exception, a rendering of the “Tilted Arc” that, in four thick strokes of paintstick, captures all of that immense, looming figure.) It’s heartening to see all the drawings together. They show the sculptor grappling with the properties of a form that, up until the 1990’s, seems to elude him. (One rather desperate series from the 1970’s, “Forged Drawing,” consists of hubcap-sized slabs of steel that are coated with painstick and then hung on the wall.) But when Serra gets it right, his drawings have all the viscuous sensuality of a Rothko canvas, only with a greater sense of weight. These drawings have no space in them, they’re all stuff.
Do people grow up, or do they get older and stay the same? The work of Brooklyn artist Nils Karsten suggests that we never let go of our childhood fantasies, and that they become more elaborate over time. Karsten explores the dream-imagery of youth and adolescence in his artwork, which is populated with toys, dolls, stars, rocket ships, farm animals, rock stars, and album covers. His drawings, collages and woodblock prints are on display right now at two New York galleries: Ubu and Illuminated Metropolis. And, while the artist’s themes remain constant, his most recent works are executed with more sophistication.
I’m drawn to the collages, especially those on small, letter-sized sheets, which have a special intimacy. Karsten uses powdered graphite to create smudgy, dreamy backgrounds, and clipped pictures from magazines and newspapers to compose scenes. The figures in the collages have human, animal and machine parts, and often try to connect with one another in strange, unfruitful ways. In their unexpected juxtapositions the pieces evoke surrealism. This landscape isn’t a post-Freudian one, with established, collective symbols, but a private one, rich with idiosyncratic remembrances.