States of Presence and Absence

Joan Mitchell Unused preparatory drawing for In Memory of My Feelings 1967

“The roots of Mitchell’s gestural abstractions can be found in life drawing, wherein the economic handling of line conveys the contours and architecture of a body in space and its actual or potential motion. In Mitchell’s abstract drawings, such marks are freed from representative specificity and may describe any number of natural elements combining to suggest a landscape. Added to the language of gesture—which begins with a mark that translates a perception of form, space and perspective—are the smudge, the fingerprint, and the subtractive erasure. The emotional and material intimacy of Mitchell’s drawings arises from the unification of expressive intention with an understanding of the intrinsic physical properties and capabilities of each material. Emotional feeling is transformed into vivid substances, atmospheric space, and light; these elements pass between states of presence and absence, surge and recede, intensify and subside in weather-like rhythms.” [Joan Mitchell Foundation on process]

Kiki Smith Untitled 1990

“I was just interested in moving, manipulating body meaning. But then I wanted to have the physical experience of drawing or making something myself. So they come out in a strange way. But I’m trying to learn. I see that you do learn physically, you can move physically from one material to another, and you’re much more adept in one because of your experience in the other.
… For the most part, the culture is smaller than we are, so it’s always that we keep having to expand the possibilities while it keeps contracting. I mean, it moves around, but there are always some parts that contract and some that expand, but where there’s contraction and it hits against your life, then you have to cut, cut, cut, go out there with a machete and try to cut it back. So that you have some more possibilities just because we’re much bigger.We have much more space than our culture acknowledges.” [Kiki Smith in conversation with Lynne Tillman]

Susan Rothenberg Untitled 1985

“I used to want to make a painting that was a so-called “knock your socks off” painting. I wanted impact. I wanted a simple strong what they are anymore unless I tell them—I’m again searching for a certain kind of clarity, but I’m no longer looking for impact at all. And if I would use a word to define my current goals, after spending about two years trying to paint movement, light, and color, I have a desire for—diffusion is the word I want to use.
I want to make an image about a sort of multiple image, about separating out of one’s skin, which is a direct reflection of me always looking for some anti-gravity device. I think in almost all the paintings I’ve ever done there’s a desire for mixing it up, mixing the image up with space. And that’s a reflection of something I’m not terribly articulate about in myself, but is about yearning for a better integration with the space and the world around it. In fact, I’m beginning to think space is more important than the image now.” [Susan Rothenberg in conversation with April Gornick and Freya Hansell]

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