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THE D R AWI N G CENTER

93

Claudia Wieser Poems of the Right Angle


The Drawing Center September 11 – November 18, 2010 D rawing R o o m


Claudia Wieser Poems of the Right Angle

Curated by Joanna Kleinberg


DR AW ING PA P ERS 93

Essay by Joanna Kleinberg


Poems of the Right Angle1

Joanna Kleinberg


Seeing is an activity of exploring the world, one that depends on the world and on the full character of our embodiment. —alva nöe 2

Claudia Wieser’s art seeks to purify our understanding of the nature of experience. She approaches geometric abstraction not strictly as formalism, but as a means of structuring larger, more philosophical ideas about how we encounter the world. Her work foregrounds the process of perception; it asks us to look at ourselves looking, and it investigates how we might achieve this self-reflexive state. Combining austere, geometric forms (circles, squares, triangles, trapezoids, etc.) with the delicacy of colored pencil, Wieser’s drawings are inspired by the artist’s interest in “attempt[ing] to find forms and arrangements which narrate more than concrete material and forms you can see.”3 In one recent drawing, linear vertices arch and peak towards what appear like concentric moons [PL. 1]. The vast power and poise of these abstract forms send one’s mind in search of their 1

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The exhibition title refers to Le Corbusier’s Le Poème de l’Angle Droit, an illustrated prose-poem published in 1955. Each stanza emphasizes the sculptural qualities of architecture through poetry. For Corbusier, architecture was meant to be experienced with all the senses. Each figural and architectural icon depicted in the work diagrams the formal effects of color, shape, and line as the bearers of poetic meaning. The right angle (l’angle droit), for example, was not only indicative of architectural verticality, but a symbol of life and man’s “pact of solidarity with nature.” See Le Corbusier, Le Poème de l’Angle Droit (Paris: Tériade éditeur, 1955). Alva Nöe, Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness (New York: Hill and Wang, 2009), 146. Claudia Wieser in conversation with the author, February 15, 2010.


PL . 1

Untitled, 2010


figurative equivalents in nature; and though one can find the crests of mountains, starry constellations, or solar reflections in the depths of the work, ultimately its beauty is ineffable and leads the viewer into a contemplative state where the processes of making and viewing become fused. The gradual appearance of things perceived results from our innate attempt to make sense of the world through the profiles, colors, and vistas that shape how we conceive of it. Wieser arms the viewer with an observable reality suffused with infinite interpretations, and she invites the viewer to readily test the limits of her perceptual world, disorienting and reorienting herself by way of the images’ tendency toward referential content. Wieser is beholden to the legacy of high Modernism and artists, such as Vassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee, who “underst[ood] their art as a spiritual process.”4 Modernism was emphatic about its own materiality and the self-sufficiency of its formalism. This autonomy of the object was invoked by the Minimalists of the 1960s and ’70s who, conversely, were concerned with the autonomous experience of the object as something that took place in and over time. Indeed, the objects of Minimal art were in your face—you had to confront them with able body and eyes. Robert Morris has suggested that the Minimalists were not looking to overturn the Modernist ideal; they were interested in expanding it to include the object in space.5 He credits the Minimalists with offering important lessons in self-reflexive perception, and Wieser traces Morris’s experiential line of thinking back towards the natural world, not solely through representation, but through the focus on human perception itself. Take for example the drawing whose colorful abstract forms gradually break down into a dense pattern of overlapping triangles and rectangles that evoke the fractured panel of a stained-glass cathedral window [PL. 2]. As the viewer orients herself and the image unfolds, glimpses of imagined light appear to flicker in and out of frame. While Modernism shied away from mimetic representation, Wieser’s abstractions continue to abound with resemblances. Recognizing that our perceptual consciousness is achieved 4 5

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Ibid. Robert Morris, “Size Matters,” Critical Inquiry, Vol. 26, No. 3 (Spring 2000), 478.


through our practical familiarity with the world, Wieser conceives of a Modernism beyond Minimalism, one that juxtaposes the forms sprung from the purity of Modernist abstraction with the duration implicated in one’s perception and memory. Wieser was born in Freilassing, Germany, in 1973. Prior to her formal artistic training at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Munich between 1997 and 2003, Wieser was the recipient of a four-year apprenticeship as a blacksmith at Bergmeister Kunstschmiede, a well-known metal factory in Ebersberg. It was at the metal works that Wieser first began to develop her virtuoso manner of abstraction. The factory specialized in developing streamlined, early Modernist designs for religious, governmental, and cultural institutions. Though Wieser admittedly found her smithing experience tedious at times, the ideological and creative clash between pragmatism and aesthetics, between fine art and applied arts—a onetime central locus of the Bauhaus workshops—fascinated her and led to Wieser’s seemingly unlikely transition to drawing as a primary practice. From the beginning, she relied on detailed sketches to fabricate metal objects, a process similar to the one she currently uses to produce her mirrored and ceramictiled wall reliefs. Even the intricate latticework and cross-hatching in many of the early technical drawings are echoed in her recent colored abstractions, where discernible changes in pressure on the pencils, color order, and ruled gestures exhibit a sensitivity to material that is redolent of the metal works. Wieser continues to diversify the media in which she works in order to create site-specific environments that aim to “change the visual perception of the beholder.”6 Her impressive wall reliefs—drawingscum-sculptures—have directly evolved from the linear patternings of her drawings. With their kaleidoscopic configuration, the panels appear both figurative and abstract, like Cubist silhouettes. While the mirrored surfaces offer a literal translation of self-reflexive perception—in them we see ourselves seeing—their refractions create an inhabitable drawing incised in the space by shadows cast from the daylight.

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Claudia Wieser in conversation with the author, February 15, 2010.


PL . 2

Untitled, 2010


Wieser is motivated by a love for this kind of optical ambiguity. She strives to destabilize her images by denying them, and us, a unitary vantage point. With each shift of one’s head, the variegated shards depicted in many of the untitled drawings modulate and details synthesize [PLS. 3, 4]. Wieser understands that how things look depends on what you do—approach an object and it looms in your visual field; turn away and it leaves your view—and that the movements of the head and body actively produce one’s perceptions. In this, Wieser’s images, though static, diagram a perceptual experience in constant formation. In one small-format drawing, firmly-drawn outlines and variations of lined, isosceles triangles appear as rays of light that descend diagonally off the page [PL. 5]. Other overlapping triangles come together to form endless horizons. The explosive barrage of lines and angles slips in and out of retinal focus, compelling the viewer to uncover new bearings within her perception. So engaged, one is drawn entirely into the processes of looking. For her exhibition at The Drawing Center, Wieser has constructed a site-specific installation that requires its viewers to move in order to fully perceive. Upon entering the gallery, the viewer is subjected to the dizzying momentum of Wieser’s illusionistic high jinks. She juxtaposes a large-scale prismatic wall relief of glazed ceramic tile and mirrored facets (its design originating from a graphite drawing) with a series of colored pencil abstractions done primarily on sheets of A4 paper. Varying in format and palette, the delicate works on paper reveal the presence of the artist’s hand. All of this is offset by a low-fi, geometrically-patterned wallpaper entitled Proménade Géométrique, which is produced by scanning and enlarging a translucent paper collage that is then printed on a standard ink-jet printer, photocopied, and pasted directly onto the wall. The effect of this dramatic, synthetically-manipulated backdrop is something akin to the stroboscopic sensation that one would feel if immersed within a Futurist painting. Seductive interplays between light and shadow, tone and texture, subject and object unfold with each turn of the head. As a theatrical conceptualist, Wieser has bound all her artistic and cultural influences into a seamless collage of dark shadows and exaggerated angles that captures a brief flash of disequilibrium and artificiality, drawing remarkable comparison to

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PL . 3

Untitled, 2010


PL . 4

Untitled, 2010


the tilted walls, skewed windows, and crooked doors of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919) and other works of German Expressionist film. Wieser’s hypnotically calibrated installation necessitates a perceptual consciousness achieved in action, by us, through physical movement and a sustained vision. The swelling of jewel-colored shadings, and the infinitesimal shifts in the tones and outlines of the shapes themselves, can all be felt in the third-dimension. Wieser updates Le Corbusier’s proménade architecturale, proposing a body-dependent sensibility via a body-centric space that is both the essence and promise of optical clarity. Wieser’s playful and disorienting spatial and optical illusions generate an abstract art that leaves the subject-viewer to rely not only on sight but also on intuition and exchange. The overall order of the work is composed of repeating visual motifs—a circle in a square, concentric circles, overlapping triangles—that appear to rise and fall across the background and change as the viewer’s distance changes. Hovering in a drawn-out moment, Wieser’s complex linear structures dissolve or expand as you approach them, offering up an experience driven by the mixed temporality of physical and mental activity. Wieser’s art as such demands a concentrated vision, an eye without constraint in a constant state of re-awakening. Her inquiry into the relationships between form, composition, and visual perception results in boundless renderings—“poems of the right angle”—that open up to a purified embodiment of seeing.

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PL . 5

Untitled, 2010


PL . 6

Untitled, 2010


PL . 7

Untitled, 2010


PL . 8

Untitled, 2010


PL . 9

Untitled, 2010


PL . 10

Untitled, 2010


PL . 11

Untitled, 2010


PL . 12

Untitled, 2010


PL . 13

Untitled, 2010


PL . 14

Untitled, 2010


PL . 15

Untitled, 2010


LIST OF Works

PL. 8

Untitled, 2010 PL. 1

Colored pencil and gold leaf on colored paper

Untitled, 2010

27 9/16 x 19 11/16 inches (70 x 50 cm)

Colored pencil on colored paper

Photograph by Roman M채rz

8 1/4 x 11 11/16 inches (21 x 29.7 cm) PL. 9 PL. 2

Untitled, 2010

Untitled, 2010

Pencil and gold leaf on colored paper

Colored pencil on colored paper

27 9/16 x 16 9/16 inches (70 x 42 cm)

8 1/4 x 8 1/4 inches (21 x 21 cm)

Photograph by Roman M채rz

PL. 3

PL. 10

Untitled, 2010

Untitled, 2010

Colored pencil on colored paper

Colored pencil on colored paper

11 11/16 x 8 1/4 inches (29.7 x 21 cm)

11 11/16 x 8 1/4 inches (29.7 x 21 cm)

PL. 4

PL. 11

Untitled, 2010

Untitled, 2010

Colored pencil on colored paper

Colored pencil and gold leaf on colored paper

11 11/16 x 8 1/4 inches (29.7 x 21 cm)

8 1/4 x 11 11/16 inches (21 x 29.7 cm) Photograph by Roman M채rz

PL. 5

Untitled, 2010

PL. 12 / DETAIL PG. 15

Colored pencil on colored paper

Untitled, 2010

11 11/16 x 8 1/4 inches (29.7 x 21 cm)

Mirror on MDF board and ceramic tile 108 7/8 x 60 1/4 inches (3 x 1.6 m)

PL. 6

Photographs by Cathy Carver

Untitled, 2010 Colored pencil on colored paper

PL. 13

19 11/16 x 19 11/16 inches (50 x 50 cm)

Untitled, 2010

Photograph by Roman M채rz

Colored pencil on colored paper 11 11/16 x 8 1/4 inches (29.7 x 21 cm)

PL. 7

Untitled, 2010 Colored pencil on colored paper 8 1/4 x 11 11/16 inches (21 x 29.7 cm)

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PL. 14

Untitled, 2010 Colored pencil and gold leaf on colored paper 27 9/16 x 16 1/2 inches (70 x 42 cm) Photograph by Roman März PL. 15

Untitled, 2010 Pencil on paper 11 11/16 x 8 1/4 inches (29.7 x 21 cm) Proménade Géométrique, 2004/2010 Black-and-white photocopies Dimensions variable Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Ben Kaufmann, Berlin All works courtesy of the artist and Sies + Höke, Düsseldorf, unless noted otherwise. All installation photographs by Cathy Carver.

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CONTRIBUTOR

Joanna Kleinberg is Assistant Curator at The Drawing Center.


BOARD OF DIRECTORS

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Co-Chairs

Claudia Wieser: Poems of the Right Angle is made

Frances Beatty Adler

possible in part by members of the Drawing

Eric Rudin

Room, a patron circle founded to support innovative exhibitions presented in The Drawing

Dita Amory

Center’s project gallery: Devon Dikeou and

Melva Bucksbaum*

Fernando Troya, Rhiannon Kubicka, Judith

Suzanne Cochran

Levinson Oppenheimer, Elizabeth R. Miller and

Anita F. Contini

James G. Dinan, The Speyer Family Foundation,

Frances Dittmer*

Inc., Louisa Stude Sarofim, Deborah F. Stiles,

Bruce W. Ferguson

and Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee.

Stacey Goergen

Additional support is provided by the Foundation

Steven Holl

for Contemporary Arts. Special thanks to Sies +

David Lang

Höke, Düsseldorf.

Michael Lynne* Iris Z. Marden George Negroponte Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro Elizabeth Rohatyn* Jane Dresner Sadaka Allen Lee Sessoms Kenneth E. Silver Pat Steir Jeanne C. Thayer* Barbara Toll Isabel Stainow Wilcox Candace Worth Executive Director Brett Littman *Emeriti


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 93 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. Jonathan T.D. Neil Executive Editor Joanna 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.

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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

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Profile for The Drawing Center

Claudia Wieser: Poems of the Right Angle  

The Drawing Center's Drawing Papers Volume 93 featuring an essay by exhibition curator Joanna Kleinberg

Claudia Wieser: Poems of the Right Angle  

The Drawing Center's Drawing Papers Volume 93 featuring an essay by exhibition curator Joanna Kleinberg

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