Who Has Permission

Cy Twombly Untitled (Roma) 1962

“[Twombly] and Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns perform, in their eyes, a sublation of Action Painting, canceling its abstract insularity but preserving its emotional intensity, and thus continuing an art of expressiveness, revealing therein Abstract Expressionism’s own proclivities toward representation, toward landscape (Jackson Pollock), toward the body (Willem de Kooning).
But this, I would say, is a massive misunderstanding, a refusal to acknowledge the implications of Twombly’s means, the medium he adopted in 1953 and had perfected by 1955, the medium through which he drew his own conclusions about the import of Abstract Expressionist gesture. Turning away from an imitation of the smears and scumbles of Franz Kline or de Kooning, which he had been practicing at Black Mountain College, Twombly took up graffiti as a way of interpreting the meaning of Action Painting’s mark, and most particularly that of Pollock’s radically innovative dripped line. For graffiti is a medium of marking that has precise, and unmistakable, characteristics. First, it is performative, suspending representation in favor of action: I mark you, I cancel you, I dirty you. Second, it is violent: always an invasion of a space that is not the marker’s own, it takes illegitimate advantage of the surface of inscription, violating it, mauling it, scarring it. Third, it converts the present tense of the performative into the past tense of the index: it is the trace of an event, torn away from the presence of the marker. “Kilroy was here,” it reads.” [Rosalind Krauss on Cy Twombly]

Suzanne McClelland Double Solutions 5+5=8 2014 

I met Clement Greenberg during those years. He looked at my work and said, “Stop drawing so much.” But I just went deeper into drawing. The drawing had to do with what I was hearing. There was so much sound and so many kinds of speech all around the city; New York was full of human and mechanical sound, and that’s what I sought to reflect in my paintings. I saw Barbara Kruger and Jenny Holzer take on public spaces with their texts—it seemed like a kind of bravado with a purpose, or maybe it’s better to say that the size of their work was integral to the subjects they had in play. Their use of advertising language and text displays made it possible to experience language in a physically immersive way, yet advertising wasn’t something I wanted to be associated with at that time. It was so clean, smooth, sharp, and bright … very cool. Jean-Michel Basquiat, Julian Schnabel, and even Anselm Kiefer were making language in this very physical way—the stain, smudge, or spray seemed close to the way a body can draw, write, or speak….They made legible statements in English with painted language. This climate really pointed to questions about who has permission to make physical work and also be socially relevant. And with this came the question, What, if any, are the feminine or masculine tendencies in visual art? [Suzanne McClelland in conversation with Barry Schwabsky]

Albert Oehlen, Ohne Titel 1994

“In 1991 Oehlen began making drawings on the computer without knowing too much about the technical details. The resulting images were printed out, silkscreened onto large canvases, and worked on some more with paint. The computer-drawn lines became monumental, raising questions around the nature of materiality. While the digital offers no resistance and can be modified at will, paint insists on a life of its own: its sheen varies, depending on the way the light falls; it drips or is too matte or thick in all the wrong places. There is a certain arrogance to its materiality – a quality foreign to the digital, which is so endlessly compliant. In the following years, Oehlen conducted further experiments with the digital, working through various possibilities for drawing and colour, and creating invitation cards and posters that look as if Photoshop were having a bad dream. Oehlen then continued to broaden his territory, especially in the late 90s, with a series of grey paintings in which he adopts Gerhard Richter’s famous blurring technique. As in Richter’s works, this process resulted in images that both suggested a lot of associations and were formally elegant. One might think that such an effect is inevitable: blurry grey is always a big hit. This would seem to support Walter Robinson’s theory of “zombie formalism”, which claims that contemporary painting is dominated by work that refers in more or less covert ways to art (like the work of Christopher Wool or Albert Oehlen) that is well established on the market.” [Daniel Baumann on Albert Oehlen]

Wild Tapestries of Polymorphous Cheer

Sue Williams Excessive Digits 2003

By the middle ’90s, the funky black-and-white canvases of tragicomic sexual combat (back then, they were called abject) had given way to sprightly little figures engaged in all manner of erotic gratification and consensual abasement. These in turn yielded to near abstractions in which inner turmoil is represented by linear arabesques that catch feet and skirts, fingers and balls in their graceful web: wild tapestries of polymorphous cheer.
At roughly the turn of the millennium, the paintings reached a point of total abstraction, represented here by a glaringly white canvas down which slink half-a-dozen lazy strokes of very-late-de-Kooningesque pink, orange and blue paint. But Williams’s canvases soon heated up again, in near-psychedelic compositions featuring various digestive, respiratory and sexual organs; in these, the presiding spirit seems to be Peter Saul. Other discernible sources range from Mike Kelley to Sean Landers. [Nancy Princenthal on Sue Williams]

Laura Owens, Untitled 1999

“ONE OF THE MOST interesting aspects of Owens’s work is that photography is not at its center. Digital logics, yes, but the photograph, no. Instead, drawing carries out the task of mimesis—an explosion of drawing both handmade and cribbed from elsewhere, of everything in the world: trees, buildings, numbers, monkeys, soldiers, ladies, couples, fruit, boats, cats. The show overflowed with handwriting, outlines, cartoons, sketches, stencils, shadows, and their graphic proxies, drop shadows. The magic of drawing—and Owens is a fantastic draw-er—is that you can remake anything you see or think of with your own hands. You take a picture, but you make a drawing. Owens exploits all the alterations possible in her imaginative reinscription of the world, yet with an incredibly literal mind… the flat-earth reality of Owens’s positioning continually gives way to flights of fancy and illusion, and the show underlines this impulse toward twinned tactics: A painting is a wall; a painting has a twin; two paintings mirror each other; a mirror is a window; a painting is a world. Once you notice this motif of doubling, the real running parallel to the imaginary, you see twoness everywhere.” [Amy Sillman on Laura Owens]

Dana Schutz Ocular 2015

“There’s something about painting that feels more real; there’s actual physical material there. With drawing I always feel like it’s dust, like it’s not a real material. Drawing becomes more about “line quality.” And I tend to draw in black and white, so it becomes even more about line, and how lines activate the white of the paper to make space. In painting the space and the image can actually be built into the material itself, whereas in drawing the space of the image exists between marks on a page, which is a much more abstract concept. So it’s been more difficult for me to work toward a kind of drawing that I can accept and feel comfortable with. But it’s been a challenge that I’ve really enjoyed.
… it’s a different mental space. I think the thing that’s really exciting about drawing for me is that the feeling of judgment is very different from in a painting. The drawings that I really respond to are usually like Bruce Nauman‘s drawings; they have a kind of energy to them that’s closer to thought or notation. They’re not about trying to make great, finished drawings. Drawings are more suggestive than paintings, so with drawing you always have this question of when is it enough? Sometimes a drawing can be really off-hand, and maybe not be quite enough, and yet somehow it still works and is stronger than a drawing that’s neatly rendered and totally filled up.” [Dana Schutz in conversation with Charles A. Westfall]

Sort of Skill Purgatory

Amy Sillman A Shape that Stands Up and Listens #1 2012

“… style comes down to the manipulation of elements within a multilevel system, in which the elements are read through one another. The mediation of printed matter and printing techniques, collage, copying, tracing, photographic projection, and the mass media are now taken for granted as contributing to a newly enriched technical visual language, much as traditional drawing’s mixed means of watercolor, pencil, pen and ink, wash, and collage of cut-and-pasted papers, or the mix of drawing and painting, were long taken for granted as constituting a visual language. And if the technical language is changed, it is clear, too, from the 1960s on, that not only has iconography been restored to an important position in art but that the iconography itself is different.”[Bernice Rose Allegories of Modernism Contemporary Drawing]

“Sillman’s drawings are open-ended investigations that use the straightforward materiality of form: shape, line, silhouette, cut, stain, color, tone, fragment. While this practice offers the pleasures of the formal language, she works at the same time with a psychological procedure of constant contradiction, building, destroying and rebuilding again in a restless ongoing course of action. She deploys an anxiously active set of moves against a simple immediate mark or form—something easy against something hard, something unedited and impulsive against something complicated. Sillman works until the material speaks to itself, contradicts itself, suggests something it did not know, goes against its own grain.
She paints and draws using innumerable layers, none of which the viewer sees in the final one, but which can be sensed from their active surface. As A. Ellegood suggests, figure becomes so dominant that paradoxically becomes invisible. It is the sense of presence of the shape that builds her approach towards abstraction rather than its exclusion from representation.” [Campoli Presti On Amy Sillman’s drawings]

Joe Bradley Abelmuth 2008

“I like the way it [raw canvas] looks, and it feels more like drawing to me. The raw canvas looks like paper to me. Like newsprint. With a primed, gessoed canvas I feel compelled to fill the whole thing in. You lose some of the drawing… The shmutz… the accidents are important. There’s not a lot of really direct drawing in these things. [It’s] about conjuring something over time rather than having… than, you know, thinking oh I’d like to draw a pony here and then just going for it. And living with it.
I’m a pretty decent draftsman. But… there’s this sort of skill purgatory that most of us are in. I can’t draw like a child, and I can’t draw like Rembrandt. I’m in the in-between. You reach a certain skill level and then you just work with your limitations. If I just sit down and make a natural drawing it looks like something one of those guys on the boardwalk would draw. You’d be riding a skateboard with a huge head…” [Joe Bradley in conversation with Ross Simonini]

Charline von Heyl Hibiu Habibi 2011

“I start playfully, according to a mood or a desire for a sensation or colour. Usually my first move will be painted over, but sometimes this first gesture is perfect and the painting is finished right there and then. Painting has a history of fooling with expectations, and in representational painting you can contemplate the moves easily: objects can be foreshortened or elongated, defying the rules of perspective; colours can be counterintuitive; visual hierarchies can be messed with. These manipulations can be aggressive, analytical or full of tenderness, but they are always obvious; they can be talked about. My moves and counter-moves are initiated by similar violations, even though it might look as if I’m breaking rules where there are none. In the end, a self-reliant new image seems to have created itself.” [Charline Von Heyl on abstraction]

Oscar Murillo Untitled (Drawings off the wall series) 2011

“Paintings happen in the studio where I have my own kind of system, although there can be physical residue of performance in them. I like to cut up the canvas in different sections, work on them individually, fold them and just leave them around for months. I don’t work on a painting with the goal of finishing it or having a complete and finished painting at the end of a work process. The idea is to get through as much material as possible, and various materials go through various processes. In most parts there is this mark making that happens with a broomstick and oil paint. I make a bunch of those canvases, fold them in half, and put them on the floor. My studio is a cradle of dust and dirt, of pollution. I don’t tidy up at the end of each production process. It’s all very much on purpose; it’s continuous process, a machine of which I’m the catalyst. Things get moved around, I step on them, and they get contaminated. It’s not about leaving traces, it’s about letting things mature on their own—like aging cheese or letting a stew cook, they get more flavorful. That’s kind of how these paintings are made.” [Oscar Murillo in conversation with Legacy Russell]

Benjaminian Issue of Translation

Robert Longo Untitled (Gretchen) From the series “Men in the Cities” 1980

“In the very beginning, I was basically responding to images. I was making pictures of pictures. But now I’m much more of a searcher: I feel the images I want to make and I search them out; and if I can’t find them, I create them – I went to photograph the icebergs for example. I had a stroke four years ago, and, right before, I was taking pictures of trees in a park. Then I went to see a brain surgeon who showed me pictures of my brain, and it looked like my fucking trees! So these drawings of trees became drawings of my brain.
I try to buy the rights for images as often as possible, or get permission. For Guernica, I asked the Picasso Foundation if I could do it, and the only limitation it imposed was that I couldn’t make it the exact same size, so my piece is 5in (12.5cm) shorter. When I did the abstract expressionist show [Gangs of Cosmos, at Metro Pictures, New York in 2014], I didn’t think I would get permission. And everyone gave me permission: it was amazing!
I go to abstract expressionists a lot: the American civil war and abstract expressionism are, to me, the origins of my being American. Barnett Newman said this great thing, that he thought abstraction expressionists are representational artists working abstractly, and I think I’m an abstract artist working representationally.” [Robert Longo in conversation with Joe Lloyd]

Sherrie Levine After Egon Schiele 1982

“Levine seems to oppose attempts to stop or fix time. Not only the past’s future but also the past itself are revealed as false. Though dated “1917,” some of the works copied here are earlier: Schiele’s Male Nude (Self Portrait) II is a brush-and-ink lithograph from 1912; his Three Street Urchins dates from 1910. Whether the works are in the style of Malevich and Schiele or copies of actual works is unclear to me. After several hours of research, I could “verify” only two Schieles and none of the Malevichs, though some were merely left-right reversals of reproductions that I did find. And one “Schiele” may be a hybrid of an etching of Arthur Roessler and a typical Schiele anatomy. This hardly means that the originals do not exist, merely that the search was inconclusive. One hesitates to admit to ignorance, yet that is, I think, what the work wishes us to do. It’s a way of cleansing misconceptions. Levine perhaps uses “lies” to expose the lies of history.” [Jeanne Silverthorne on Sherrie Levine]

Robert Longo Untitled (After Krasner Birth 1956) 2014

“The work summons the history of appropriation art, from Elaine Sturtevant through Longo’s Pictures-generation peer Sherrie Levine and on, but in notes on this show and its companion at Petzel, the artist writes that his project “is not about appropriation—the AbEx show is meant as a love poem at its core.” I wouldn’t necessarily exclude love from the mimetic motives of an artist such as Levine, but it’s true that if on first view Longo’s drawings might seem to engage some Benjaminian issue of translation—to explore the changes in meaning embedded in the transfer from color to the gray scale, from pigmented medium to what Longo calls “dust”—I’m not sure that’s what’s really at stake. Not that those shifts aren’t beautifully worked out and handled—they are—and they’ve involved a translator’s extraordinary attention to the source. But a kind of manifest virtuosity has always been Longo’s trump, the quality of his art that you can almost take for granted, and that, surely, is part of what he in turn responds to in AbEx. “These paintings represent our Big Bang moment,” he writes, and the sentence implies a long Oedipal tale of ingestion and reproduction.” [David Frankel on Robert Longo]

Sherrie Levine Sherrie Levine After Kirchner from Meltdown 1989

“…imagine a digital approximation of a picture in which the computer interprets a tiny area to be a particular grade of gray or shade of color; the difference between the texture of this digitized image and that of film is that in the former these areas are stiffly rectangular “pixels” rather than blobby chemical grains. Higher resolution is gained by increasing the number of pixels per square inch until, in computer typesetting for example, the individual pixels are invisible to the naked eye. What Levine did was to reduce the number of pixels to twelve, so that large areas of canvas—swatches housing multiple colors, complicated forms, occasionally elaborate brushwork—are approximated in a single chunk of color, a sort of average of all the chromatic events occurring within the swatch. Working from a computer printout, Levine and her printers, Maurice Sanchez and James Miller, replicated this in the form of inked wooden blocks, bound together in a matrix, and printed them with masterful delicacy onto Korean Kojo paper. There is something undeniably winsome (and perhaps suspiciously cute) in this wedding of state-of-the-art technology to the ancient woodblock, that most Luddite of print media. The prints themselves—serene, abstract, vaguely oriental in texture, harshly contemporary in design—do little to suggest either high tech or their borrowed patrimony, or, for that matter, Levine’s other work….
(For Meltdown, the computer worked not from the actual paintings but from four Levine photographs of 1983: After Marcel DuchampAfter Piet MondrianAfter Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, and After Claude Monet.} These works were heralded as the definitive attack on—or mockery of—the modernist cult of “originality.” So definitive, so lucid did they seem on this point, that the issue of what constitutes originality and whether it is a necessary component of art seemed dead in the water.” [Susan Tallman on Sherrie Levine’s Meltdown Series]

My Favorite Drawing Exhibition, Ever Paul Corio

@paulcorio
April, 2019

Robert Longo Untitled (After Mitchell Ladybug 1957) 2013

When Henri Mag approached me to chime in on drawing, I was at a bit of a loss.  In my own work, I’ve clearly deemphasized the Florentine disegno in favor of the Venetian colorito, and that’s been the case for more than twenty years.  I haven’t drawn as a daily, developing activity since I was a full-time commercial artist, which seems like a lifetime ago.  I still teach it, and present it to my students as important – it’s the way that artists and designers learn to see and to explain themselves.  But I have to confess to some nagging reservations about drawing as an autonomous activity, and not, on some level, as purely preparatory.

Undaunted, I tried to remember the last time I saw a drawing or a book of drawings or an exhibition of drawings that really thrilled me; that made my pulse race the way only painting can.  Patiently going through the vault of memory, I came across some close calls: Michelangelo and Leonardo, or course, but given the choice, I’d rather see their paintings.  I thought of George Grosz and Saul Steinberg, who I was looking at a lot when I made drawings for magazines.  I still like them, but I mainly get the same wave of nostalgia as when I hear a few bars of the Clash.  Vija Celmins is really, really good, but it just doesn’t take me all the way there.  This running inventory began to confirm for me that drawing, in my estimation, always tends to be a bit of a stepchild.  But then it hit me like a ton of bricks.

Robert Longo Untitled (After De Kooning, Woman and Bicycle, 1952-53) 2014

Five years ago this month, Robert Longo hung two concurrent shows in Chelsea – one at Petzel and one at Metro Pictures. The Metro Pictures show had photorealistic charcoal drawings of a variety of Abstract Expressionist paintings, and the Petzel show featured a 37 foot long charcoal drawing of the capitol building in Washington DC.  They were exquisite, magnificent, miraculous – they bowled me over.  I wrote a review for Abstract Critical, which was in no small measure about my ambivalence in endorsing them so strongly – I’ve always felt that the Pictures Generation was overrated, and that appropriation is tiresome and just a little depressing.  That I endorsed the Ab Ex drawings at all drew a lot of boos and hisses from people who care about abstract painting.

Five years later, the only thing that’s changed is that I’ve completely dropped my ambivalence.  I sorely wish I had access to the mansions and penthouses in which these drawings are hanging today – they’re genuinely great and I’d love to see them again.  But rather than do a bullet point rehash of my 2014 review, I think I’d like to try and work through the reasons that these pictures, for me, didn’t yield that same mild level of disappointment that I tend to feel at drawing shows, even the ones I really like:

1. They Were Big

Drawing tends to be a seated activity, generally done at a desk or table, sometimes in a book.  This isn’t a knock, because modest scale is understood to be part of the medium.  But when that’s exploded far beyond all expectation, you can’t help but see it with fresh eyes, particularly if the drawing medium – in this case, charcoal – is utterly familiar.

2. They Were Ambitious 

Because of their generally smaller scale, drawings tend to be more intimate, which is part of their charm.  But the Longo drawings were Wagnerian, Nietzschean, overwhelming.  These qualities are not something one associates with the medium, and speaking more broadly, qualities that are not highly prized in the current dialogue about art.  It’s not coincidental that he chose Ab Ex paintings as his subject, which sought the sublime as their true content.

3. They Were a Visual Feast

I could have stood there looking at these drawings for hours – they certainly had an initial impact, but once the wow factor died away, there was a lot to see – the impossibly delicate fluctuations of tonality; the space, much like the Ab Ex originals but also transformed by the transition to illusory black and white photography; the careful, slow rendering of an original in which the material was actually applied hastily; the hazy atmosphere; the pristine surfaces, almost like skin.

Robert Longo Untitled (After Pollock, Autumn Rhythm: Number 30, 1951) 2014 

4. They Were Lush

I think one of the big reasons I’m rarely thrilled while looking at drawings is that they always seems a little dry – not metaphorically, but literally; lushness is something one associates with oil paint. But Longo (and his apparently large staff) managed to give these drawings a velvety, delicious tactility.  It was particularly nervy of the Metro Pictures staff not to put these drawings under glass – the temptation to touch them was almost overwhelming, and one stray finger would have marred them irreparably.

5. They Were Perfect, But

…they didn’t look like they were printed or computer generated.  A real trick, and difficult to explain why this was so.

6. They Were Smart, But

…they didn’t rely on the intertextual, dissertation-ready content of art history or politics for their success. It was the way they looked that made them great, but the fact that they were slyly intelligent gave them an added polish and urbanity.  This point is probably taking me a little far afield from the specific discussion of drawing, but it’s worth pointing out that there are a lot of really smart drawings in the world that are in no way magnificent.

I suppose that what I’m saying, in the final tally, is that I loved the Longo drawings because they were more like paintings.  But then again, it goes to prove that drawing can be more like painting – which is to say that grand and magisterial are available options, alongside intimate, contemplative, and exploratory.  And maybe it’s not that the more self-consciously exalted qualities aren’t within the reach of other accomplished draughtsmen, but that the medium itself doesn’t readily call forth those aspirations, and that the contemporary critical community would not necessarily welcome them with open arms

Heterochronies (For Instance) Mike Zahn

Spring 2019

Mike Zahn Certain Kinds of Trash 2017
Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG) 90 KB 921 x 579
RGB
Preview (Default)

In a book edited by Thierry de Duve, The Definitively Unfinished Marcel Duchamp, Francis Naumann traces the origin of the readymade to drawing exercises undertaken in nineteenth-century French schools. This class work was designed as preparation for lives devoted to the manufacture and sorting of industrial goods. It prescribed a deracinated line in service to the rational fantasy of pure description. Nonetheless, a residue of expression may have lingered, as this drawing was gendered according to the specific objects– a pail, a spade, a step stool, and other common things– faithfully rendered by male and female students.

Sherrie Levine After Reinhardt 2019 Installation view David Zwirner Gallery

Duchamp equated gesture with blunt choice, wherein classical notions of contour and volume, along with authenticity, style, taste, and judgement, were ruthlessly displaced by simple notation. His doing redefined a medium, or a concept of it, at a fundamental level. It also raised the question of drawing in space, albeit ironically, and led directly to activity where making assumed indexical qualities, with manual facility recuperated in the presentation of idea and form as one. This was a philosophical task with practical applications, useful for a time, but probably less so now.

Mike Zahn Lisa_Lisa, 2018
Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG) 41 KB 479 x 575
RGB
Preview (Default)

The artist is a prejudice of the past. The world is awash in images. Everything has a price tag. These things have been said for years. Perhaps sometime soon the moment of thought itself will be sufficient to conjure sheer presence at once, and without delay. Exactly how this might happen would be of interest, with results at the user end not immediately understood as art.

Compress the Pictorial Space

Richard Serra Rifts at Gagosian Grosvenor Hill London April – May 2018 

“The tendency of twentieth-century artists has been to compress the pictorial space behind the picture plane — the space of illusionism. But paradoxically, as this pictorial space pressed forward, it expelled figures and objects from the well-ordered space of representation, outward, past the surface, and finally encompassed the viewer’s space. A vacuum was created, and the numinous space itself became a subject of art, changing the terms of representation and of illusion, as light was absorbed back into the space of representation, re-creating it as an unlimited field. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, this space became the white space of the gallery — the space in which and for which art was created, the space that set the terms. The problems of representation grew into an ever-livelier artistic game, in which the threatened disappearance of the figure from the picture was often a kind of hide-and- seek, with the figure sometimes present and sometimes displaced to play the role of spectator. The displaced figure became both object and subject of the work as, in its process, it ultimately referred back to and mirrored the behavior of that figure. Thus, a phenomenological space, one of sensation, became integral to art.” [Barbara Rose on Drawing]

Wade Guyton InstallationPortikus Frankfurt Sept-Nov 2008

“The reasons seem obvious but perhaps bear repeating. If you believe art history is incremental, and that Cubism was the logical extension of Paul Cezanne, who was the logical extension of Claude Monet, and that Andy Warhol was the logical extension of Jasper Johns, then Wade Guyton seems to have made the logical step that everyone who believes in the death of painting has been waiting for. Eschewing the brush and paint, Guyton uses a computer, a scanner, and, most importantly, an Epson inkjet printer to make large-scale abstract paintings that allude to such notable predecessors as Ellsworth Kelly, Kenneth Noland, Agnes Martin, and Frank Stella (or Minimalism). As the “OS” suggests, the artist has figured out a way to become what Warhol dreamed of being: a machine.  Minimalism (Agnes Martin) and machine-made paintings (Andy Warhol) have been joined in matrimony.” [John Yau on Wade Guyton]

Richard Serra Vertical Horizontal Reversals 2014

Line is everywhere in Serra’s sculpture. In the cutting and sawing pieces
it is both physical edge and elemental “drawing”—a logical trajectory creating
the abstract syntax that binds together the separate elements of the work. In the
standing plate pieces of 1969, it is a function of the lead bar, which again cuts
two ways. Physically the bar is the tool of the work’s uprightness, its downward
compression on the plates the visible lynch pin to the sculpture’s existence. But
it also functions abstractly. In 1-1-1-I (1969), the single-point contact of plates and
bar gives the work both the kind of weightlessness and the sheer connectivity
of abstract line. Thus, that abstraction is read against the reality of the physical
pressures of the work
: its possible instability in the face of gravity. In the Pasadena
Base Plate Deflection—In It On It (1970), line is naturalized as a function of
the ground into which the piece is half-buried; and in an elevational cut piece
of the same year, line again serves as both physical fact and as index of the
unseen
. The immense Pulitzer Piece: Stepped Elevation (1970-1971), which is the
subject of this essay, both summarizes and deepens the earlier dualism of Serra’s
line. For there it is more obviously natural than ever before, and at the same time
it drives ever more deeply into Serra’s territory of abstraction. [Rosalind Krauss Sculpture Redrawn]

Wade Guyton Untitled 2012

“…Guyton took up digital inkjet printing as his primary artistic medium, which provided countless new options for his image-making. A number of his pieces from this time use torn-out book pages—most of them featuring illustrations of architecture, domestic interiors or artworks—as supports. A small, untitled work from 2004, for instance, employs a page featuring an image of a Frank Stella painting from his “Protractor” series, which appears to interrupt and extend the vertical red and green stripes that Guyton has printed over it. Once Guyton adopted the printer as his main artistic tool, forms like the giant, hand-drawn black X that, in a 2002 drawing, crosses out a page showing a living-room space, could now be made almost instantly via computer. His radical move away from the manual and into the digital signaled the beginning of his mature work.” [Klaus Kertess on Wade Guyton]

Hierarchically Structured Object

Sol Lewitt Wall Drawing No. 49 1970

The expansion of the field in which drawing operates means that the autonomous, hierarchically structured object so important to modernism has been displaced. In an era of fragmentation, overwhelming plenty, and a welter of information and images offered by the media, art works in this expanded field, and in it allegory has come to play a major role. In 1980 critic Craig Owens placed allegory at the center of postmodernism. He wrote: “Appropriation, site-specificity, impermanence, accumulation, discursiveness, hybridization — these diverse strategies characterize much of the art of the present and distinguish it from its modernist predecessors. They also form a whole when seen in relation to allegory, suggesting that postmodernist art may in fact be identified by a single, coherent impulse.” Defining allegory and its place “within works of art, when it describes their structure,” Owens cites Northrop Frye’s definition of allegory as a structure in literature, in which “one text is read through another, however fragmentary, intermittent, or chaotic their relationship may be; the paradigm for the allegorical work is thus the palimpsest.” [Bernice Rose Allegories of Modernism]

Donald Judd Untitled (Pencil Drawing on Yellow Paper) 1976

BR: It’s interesting that the largest (and most formal) drawings in the show were made after the actual works the drawings document had already been completed. What do you think Judd’s aim was with these drawings?
PB: To record his work in the only non-photographic way possible, and on his own terms. Judd might not have been the only artist opposed to photography of art, especially three-dimensional art, but he was very aware of its many famous flaws – its subjective/fictional aspects (likelihood of being manipulated), its deeply anti-empirical nature (distrustworthiness as evidence). Worst of all is colour photography, which claims more equivalency to its subject. In some ways, resistance to being able to be adequately represented by photography isn’t a bad indicator of quality for three-dimensional art. On his own terms means slightly incomplete or otherwise ‘sabotaged’ picture-making, to ‘guarantee against’ conventional representation, a major issue for him, and the chief reason he abandoned painting in 1961. [Bethany Rex in conversation with Peter Ballantine]

Frank Stella Drawings for Black Paintings 1960s

“The most important thing is that you deal with it pictorially, you worry about making pictures. When it’s successful the result creates a visual experience, but it does something more. It makes available to you both a kind of experience and information that you couldn’t have gotten any other way. If the artist hadn’t made the effort to express what was there in pictorial terms, it would have been a different kind of information, if it would be anything. The pictures are special in that way and they add something to the world. They add something to the sum of knowledge. You don’t get it by being an artist. You get it by worrying about what’s pictorial.” [Frank Stella in conversation with Saul Ostrow]

Marking on a Back Ground

Georg Baselitz Kopf 1981

“But line, if it was symbolic abstraction, was physically generated by an individual. As drawing departed from its craft traditions, skill was admired as facilitating individuality. Personal touch distinguished one artist from another and established hierarchies according to the quality of the “handwriting.” According to one Renaissance master, “there is not need of more, no more time nor proof nor examination in the eyes of those who understand the matter and know that by a single straight line Apelles could be distinguished from that other immortal Greek painter, Protogenes.” A single drawing is thus descriptive of a whole stylistic language, synthesizing all of the elements necessary to recognize the artistic personality. Spontaneity was valued, but even those drawings which displayed intellectual detachment were appreciated as indicative of private thoughts, painstakingly revealed….
“At this point, the outlines of the tradition we have inherited should perhaps be clarified. In its most general sense, drawing is simply marking on a back ground surface with any implement to create an image. As such it is fundamental to all the visual arts, but in Western art drawing is usually discussed in terms of a split between the idea and the execution of a finished work. Drawing has thus come to be associated with particular techniques and modes of expression, even particular tools and mediums, although these have been considerably expanded in the twentieth century.” [Bernice Rose on Drawing]

Matthew Ritchie Installation Demon in the Diagram 2018

… the emancipation of drawing occurs on levels well beyond the granting of equality to a genre frequently regarded as less important than painting. Artists today feel no obligation to perpetuate the craft and practice of drawing that absorbed artists from the Renaissance until the mid-twentieth century. In a larger sense, they are also free from the arduous submission to tradition that T. S. Eliot believed must first occur before an artist can create work of significant originality. (Few of the artists here would agree with Ingres’s observation that drawing is the “probity” of art.) Although the emancipation of drawing from such restraints has led to many brilliant bursts, the losses are also obvious. Without the ongoing support of tradition, artists often have little but their individuality—reflecting the Babel of selves that is modern culture—and often yield to a kind of regressive narcissism in their view of the world. They resemble self-made folk artists who piece together art from what’s left in the drawers, except that they are so painfully self-conscious. The permissions of postmodernism can create a free-form prison. [Mark Stevens on Drawing Now: Eight Propositions]


Ellsworth Kelly, Poppy, 2010

“Drawing today is not a vehicle for self-expression within a fully realized structure of self-explanatory forms; nor is it a term that signifies a set of rules projecting a ratio nalist view of the world.
In the present era style and autography are no longer synonymous, yet drawing retains an authority over the notion of authenticity and affirms that the artist’s hand still counts in the primary expression of ideas. Drawing holds a unique position within the spectrum of the arts, for while maintaining its own tradition it has also served the most subversive of purposes.
The formal purity of drawing is not an issue, nor is it of much concern to artists. The progression of modernism as the isolation of those means of production peculiar to each medium is now only one aspect of artistic practice. What is more important in understanding the current situation is that drawing has become one of the principal elements of a new language and that it operates in a variety of guises, conservative as well as revolutionary. Catalytic to the re-alignment of drawing has been its relationship to sculpture. Although drawing is still the primary conceptual medium for some artists, many others do not use it at all, and for still others it is an after- the-fact tool for the further exploration of previously completed work. Many artists continue to produce autonomous finished drawings, often as alternatives to painting. As drawing has moved toward its new status it has asserted both its linear autonomy and its conceptual control over other disciplines.” [Bernice Rose on Drawing]

Drawing as Drawing

Fernand Léger Contrast of Forms 1913

“The advent of nonrealistic art has largely changed the relation of drawing to painting. Abstract painters (if not abstract sculptors) seldom make preliminary drawings, and even when they do they can’t so easily escape the control of the sheet. Even their merest notations tend to be pictures, “finished” that is. (The case of drawing shows, more clearly than anything else maybe, how difficult it is for abstract pictorial art to work in terms of parts, let alone details.) And then drawing as drawing – let’s say as line – tends to get less covered up as it were in abstract or quasi-abstract painting or in painting that takes broad liberties with Nature. So many Klees could be called painted drawings. In so much of Braque’s and Picasso’s painted Cubism, not to mention their collages, it’s hard to say what is drawing as drawing and what isn’t. The same for Leger’s paintings of 1912- 14.” [Clement Greenberg Drawing]

Édouard Manet Mademoiselle V. . . in the Costume of an Espada 1862

… Manet emphasizes certain characteristics which have nothing to do with verisimilitude but which assert that the painting in question is exactly that: a painting. For example, Manet emphasizes the flatness of the picture-surface by eschewing modelling and (as in the Dejeuner) refusing to depict depth convincingly, calls attention to the limits of the canvas by truncating extended forms with the framing-edge, and underscores the rectangular shape of the picture-support by aligning with it, more or less conspicuously, various elements within the painting. (The notions of emphasis and assertion are important here. David and Ingres rely on rectangular composition far more than Manet; and some of Ingres’ forms have as little modelling as Manet’s. But David and Ingres are not concerned to emphasize the rectangularity or the flatness of the canvas, but rather they make use of these to insure the stability of their compositions and the Tightness of their drawing.) [Michael Fried on Drawing]

Paul Cezanne The Plaster Cupid 1902-04

“There is only a distant reminiscence in the Auvers picnic of the descriptive convention in one or two sprigs of leaves that terminate the foliage in paintings like the House of Pere Lacroix and the etching of the rue Remy. For a time Cezanne’s drawing remained like a beleaguered relic of the convention that had guided him in his twenties but the anecdote and the description were soon gone for ever. Drawing never evolved a visual code to compare with the analysis of sensation in paint. Its abstraction was of quite another kind, analyzing and synthesizing the sensations of art which were to fill his later sketchbooks. [Lawrence Gowing on Cezanne’s drawings]