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May 2011, Compass: Drawings from the Museum of Modern Art New York @ Martin-Gropius Bau


Mona Hatoum, Routes II (2002)
Colored ink and gouache on five maps, overall: 35 1/2 x 42 x 1" (90.2 x 106.7 x 2.5 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, NY. The Judith Rothschild Foundation Contemporary Drawings Collection Gift
Copyright 2011 Mona Hatoum

 

Compass – Drawings from the Museum of Modern Art New York
Martin-Gropius Bau
Niederkirchnerstraße 7
10963 Berlin
March 11through May 29, 2011

Reviewed by Michelle Lim

Post-modernism has turned drawing into a very different animal than it once was – this much is certain on viewing the current show at the Martin-Gropius Bau. Culled from the MOMA’s Judith Rothschild Foundation Contemporary Drawings Collection, this exhibition boasts an extensive range of works that can be so disparate some may seem united only by their seemingly arbitrarily imposed identities as ‘drawings’.

The diversity of materials, form and content observed in this show reflects drawing’s versatility today. Technical skill is no longer lauded for its own sake. Rather, experimentation is the operative word. Artists such as André Thomkins, James Castle and Kelley Walker bring to the table unconventional drawing materials such as spit and chocolate. That artists are still fascinated by the medium and manage to innovate it proves that drawing remains well and alive. In an era where many would declare that traditional media is dead, the incorporation of collage, words and other materials into drawing evolves our modern understanding of this traditional medium, and changes our relationship with it.

The array of works in this exhibition reflects the different purposes we use drawing for. Most are finished works in their own right, but some seem more experimental, as if they are small side-projects that artists undertake during a break from their main body of work. I have to say that I am much more taken by the former, because they are more resolved and much better executed.  

For instance, Palestinian-born, New York-based artist Shazia Sikandar’s Candied (2003), a series of 20 drawings is a graceful and delicate exploration of what the medium can evoke, even today. Ambiguous shapes and soft colours collide into one another, merging, morphing and growing into one another in a way that retains figurative aspects of her idioms even as they are abstracted.

California-born, New York-based artist Christian Holstad’s drawings from his “Eraserhead” likewise possess a resolved and sensitive quality about them. In works such as Michael R. Bloomberg Looked Back on His First Year as Mayor Yesterday and Declared it a Success (2003) and America Meets in a Parking Lot for a Date with Itself (2003), Holstad selectively erases the ink off photographs from newspaper articles that he then adds to in pencil to create uncanny scenes that, in conjunction with their given titles, are often wistful and funny at the same time.  

Other compelling works include those of artists Allenn Ruppersberg, Fernando Bryce, Kai Althoff and Marc Brandenburg. In comparison, I was not as impressed with other works that seemed more like by-products of big careers that aren’t necessarily that related to drawing. Works by Joseph Beuys and Robert Rauschenberg hang in the very first hall of the exhibition, but Beuys’ Action Plan (1964) and Forces (1973) are not much more than a few indefinite lines on paper, while Rauschenberg’s Untitled (1974) is an ambiguous flat object comprising of packing tape and a mailing label, most of which is obscured by a piece of paper that has been tacked in front of it. These artists are undoubtedly accomplished in other mediums, but it was strange to see them in a drawing show, particularly because the works were not especially noteworthy.  
 


Amelie von Wulffen, Untitled (2003)
Cut-and-pasted chromogenic color print, synthetic polymer paint, and ink on paper, 47 x 68 1/2" (119.4 x 174 cm)
Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art. The Judith Rothschild Foundation Contemporary Drawings Collection Gift
Copyright 2011 Amelie von Wulffen



James Castle, Untitled (c. 1935)
Soot and spit on cardboard, 8 5/8 x 12 3/4" (21.9 x 32.4 cm)

Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art. The Judith Rothschild Foundation Contemporary Drawings Collection Gift
Copyright 2011 Estate of James Castle



André Thomkins, Untitled (1965)
Lackskin (enamel) on paper, 77 1/4 x 110 1/2" (196.2 x 280.7 cm)
Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art. The Judith Rothschild Foundation Contemporary Drawings Collection Gift
Copyright 2011 André Thomkins / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / PROLITTERIS, Switzerland / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2011

 

 

 Michelle Lim is a second year Studio Art major studying in NYU.

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