William Kentridge is a process artist among many other things. He creates, paces, adjusts, and creates again. His work evolves, and ideas develop along the way. The process is natural yet not often seen or done so eloquently.Read More
Roni Horn is a contemporary artist based in New York and Iceland. Horn makes use of sculpture, photography, and drawing. Unconstrained by labels and an “artistic style”, Roni Horn commits to ambiguous and challenging projects.
Last spring, I visited at the Menil Drawing Institute for the first time and viewed “Roni Horn: When I Breathe, I Draw, Part I”. The exhibition featured cut assemblages on paper. The works were large and precise. They were also oddly intuitive, natural. I enjoyed how both the deconstruction and careful reconstruction were subtly apparent.
This past week, I visited The Menil again to view the second part of the exhibition. The works were smaller and more diverse. One room was filled with sliced up literary quotations. In another room, a wall featured Horn’s cut and assembled maps. One wall, clowns. The next, and the most interesting, wall showcased Roni Horn’s Remembered Words (2012-2013).
At first glance, I see colorful, playful dots. Then I notice the words beneath them. They are all over the place. As Horn explains, “The words have no context. They are some else’s recall, present as evidence or residue of something the viewer cannot know”. The words are unrelated and free flowing. Yet they are also organized in lines. Together, with the dots, the words reflect the spontaneity of the mind’s recollection and the fickle nature of memory. The mind is irrational, beautiful and dutiful.
I enjoy these works. They are faithful to the subject matter and exploratory nature of drawing. Inspired by these works, created my own.
I am interested in a lot of different subjects. Ideas percolate and recede. One of the toughest challenges is identifying a good idea and trusting it enough to pursue it loyally. I tend to cheat on my ideas… and jump from one to another. Never committing. I admire Roni Horn’s willingness to faithfully listen to those ideas despite their ambiguity.
“Roni Horn: When I Breathe, I Draw, Part II” is on view at The Menil Collection’s Drawing Institute through September 1, 2019.
Ninth Street Women, Mary Gabriel
“Roni Horn draws attention with first museum exhibition at Menil Drawing Institute”, Molly Glentzer, The Houston Chronicle
“Ana Mendieta, Emotional Artist”, Emily LaBarge, The Paris Review
“What It’s Really Like to be an Artist in Residence - a Tale of Two Worlds and One Working Artist”, Bradley Kerl, Paper City
“The Labor of Looking: from Intention to Interpretation”, Anoka Faruqee
“Stephen Clark - Austin History and the Photographic Gallery”, Austin Art Talk
Copying the work of “Old Masters” has been a tradition of artistic training for centuries. It served a very practical purpose. Live models were expensive and hard to come by. Public sculptures and paintings, on the other hand, were readily available and easier to study since they did not move. (Photographs, of course, were not available as reference material until the 19th century.)
Once a student had successfully copied the masters, he (or she, though mostly “he” due to the art world’s exclusivity and the “improper” connotations of women drawing nudes) could begin drawing from live models.
Beyond reference, “masterpieces” also inspired artists to create meaningful compositions, skillful marks, and pungent color combinations. Since the time of Cennini (1400), artists were encouraged to develop their skills by copying.
The practice became more even more quintessential starting in 1793 when the Louvre became a public museum. In addition to access to the artwork, artists were given an easel free of charge so that they could copy. The museum became a center for aspiring artists to train themselves and converse with others.
Between the museum and his time at St. Remy, Vincent van Gogh made more than 30 copies of works by other artists. The majority were copies of Jean-François Millet’s work. In addition to serving as means of learning, he believed his copies were works in themselves. Bringing his own style to the compositions, he made the work unique (noted, he made sure to cite the original artist). Much like a musician/orchestra might perform Bach or Beethoven. Or, for a contemporary analogy, Weezer or Reel Big Fish performing A-ha’s “Take on Me”.
I participated in this centuries old practice for the first time when I was about 10. I copied Albrecht Dürer’s The Rhinoceros. At approximately 18” x 24”, it was the largest drawing I had ever made plus it looked gnarly. Even my older brother liked it and kept it safe after I tried to get rid of it.
While the work was gnarly and impressive, it was a waste of time to copy another artist’s work (or so I thought). Why not enjoy the artist’s work and practice from nature instead? When I visited Europe for the first time and saw students drawing in front of sculptures and paintings, I thought it was odd and antiquated. Why did they bother?
At NYSS, after drawing intently from “nature” for hours on end, copying another artist’s work suddenly seemed heavenly and incredibly useful. Perhaps it was how Graham presented the project. We didn’t make “copies”, we made “transcriptions”.
Copying encouraged me to take a closer look and ask more questions. Why did Beckmann choose to include this over that? Why did Matisse make that a pattern? How does that color behave in that van Gogh? How does this Cezanne composition play with space?
Since my time at NYSS, I checked out several art books from the Houston Public Library that feature drawings by Dürer, Da Vinci, and other such masters. In addition to reading and visiting exhibitions, copying (or “transcribing”) the masters is now a part of my art practice.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Does copying play a role in your art practice? Would you want a copy of master’s artwork?
Ninth Street Women, Mary Gabriel
“Good artists copy, great artists steal.”, Art of Eric Wayne
“stuck inn xi: the art damien hirst stole”, 3ammagazine, Charles Thomson
“Women Artists in Nineteenth-Century France,” Nicole Myers, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
“How Skilled Copyists Leave the Louvre with a Masterpiece Every Year”, Jessica Stewart, My Modern Met
Mastering Tradition: An Artist Awakening Through Practicing the Past, National Gallery of Art
I introduced The Drawing Marathon in my last post. Click here to read it.
On the first day, we drew 10 22” x 22” drawings. We chose a model, drew his/her head 10 times and described the space it held and was held in. My classmates and I thought that was a lot of drawings of heads. Little did we know that would be the focus for the following two weeks.
The Drawing Marathon offered many challenges. Drawing all day, cutting heavy paper that just wanted to curl, gluing sheets together, stapling giant pieces of paper onto walls, getting charcoal everywhere, using a wall rather than an easel (made a complete 180 to study the models)… The most frustrating challenge, however, was mental. Instead of focusing on space and composition, I often obsessed over likeness. I felt compelled to concentrate on facial features rather than the over all composition. Self conscious, I wanted to prove that I could draw “well”. It was a huge distraction.
During one of the critiques Graham argued that most artists can be separated into two groups: “image makers” and “image searchers”. Picasso was an “image maker”. Cezanne was a “image searcher”. I am interested in exploring this concept… if you have any resource suggestions or opinions of your own, please share in the comments below.
Prior to the Drawing Marathon, I struggled with how to start. I thought it was essential to begin with a specific idea or concept. Working without a plan seemed frivolous or half assed. I was wrong. A drawing is legitimate even if its story is not apparent when the process begins. In other words, a work is no less powerful if its meaning is uncovered after the work has already begun.
The biggest surprise and greatest growth opportunity was the night I volunteered myself to demonstrate the next day’s assignment (draw a crowd using the the 10 heads we drew over the weekend) in front of the entire class. I had no idea what I was getting into. At most, I thought I would be sticking a couple of small drawings onto a larger piece of paper with tape and drawing a few planes and shapes to create the groundwork for a composition.
I was incorrect. After somewhat haphazardly throwing my 10 heads onto the massive blank sheet of paper, I waited for Graham’s instructions. Comfortably wearing jeans, a long sleeve shirt, and a jean jacket, I had no idea I was about to draw vigorously across the sheet and nervously build a sweat for the next hour. Graham told me to redraw several of the heads 2-4x their size, add figures, hands and feet. I ran out of charcoal almost immediately. The TA’s helped me flip the drawing upside down two different times as directed. By the time I was finished, I had drawn for at least an hour in front the whole class. Prior to that I had never drawn in front of another person for more than 5 minutes.
The activity boosted my confidence and opened the possibility for play… even with people staring at me… (and, at least in my head, judging me).
Graham and his TA’s suggested I look closely at the work of Edvard Munch, Johannes Vermeer, Max Beckmann, Emile Nolde, van Gogh, Henri Matisse, and Francis Bacon. Over the next few weeks, I will reading about their work and sharing the highlights on the blog.
Ninth Street Women, Mary Gabriel
Peter Plagens: Artist-Slash-Critic, Glasstire
For two weeks in June I participated in the Drawing Marathon at the New York Studio School and drew all day, every day. I woke up around 6AM, drank coffee, put on black clothes (essential for charcoal) and took the subway to the New York Studio School to draw until 6PM. At 6:30PM, our class met for critique. Around 8 or 9PM, class was dismissed. M-F, this was my routine. It was intense to say the least.
Our teacher and dean of the school Graham Nickson founded the Marathon programs in 1988. Since then, marathons have become a main component of the New York Studio’s MFA program. While NYSS offers a several types of “marathons”, the Drawing Marathon is the “original”. The course challenges students to engage with drawing as both a physical and cerebral activity.
Each Drawing Marathon is different based on what Graham feels is most appropriate. I met a few students who had participated in the program 8+ times. One marathon involved a bunch of umbrellas. Another, a miniature toy horse. In this summer’s session, we focused on the head as a means of understanding scale, space and depth.
A few days out and back in Houston, I’m still in a bit of daze. I got caught up in the city’s energy. Go, go go! Drawing, drinking, walking, looking at art, and meeting people. Now, I have a New York hangover. While I digest everything and catch up on sleep, read a much more well written New York Times article about the Drawing Marathon by Sarah Boxer.
“Jerry Saltz on ’93 in Art”, Jerry Saltz, New York Magazine
Ninth Street Women, Mary Gabriel
“Probing the Proper Grounds for Criticism in the Wake of the 2019 Whitney Biennial”, Seph Rodney, Hyperallergic
#188: Digital Minimalism, Cal Newport, 10% Happier with Dan Harris
At Eternity’s Gate (2018)
On the Basis of Sex (2018)
This past weekend, I visited Austin to see PrintAustin: The Contemporary Print at Big Medium. One of my works was included in the show, and I was looking forward to seeing the exhibit before it closed on February 16th.
The exhibit featured artwork from 35 artists and explored both traditional and innovative approaches to printmaking. My piece Coast in Distance #1 represents a traditional approach. It is a monotype that I created by inking a plexi plate with etching ink, removing ink using brushes and swabs, placing printmaking paper on top of the plate, and passing it through the press. Edgar Degas used this technique, which MoMa covers well in this video.
I recognized techniques like screen printing, lithography, intaglio, etching, and linoleum cut block printing. However, there were many less familiar processes like “soap ground and spit bite aquatint and drypoint”, “photopolymer gravure”, “solarplate intaglio”, “mezzotint”, and “collagraph”.
Thankfully, YouTube provides an endless library of videos to research some of these processes. After watching these videos for a couple of hours, I came to the conclusion that it was impossible to learn about every process in a single night, so I moved on. Below are some of my favorites.
I find printmaking, particularly when it involves a press, to bring together the best elements of drawing and darkroom photography. There is a mark making component, but there are also multiple steps, sometimes intricate steps, that involve machinery and tools that you can only have so much control over. It creates a mystique that you have to respond to and build upon.
At the exhibit, I was drawn to a piece by Christine Meuris. It combined screen printing and sewing. The piece Ivory Bargello Refraction is second to the right in the photo below.
In her artist statement, Meuris explains that she “sew[s] paper as a way to reinterpret and explore the continuing value of handicraft traditions in our times”. Whatever the purpose, her work inspires, excites, and calms all at the same time.
I have been interested in the juxtaposition of threadwork since I was first introduced to it in 2011 while I was studying photography at NYU. Carolle Benitah’s Photo-Souvenirs were exhibiting at VII Gallery which I visited with my class. I enjoyed how Benitah drew (with thread) on top of her family photos. The threadwork added commentary, revealed, and foreshadowed. Most importantly, it questioned what was originally portrayed.
The Contemporary Print was was organized in partnership with PrintAustin and juried by Dr. Anna Katherine Brodbeck, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art at the Dallas Museum of Art. Big Medium, where the exhibit was held, produces the East Austin Studio Tour, the West Austin Studio Tour, and the Texas Biennial. It is located at Canopy in East Austin which is similar in many ways to Winter/Spring Street in Houston.
After The Contemporary Print, I visited Mass Gallery which is located in a standalone building in East Austin. Their exhibition INTERWOVEN features the work of six arts who work in textiles. In other words, I saw more stitch work!
Works by Orly Cogan and Fort Lonesome drew me in. Cogan’s work undoubtedly explores the feminine and the role of women. I enjoyed how she uses embroidery, a medium historically reserved for women, to create imagery that confronts and questions feminine archetypes. Stylistically, it is whimsical yet serious.
Fort Lonesome’s work, on the other hand, focuses on landscapes and the unique qualities that chainstitch embroidery can create. I am having trouble identifying exactly why I enjoyed her work. I just know I did enjoy it.
Next, I visited Women & Their Work. They are located near The University of Texas on Lavaca. In their main gallery, Women & Their Work is showing Hedwige Jacobs’s exhibition If I could, I would cover everything with my drawings. No, embroidery is not featured. Part installation and part video, the exhibit is a meditation of observation.
Jacobs’s work is playful yet contemplative. I felt joy and calm throughout the exhibit. Something about the exhibit invites the viewer closer and farther away at the same time.
Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed my weekend in Austin. While The Contemporary Print is no longer showing, you can still visit INTERWOVEN through March 2nd and If I could, I would cover everything with my drawings through February 28th. If you do visit these exhibitions, please share your thoughts on either or both in the comment section below.
How Emotions Are Made by Lisa Feldman Barrett
Walk Through Walls: A Memoir by Marina Abramovic
Severance by Ling Ma
Happy Yoga by Steve Ross
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#136 The Founder, Reply All