Drawing Itself: A Survey of Contemporary Practice

November 22, 2009 - February 21, 2010

What comes to mind when we say “drawing”? A common answer is something done quickly on paper with pencil or charcoal. What else? Sketching from life… doodling… working out a plan… figuring something out.

Drawing is thinking made visible. An intimate means of expression, it is characterized by something tentative and exploratory, as if it were note taking or planning. Drawing is process art: its subject is the process of thoughts, explorations, and choices the artist engages in to make the artwork. It is not necessarily expected to last; the ideas and explorations remain, but the paper might fail.

Drawing Itself offers viewers the rare pleasure of exploring this frequently overlooked art form. The works in the exhibit range from the swiftly sketched to the obsessively rendered, from the process-derived to the conceptual. They run the gamut from representation to abstraction. They exist in a variety of traditional media—graphite, watercolor, artist’s crayon, wash, collage, acrylic, charcoal, and ink—as well as video and installation. All the works access some unique energy from the activity of making something by hand.

The exhibition’s title came from an e-mail that Guest Curator Craig Stockwell sent to one of the artists whose work we were considering. In an effort to explain briefly the gist of the show, he wrote, “Big survey… no particular theme other than drawing itself.” This description, and the title we extracted from it, proved to describe pretty well what we found while looking at work that, while full of variation, all falls into the category of drawing.

Although the category is bound by some central concepts, its boundaries are open and shifting. We found that we came to depend on a sense of drawing when looking at work. This was our common recourse when encountering work that seemed to be in flux, work that wasn’t quite polished and complete. It was interesting to have to ask again and again, “Is this drawing?” As viewers you can continue this exercise. Do these works meet your definitions of what drawing should be? If you can’t see a work as a drawing, ask yourself what keeps you from fitting it into that category.

Drawing, as a category, encompasses artists and art from a broad spectrum. We found great freedom in having this category as a guiding identity—both specific in its connotations and broad in its implications. We found that we were both attracted to similar work and, as curators, had to push ourselves beyond our usual taste. Our penchant is for drawing that is process-based, devoted to mark making, and largely abstract. However, a younger generation of artists has recommitted to illustration and storytelling. These artists often mix traditional materials and new media in ways that are fresh and dynamic.

Drawing Itself exhibits only a fraction of the trove of great and interesting drawing that we have encountered. Consider it a glimpse rather than a definitive view of contemporary drawing. We are pleased to present works that suggest a wide array of possibilities. Success in art can be defined by the richness of the conversation. We have had a wonderful conversation in finding these artists and choosing how to present them. We hope that this conversation will continue in the museum and move with you out into your worlds.

– Craig Stockwell and Mara Williams, curators

A complete list of the artists whose work is included in this exhibit appears at the bottom of this page.

Click here to download the gallery brochure for this exhibit (coming soon).

January 16
January 16
January 17
February 4
February 11

Click here for a recent write-up in Yankee Magazine’s New England Art blog

Jason Alden
Sandra Allen
Stephen Antonakos
Romare Bearden
Debra Bermingham
Jake Berthot
Lucinda Bliss
Linda Bond
Charles Burchfield
Tricia Rose Burt
Paul Cadmus
Kim Darling
Profirio DiDonna
Jim Dingilian
Rackstraw Downes
Linda Etcoff
Julie Evans
Emily Eveleth
Madelin Fan
Julia Featheringill
Barbara Garber
Victoria Gittman
Greg Gomez
Mark Greenwold
George Grosz
Christine Hiebert
Chuck Holtzman
Richard Jacobs
Howard Johnson
Kiel Johnson
Mel Kadel
Catherine Kehoe
Robert Kushner
Annette Lawrence
Rico LeBrun
John Lees
Joan Linder
Whitfield Lovell
Alice Maher
Gordon Meinhard
Gordon Moore
Jill Moser
Ethan Murrow
James Nelson
Aric Obrosey
Gelah Penn
Kate Renner
Jessica Deane Rosner
Alexander Ross
Evelyn Rydz
Paul Shore
Peter Soriano
Nancy Murphy Spicer
David Sullivan
Sumru Tekin
George Tooker
Sandra Vasquez de la Hoya
Joan Waltemath
Debra Weisberg
Mia Westerlund Roosen
David Omar White
Faith Wilding
Le Xi