Maurizio Cattelan, Rachel Harrison, and Nearly 100 Other Artists Will Show Their Quarantine-Era Illustrations at the Drawing Center
“100 Drawings from Now,” opening this week, reveals the role drawing plays in times of trauma.
When the instruments of artistic production are limited and direct, urgent expression is the priority, drawing is often the medium of choice. So it should be no surprise that over the last six months, we’ve seen artists the world over turn to pen and paper.
“I think there’s often a tendency to turn to drawing in challenging times,” speculates Claire Gilman, who co-curated an exhibition of 100-plus such artworks completed in 2020 that goes on view at the Drawing Center October 7.
“It has to do with the intimacy of the medium and the necessity of touch, the physical act of putting hand to paper—there’s something very grounding about that,” Gilman continues. “Especially in this moment, when the condition of that trauma is rooted in a feeling of separation and isolation, there was a need for some kind of connectedness.”
The show, “100 Drawings from Now,” began to take shape back in April, with Gilman working alongside curators Rosario Güiraldes, Isabella Kapur, and Drawing Center executive director Laura Hoptman. “Pretty soon after things had shut down and we were starting to see things on screen,” she explains, “we became aware that there was this immediate turn to drawing on the part of many artists. Some draw regularly, but for many drawing is not their primary medium.”
Indeed, the list of participating artists is a diverse one: Maurizio Cattelan, Paul Chan, Rachel Harrison, and Paul Giamatti (yes, that Paul Giamatti) all share the same set of walls in the exhibition, which provides one of the more in-depth looks at artistic output in the quarantine-era. All the themes that have dominated the discourse over the last half-year are present: state violence, a renewed investigation of domestic space, technology’s mediation of images.
In some instances, 2020’s themes sit pointedly on the surface. A spare, ink-on-paper drawing by Michael Armitage called Study for Curfew, for instance, shows a uniformed man whipping a figure on the ground—a reference to recent protests over police violence. More abstract is an India ink illustration of a tree by William Kentridge, populated with snippets of existential text that suggest isolation: “Escaping our fate.” “And I Alone.”
Katherine Bernhardt, meanwhile, honed in on a different aspect of quarantine via a watercolor picture of cigarette butts and Xanax pills. Sam Messer and Rochelle Feinstein offer a window into the moment through a pair of portraits that each illustrate the other person through Zoom.
There’s a fair share of abstraction t, in shape studies by Xylor Jane and Sam Moyer, for example. There’s also a lot of self-portraiture. R. Crumb and Marcus Jahmal each examine their own likenesses. Both read as exercises in healing through making.
“We didn’t seek out works that addressed specific ideas, necessarily,” says Gilman. “We wanted it to be a very natural portrait of the time. We felt that everyone had something to say. And I think that the artists that said they have something they wanted to contribute thought of their work in this way, as relative to this moment.”
All artists donated works to the Drawing Center for the exhibition, the vast majority of which are on sale now through October 4 in a benefit for the venue. (Prices were determined by the individual artists; some will pocket a percentage of the profits.)
“100 Drawings from Now” will be on view October 7 – January 17, 2021 at the Drawing Center in New York.
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