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Small.

THE D R AWI N G CENTER


The Drawing Center Drawing Room July 11–August 24, 2014


Small.

Curated by Claire Gilman and Joanna Kleinberg Romanow


D R A W I N G P A P E R S 11 7

Introduction by Claire Gilman and Joanna Kleinberg Romanow


Small.

Claire Gilman and Joanna Kleinberg Romanow

With its cavernous galleries, outsized images and objects, and sprawling multi-media installations, the contemporary art world often seems to suggest that bigger is necessarily better. Working on a small-scale, thus, carries a certain risk. When illusionistic, small art further chances critical castigation for being precious or, in the worst of cases, downright cute. These are risks, however, that the nine artists in Small.— Firelei Báez, Emmanouil Bitsakis, Paul Chiappe, Claire Harvey, Tom Molloy, Rita Ponce de León, Peggy Preheim, James Sheehan, and Tinus Vemeersch—are willing to take as they employ drawing on a minute scale to explore weighty subjects ranging from the workings of personal and historical memory to the construction of gender stereotypes to the power of the imagination. It might seem that working small would trivialize the subject depicted. But in the images assembled here, the reverse is true. What one finds are worlds apart that resemble ours but seem distant and self-contained by virtue of being of a fundamentally different order of magnitude. Exploiting the diminutive image’s capacity to magnetically draw the viewer in while simultaneously resisting possession, the artists in Small. bring conditions and situations into focus outside the rapidly changing flux of everyday experience—and maintain that focus not only by their work’s minute scale but also due to the

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painstaking skill involved in its production. In this respect, the images in Small. also serve to affirm the value of labor, of art that takes effort: they require both maker and viewer to pay careful and sustained attention. A number of artists in the exhibition link diminutive size to the workings of memory. One such artist is Peggy Preheim, who creates tiny yet precise graphite drawings of anonymous figures based on late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century photographs. Suggestive of personal narratives, they are abstract enough to evoke the past generally. In this way, Preheim invites viewers to “complete” her work by bringing in their own associations. The snapshot-like quality of the original photographs and the drawn images’ isolation on otherwise white pages suggest memories that have risen momentarily to the surface of consciousness. Paul Chiappe similarly translates photographic sources into hyperrealist black-and-white drawings with staggering finesse—in this case, pictures of children culled from the Internet and second-hand stores. Chiappe’s painstaking graphite translations (it takes weeks, sometimes months, to complete a single drawing) resist the instantaneity of contemporary image culture. And while the scenes he presents are mundane in format (they look like any number of yearbook photos), Chiappe adds a layer of mystery by cladding the children in theatrical masks and costumes and altering the images so that figures appear faded or out of focus. Evoking a past dimly recalled, they remind us of the forgotten world of childhood fantasy. In Rodrigo’s Deep Little Drawings, 2014, by Rita Ponce de León, memory serves as the repository of a past accessed through storytelling and dialogue. For this piece, de León took as her subject friend and fellow artist Rodrigo Hernández Aceves. She collected the ruminations and stories he told in response to a series of questions posed over an ongoing email correspondence: for example,“how did you imagine yourself as an adult when you were a child?”; “when did you consider that you became an adult?” The artist visually interpreted the ensuing intense and intimate exchange as simple ink sketches, limned on the tops of wooden poles of varying lengths. These poles, in turn, form the legs of a small table positioned on the floor, which the viewer observes bending down, as if from a bird’s-eye view. The

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effect is of discrete vignettes pushing through a uniform surface (the table top). In de Léon’s words, “the idea is that the drawings are metaphorically deeper than what we can see on top … and they interrelate depending on the perspective with which one decides to see them.”1 The power of the imagination is evident in Emmanouil Bitsakis’s tiny sketchbooks and Tinus Vermeersch’s fantastical depictions of ominous beasts and peculiar hybrid creatures. In one such drawing, a half-man/half-bird figure stands on spindly legs staring blankly into the distance; in a related image, the same spindly legs emerge beneath a mountain of hair. Executed against empty grounds with refined penmanship and a muted palate, they resemble the mythical animals that populate the pages of Renaissance bestiaries. They are creatures that are out of place and time—isolated inhabitants of a private world of make-believe. Made during the artist’s travels to Rome and Istanbul, Bitsakis’s drawings are housed in the metal cases that typically hold miniature versions of the Koran and Roman Gospels sold to tourists as souvenirs. Bitsakis replaces the holy scriptures with tiny notebooks bearing vivid impressions of his immediate surroundings as well as images of mythical places and stories pertinent to the region in question. Expansive in scope and sensibility—despite their deliberately restricted size—Bitsakis’s works are exercises in a kind of thinkingout-loud creativity that refracts the urban landscape and its cultural history through the imaginative reception of a single individual. Drawing as a form of reception assumes a specifically political intention in the works of Firelei Báez and Tom Molloy. Báez’s contribution to Small. consists of drawings made on the pages of deaccessioned library books—most frequently, outmoded scientific and engineering manuals—which she installs floor-to-ceiling on the wall. The images show women in aggressively seductive poses adapted from magazines and YouTube; for example, videos of twerking (a hyper-sexualized hip-hop dance featuring quickly thrusting hips and a low squatting stance). Applying colorful gouache, graphite, 1

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In conversation with the authors, March 2014.


and screenprint onto the book pages, Báez isolates her figures, whose diminutive silhouettes are often meticulously filled with tropical floral patterns that strike a deliberate contrast to their pop culture sources. Báez’s twisting, contorting women invade the book pages like the heretical characters from medieval manuscripts, introducing a conscious hybridity and femininity into the male-dominated realm of Western scientific culture. Tom Molloy’s October, 2012–13, replicates historical newspaper photos of the 1970s Marxist terrorist organization the Baader-Meinhof group that were made famous by Gerhard Richter’s controversial 1988 painting series, October 18, 1977. Transcribing his photographic sources in oil on canvas, Richter depicted the group’s arrest and the death, by apparent suicide, of its four incarcerated members. Molloy focuses on Ulrike Meinhof, creating three drawings after a picture of the dead woman’s head and neck that successively diminish in size— the last being just over a single square inch. In contrast to Richter’s deliberately blurry grisaille, Molloy retains the clarity and accuracy of the original photographs. However, the repetition of the exact same picture on an ever-reducing scale drains the scene’s emotional and political charge in a different way. With each reproduction, the image becomes increasingly tenuous, as if it will eventually fade from vision altogether, just as the event it depicts will vanish from memory. The use of scale to negotiate visual perception also lies at the heart of both James Sheehan and Claire Harvey’s work. Sheehan’s postagestamp-size watercolors on board are inserted directly into the gallery wall, creating a keyhole effect that voyeuristically transports the viewer into another realm. His infinitesimal image, Death of Malevich, 2013, derives from a photograph of famed Russian Suprematist painter Kazimir Malevich lying in state, surrounded by his artworks. Sheehan’s exploration of the relationship between distance and scale results in a scene that appears legible from afar, but that gradually dissolves on approach—even as the work’s recessed installation (and the placement of the painter’s acclaimed Black Square, 1915, directly above the dead man’s head) draw the viewer in. Claire Harvey creates ephemeral installations using disposable materials such as scotch-tape, post-its, and cellophane, a practice that

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originated when she was a student in London commuting back and forth to school. Curious about—but unable to access—the lives of her fellow passengers, Harvey began translating their likeness as on small glass slides. These sketches have since evolved not only in terms of materials but also sources: the figures now derive from newspaper clippings and film stills. In Easily Removable People, 2006, Harvey depicts nameless individuals on small swatches of transparent tape; they are city dwellers on their way to work, stopping to talk to a friend, exchanging an embrace—people we encounter both everywhere and nowhere. Clustering numerous pieces of tape on the gallery wall, Harvey’s installation is a mural of the intimacy and anonymity of urban life and as such it echoes the experience of the viewers, who must physically approach the work to peer at tiny figures that remain ultimately unknowable and distant. Like many of the works in Small., Harvey’s images both entice and resist possession; at a time when instant gratification holds sway, this is itself radical. As Harvey herself observes, “King Lear said nothing will come of nothing but he was wrong…I think…and that maybe a whole load of nothing has the potential to be something… but that maybe it remains as having potential.”2

2

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Press Release from Claire Harvey (London: Store Gallery, June–July, 2004).


“Though she be but little, she is fierce!” —William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream


PL . 1

Firelei Bรกez, Man Without a Country (aka anthropophagist wading in the Artibonite River), 2014


“I can never bring you to realize the importance of sleeves, the suggestiveness of thumb-nails, or the great issues that may hang from a boot-lace.” —Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “A Case of Identity,” in A Study in Scarlet and Other Stories


“When I found myself on my feet, I looked about me, and must confess I never beheld a more entertaining prospect. The country round appeared like a continued garden, and the enclosed fields, which were generally forty foot square, resembled so many beds of flowers. The fields were intermingled with woods of half a stang, and the tallest trees, as I could judge, appeared to be seven foot high. I viewed the town on my left hand, which looked like a painted scene of a city in a theatre.” —Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels


PL . 2

Emmanouil Bitsakis, Case and pages from Koran, 2001–12


PL . 3

Emmanouil Bitsakis, Case and pages from Koran, 2001


PL . 4

Emmanouil Bitsakis, Case and pages from Gospel Book, 2014


“A great flame follows a little spark.” —Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy: The Paradiso, canto I


PL . 5

Paul Chiappe, Untitled 48, 2010


PL . 6

Paul Chiappe, Untitled 44, 2010


PL . 7

Paul Chiappe, Untitled 50, 2010


“How fortunate I am, not to be able to see in myself anything worth respecting and watching! To be small and to stay small. And if a hand, a situation, a wave were ever to raise me up and carry me to where I could command power and influence, I would destroy the circumstances that had favored me, and I would hurl myself down into the humble, speechless, insignificant darkness. I can only breathe in the lower regions.” —Robert Walser, Jakob Von Gunten


PL . 8

Claire Harvey, Easily Removable People, 2006


“Alice opened the door and found that it led into a small passage, not much larger than a rat-hole: she knelt down and looked along the passage into the loveliest garden you ever saw. How she longed to get out of that dark hall, and wander about among the beds of bright flowers and those cool fountains, but she could not even get her head through the doorway; ‘and even if my head would go through,’ thought poor Alice, ‘it would be of very little use without my shoulders. Oh, how I wish I could shut up like a telescope! I think I could, if I only knew how to begin.’” —Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland


PL . 9

Tom Molloy, Dead 1, 2012–13


PL . 10

Tom Molloy, Dead 2, 2012–13


PL . 11

Tom Molloy, Dead 3, 2012–13


PL . 12

Tom Molloy, Record Player, 2012–13


“How much larger your life would be if your self could become smaller in it.” —G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy


PL . 13

Rita Ponce de Léon, Rodrigo’s Deep Little Drawings, 2014


We should not mind so small a flower – Except it quiet bring Our little garden that we lost Back to the lawn again. So spicy her Carnations red – So drunken reel her Bees – So silver steal a hundred Flutes – From out a hundred trees – That whoso sees this little flower, By faith may clear behold The Bobolinks around the throne, And Dandelions gold. —Emily Dickinson, “We should not mind so small a flower”


PL . 14

Peggy Preheim, Little Princess, 2008


PL . 15

Peggy Preheim, Point Blank, 2009


“An ant on the move does more than a dozing ox.” —Lao Tzu


PL . 16

James Sheehan, Death of Malevich, 2013


PL . 17

Tinus Vermeersch, Untitled, 2007


PL . 18

Tinus Vermeersch, Untitled, 2003


PL . 19

Tinus Vermeersch, Untitled, 2009


PL . 20

Tinus Vermeersch, Untitled, 2009


“There is nothing, Sir, too little for so little a creature as man. It is by studying little things that we attain the great art of having as little misery and as much happiness as possible.” —Samuel Johnson, quoted in James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson


LIST OF WORKS

PL . 5

Paul Chiappe PL . 1

Untitled 48, 2010

Firelei Báez

Pencil on paper

Man Without a Country (aka anthropophagist

5 5/16 x 6 7/64 inches

wading in the Artibonite River), 2014

Collection Lea Weingarten

Mixed media Dimensions variable

PL . 6

Courtesy of the artist

Paul Chiappe Untitled 44, 2010

PL . 2

Pencil on paper

Emmanouil Bitsakis

5 1/2 x 5 11/32 inches

Koran, 2001–12

Collection of Hamilton Corporate Finance

Mixed media

LTD

9/10 x 7/10 x 1/3 inches Courtesy Kalfayan Galleries, Athens –

PL . 7

Thessaloniki

Paul Chiappe Untitled 50, 2010

PL . 3

Pencil on paper

Emmanouil Bitsakis

5 x 7 7/32 inches

Koran, 2001

Courtesy of the artist and Carslaw St* Lukes

Mixed media 9/10 x 7/10 x 1/3 inches

NOT PICTURED

Courtesy Kalfayan Galleries, Athens –

Paul Chiappe

Thessaloniki

Untitled 49, 2010 Pencil on paper

PL . 4

6 7/64 x 6 29/32 inches

Emmanouil Bitsakis

Collection of Michael Wilkinson

Gospel Book, 2014 2 4/10 x 2 x 1/2 inches

PL . 8

Courtesy Kalfayan Galleries, Athens –

Claire Harvey

Thessaloniki

Easily Removable People, 2006 Acrylic on easily-removable scotch tape Dimensions variable Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Fons Welters

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PL . 9

PL . 13

Tom Molloy

Rita Ponce de Léon

Dead 1, 2012–13

Rodrigo’s Deep Little Drawings, 2014

Graphite on paper

Seventeen drawings on platform

2 7/16 x 2 5/8 inches

Dimensions variable

Collection Glenn and Amanda Fuhrman, NY

Courtesy of the artist and PACA, Mexico City;

Courtesy The FLAG Art Foundation

80M2 Livia Benavides Gallery, Lima; and Ignacio Liprandi Gallery, Buenos Aires

PL . 10

Tom Molloy

PL . 14 AND COVER

Dead 2, 2012–13

Peggy Preheim

Graphite on paper

Little Princess, 2008

2 7/16 x 2 7/16 inches

Pencil on paper in two parts

Collection Glenn and Amanda Fuhrman, NY

22 x 30 1/4 inches each

Courtesy The FLAG Art Foundation

Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York

PL . 11

Tom Molloy

PL . 15

Dead 3, 2012–13

Peggy Preheim

Graphite on paper

Point Blank, 2009

1 3/8 x 1 5/16 inches

Pencil on paper

Collection Glenn and Amanda Fuhrman, NY

22 x 30 1/4 inches

Courtesy The FLAG Art Foundation

Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York

PL . 12

Tom Molloy

PL . 16

Record Player, 2012–13

James Sheehan

Graphite on paper

Death of Malevich, 2013

2 7/16 x 3 1/4 inches

Watercolor on rag board, inserted into wall

Collection Glenn and Amanda Fuhrman, NY

7/8 x 1 inch

Courtesy The FLAG Art Foundation

Courtesy of the artist

63


PL . 17

Tinus Vermeersch Untitled, 2007 Tempera and oil on paper 2 1/2 x 2 13/64 inches Private collection Image © Tinus Vermeersch and courtesy Hopstreet Gallery, Brussels PL . 18

Tinus Vermeersch Untitled, 2003 Pen and brown ink on paper 2 x 2 inches Collection of the artist Image © Digitalization Fotorama and courtesy Hopstreet Gallery, Brussels PL . 19

Tinus Vermeersch Untitled, 2009 Brown ink on paper 4 13/32 x 3 1/2 inches Private collection Image © Tinus Vermeersch and courtesy Hopstreet Gallery, Brussels PL . 20

Tinus Vermeersch Untitled, 2009 Brown ink on paper 4 13/64 x 3 1/2 inches Private collection Image © Tinus Vermeersch and courtesy Hopstreet Gallery, Brussels

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CONTRIBUTORS

Claire Gilman is Curator at The Drawing Center. Joanna Kleinberg Romanow is Assistant Curator at The Drawing Center.


BOARD OF DIRECTORS

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Co-Chairs

Small. is made possible by the support of Fiona

Frances Beatty Adler

and Eric Rudin, Irene Panagopoulos, Ignacio

Eric Rudin

Liprandi Arte Contemporรกneo, Lora Reynolds

Jane Dresner Sadaka

Gallery, and Steve Shane.

Treasurer Stacey Goergen Secretary Dita Amory Brad Cloepfil Anita F. Contini Steven Holl Rhiannon Kubicka David Lang Merrill Mahan Iris Z. Marden Nancy Poses Galia Stawski Pat Steir Barbara Toll Isabel Stainow Wilcox Candace Worth Emeritus Melva Bucksbaum Bruce W. Ferguson Michael Lynne George Negroponte Elizabeth Rohatyn Jeanne C. Thayer Executive Director Brett Littman


E D WA R D H A L L A M T U C K P U B L I C AT I O N P R O G R A M

This is number 117 of the Drawing Papers, a series of publications documenting The Drawing Center’s exhibitions and public programs and providing a forum for the study of drawing. Margaret Sundell Executive Editor Joanna Berman Ahlberg Managing Editor Designed by Peter J. Ahlberg / AHL&CO This book is set in Adobe Garamond Pro and Berthold Akzidenz Grotesk. It was printed by BookMobile in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

I S B N 9 7 8 - 0 - 9 4 2 3 24 - 8 6 - 0 Š 2 014 T he D rawing C enter


T H E D R AW I N G PA P E R S S E R I E S A L S O I N C L U D E S

Drawing Papers 116: The Intuitionists Drawing Papers 115: Len Lye: Motion Sketch Drawing Papers 114: Lebbeus Woods: Architect Drawing Papers 112: Rashaad Newsome: FIVE (The Drawing Center) Drawing Papers 111: Deborah Grant: Christ You Know it Ain’t Easy!! Drawing Papers 110: Ferran Adrià: Notes on Creativity Drawing Papers 109: Dickinson/Walser: Pencil Sketches Drawing Papers 108 Drawing Time, Reading Time Drawing Papers 107 Alexis Rockman: Drawings from Life of Pi Drawing Papers 106 Susan Hefuna and Luca Veggetti: NOTATIONOTATIONS Drawing Papers 105 Ken Price: Slow and Steady Wins the Race, Works on Paper 1962–2010 Drawing Papers 104 Giosetta Fioroni: L’Argento Drawing Papers 103 Igancio Uriarte: Line of Work Drawing Papers 102 Alexandre Singh: The Pledge Drawing Papers 101 José Antonio Suárez Londoño: The Yearbooks Drawing Papers 100 Guillermo Kuitca: Diarios Drawing Papers 99 Sean Scully: Change and Horizontals Drawing Papers 98 Drawing and its Double: Selections from the Istituto Nazionale per la Grafica Drawing Papers 97 Dr. Lakra Drawing Papers 96 Drawn from Photography Drawing Papers 95 Day Job Drawing Papers 94 Paul Rudolph: Lower Manhattan Expressway Drawing Papers 93 Claudia Wieser: Poems of the Right Angle Drawing Papers 92 Gerhard Richter: “Lines which do not exist” Drawing Papers 91 Dorothea Tanning: Early Designs for the Stage Drawing Papers 90 Leon Golub: Live & Die Like a Lion? Drawing Papers 89 Selections Spring 2010: Sea Marks Drawing Papers 88 Iannis Xenakis: Composer, Architect, Visionary Drawing Papers 87 Ree Morton: At the Still Point of the Turning World Drawing Papers 86 Unica Zurn: Dark Spring Drawing Papers 85 Sun Xun: Shock of Time Drawing Papers 84 Selections Spring 2009: Apparently Invisible Drawing Papers 83 M/M: Just Like an Ant Walking on the Edge of the Visible Drawing Papers 82 Matt Mullican: A Drawing Translates the Way of Thinking Drawing Papers 81 Greta Magnusson Grossman: Furniture and Lighting Drawing Papers 80 Kathleen Henderson: What if I Could Draw a Bird that Could Change the World? Drawing Papers 79 Rirkrit Tiravanija: Demonstration Drawings T O O R D E R , A N D F O R A C O M P L E T E C ATA L O G O F PA S T E D I T I O N S , V I S I T D R AW I N G C E N T E R . O R G


THE D R AWI N G CENTER

3 5 W O O S T E R S T R E E T | N E W YO R K , N Y 10 013 T 212 219 216 6 | F 212 9 6 6 2 9 76 | D R AW I N G C E N T E R . O R G


D R AW I N G PA P E R S 1 1 7

$18.00 US

ISBN 9 78 0 9 42 324 8 6 0 518 0 0

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324 86 0

Small.  

The Drawing Center's Drawing Papers Volume 117 featuring an introduction by Claire Gilman and Joanna Kleinberg Romanow.

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