This book is of the exhibition Drawing Now: Eight Propositions, organised by Laura Hoptman at MOMA in 2002/03. Unlike like the previous set book, Drawing Now: Between the Lines of Contemporary Art, this book moves away from process driven drawing (where the drawing can be found through the process of making) and looks at the drawings as finished works (a depiction of something that is imagined before it is drawn). The drawings are therefore finished works, autonomous and to some degree representational (Hoptman, 2002).
The drawings are arranged in Eight Propositions which arranges the drawings both into a kind of taxonomy and a history of recent practice. In this post I will pick out one artist from each of the propositions.
Proposition One: Science and art, nature and artifice
Russell Crotty, Five Nocturnes.1996
Russell Crotty makes drawings of his astronomical observations. In these two drawings I am especially struck by the seemingly simple nature of the composition of the silhouette of the plants in one and telescopes in the other, against the quite complex mark making to build the image. The plants reach for the stars (the sun) during the day whilst the telescopes reach for the stars at night. The drawings make me want to lie on the ground and look at the vastness of the night sky.
Proposition Two: Ornament and crime: towards decoration
In this section I was immediately drawn to Untitled, 1999, a gouache on wall drawing at The Drawing Centre, New York. I like the way the drawing is fitted into the corner and the bold red stripe contrasts with the geometric design of the black lines. It almost looks like a piece of fabric has been stuck to the wall.
Proposition Three: Drafting an architecture
Julie Mehretu uses architectural plans in her drawings, layering fragments together to create a complex new image. In Untitled, 2000 parts of these plans seem to funnel down a circular building atrium-like structure. The energy in the image is helped by the coloured directional lines which are layered onto the drawing. This drawing appeals to me as the more you look at the mass of complex detailed shapes the more you see whilst at the same time the drawing retains an overall structure.
Proposition Four: Drawing Happiness
The drawings Nobson Central, 1998-99 and Nobspital 1997-98, by Paul Noble caught my attention in this section. The imagination to create a whole city and then individual buildings in that city is quite incredible. I really enjoy his attention to detail and the way your eye travels around the buildings finding new things to consider. I also like the way the word of the drawing has been incorporated into the form of the building.
Proposition Five: Mental maps and metaphysics
Matthew Ritchie creates an alternative narrative for the beginning of life from the view of one person, the artist. I really like the almost ethereal nature of the draw images overlaid with the mind map text covering things such as bacteria, archaea, cult of the head, burial etc.
Proposition Six: Popular culture and national culture
The watercolours of Kai Althoff (Untitled 2000) really stood out for me in this section. I think the muted colour palette and the blurry, slightly translucent nature of the figures, give the pictures a sense of mystery and make me want to know the story behind the images.
Proposition Seven: Comics and other subcultures
Barry McGee is a graffiti artist who also exhibits his work in galleries as a mass of individually framed pictures. He deploys a whole range of drawing styles, texts and photographs, building a larger overall image from the smaller pictures. Your eye moves around the image, stopping on certain individual frames then moving on trying to make a connection between the individual elements.
Proposition Eight: Fashion, likeness, and allegory
Elizabeth Peyton’s images of young people in fashion poses would not normally be a subject matter I like, however, the watercolour and coloured pencils drawing in the book have an arresting beauty. In Spencer, 1999, there is a variety of mark marking to define the form and blocks of colour to hold the image onto the page.
This book shows a wide variety of work across a number of genres, tracing finished, largely autonomous, drawings at the time of the exhibition. It gave me much to think about and look at incorporating into my future practice including using my imagination more in creating an image, layering drawings, building up complex images from a series of simpler images, etc.
One thing I did not like in the book was the sort of hierarchy implied by the eight propositions – drawings drafting an architecture (proposition three) being ‘superior’ to those on fashion, likeness and allegory (proposition eight). It reminded me of the hierarchy of genres imposed by the French Académie de peinture et de sculpture.