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Hipkiss Bulwark

THE D R AWI N G CENTER


The Drawing Center April 6 – August 12, 2018 Drawing Room


Hipkiss Bulwark

Organized by Brett Littman


D R AW I N G PA P E R S 13 6

Contributions by Brett Littman and Hipkiss


Curator’s Acknowledgments

I would like to thank Alpha and Chris Mason for accepting my commission. Their generosity, and their dedication to drawing was the impetus for this exhibition, and I am thrilled that Hipkiss: Bulwark will be their first solo exhibition in a New York museum. I would also like to acknowledge the hard work of The Drawing Center’s staff members, each of whom played a special role in realizing this exhibition. Special thanks go to Claire Gilman, Chief Curator; Joanna Ahlberg, Managing Editor; Peter J. Ahlberg, AHL&CO; Noah Chasin, Executive Editor; Dan Gillespie, Operations Manager; Molly Gross, Communications Director; Amber Harper, Assistant Curator; Alison Hyland, Assistant Development Director; Bruno Nouril, Development Director; and Olga Valle Tetkowski, Exhibition Manager. I am eminently grateful for the steadfast support of The Drawing Center’s Board of Trustees, as well as the funders who have supported this exhibition and its accompanying catalogue: Fiona and Eric Rudin, as well as Selig Sacks. —Brett Littman, Executive Director

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13 Thoughts on Hipkiss’s Bulwark

Brett Littman

The artistic duo Hipkiss (Alpha and Chris Mason) started making work together in 1983. At first both of them drew. Today the process is very fluid and more like filmmaking where they both act as directors and producers and are always thinking together about the big picture, the texture, the feel, and the limits of the drawings. The drawings exist at the boundary between the built world and atavistic nature. There are long listening sessions and discussions about music in the studio. Classical to punk. This is the backdrop for their art and for their life. I first met Hipkiss in Paris in 2015. Alpha and Chris had no need for a hotel or room as they were sleeping in their van that was parked on the street.

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Bulwark, this new commission for The Drawing Center, evolves from the design of a series of porcelain plates that Hipkiss is making with the company Animal Fabuleux in Limoges, France. The original drawings, which were made on one long sheet of paper on an axis with circular limits, resembled towers. Since then, they have primarily focused on this form in their work. Hipkiss describes its countryside studio in southwest France as surrounded by cattle pastures, vines, and woodlands punctuated by sounds of bird calls, farm traffic, snorting wild boars, and barking deer. Avifauna (local birds from particular regions) are always drawn into the tower images. Sometimes they are visible and sometimes they are hidden in the text or obscured. These drawings are variable landscapes. They read differently depending on whether you view them at close range or at a distance. The towers, because of their erect verticality, seem perhaps masculine in nature; Hipkiss insists that they are 100% feminine in nature. The towers are a distillation of all of the work that Hipkiss has done over the past twenty-five years. The lack of a contiguous background and ample white space around the forms gives the work breathing space and focuses attention on the details within the individual compositions. Often the buildings and structures in Hipkiss’s drawings are made from observation. The world depicted is not purely imaginary—but it is not one with which we are necessarily familiar. Hipkiss is a life project—it is aesthetic, tied to nature, curious about the city, and political. It is male and female. It is fundamentally human.

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FIG . 1

Bulwark untitled sketch, 2017


FIG . 2

Bulwark untitled sketch, 2017


FIG . 3

Bulwark untitled plan, 2016


FIG . 4

Bulwark untitled sketch, 2017


FIG . 5

Bulwark untitled sketch, 2017


A~C~H~E~ NY

Hipkiss

Taking a trip down Bleecker Street, there’s Strawberry Fields, just as it used to be. Great little store, to use “little” in the New York sense of the word; the fresh produce section seemed as big as a country pub. It was also, handily, the only place to our knowledge that sold English beer—though they insisted on storing it in the fridge. We’d warm up the bottles by the heater in our tiny (by any standard) apartment in Grove Street and drink a couple with eggs on toast—preparation for another day of the coldest winter for forty years. After twenty minutes piling on layers and heavy boots, off we’d venture, tentatively navigating the icy streets on our way to another touristic outing, adding another chapter to this New York memory bank. Of course, in dreams I’m not troubled by the weather. I can go where I want and how I want—sweeping up for an aerial view, riding whichever subway takes my fancy, striding down the sidewalks . . . any way I choose. Nonetheless, whenever I go to NYC, it’s snowy and white, the streets silent, no matter how many people are on them or how much slow-moving traffic glides by. We went to The City a few times, before and after that January—in a sweltering September one time . . . but that’s not my Manhattan—not our New York. Our New York is forever winter.

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Before I set foot on its streets, it meant nothing more than a bundle of mental snippets and an anomalous soundtrack to my teenage years: the Velvet Underground, Blondie, Patti Smith, the New York Dolls . . . a familiar dark filmscape, bustling with noise and violence. Oddities: a fictional gorilla’s unexplained—and inexplicable— attraction to a human woman, an iconic statue that seems to turn up in the most unlikely places, steam shooting up through subway gratings and flaring cocktail dresses . . . above all, an impression of hardness and coldness; the ultimate city. Distance doesn’t itch when the place doesn’t resonate on a positive level; I had no desire to travel so far to investigate those dissonant and disquieting feelings. In short, I never expected to fall in love when fate took us there— or to care so much to have its joys denied. At night though, quite out of the blue, there I’ll be. There’s no fug of heavy colds, now, to cloud our already surreal first trip, peoplewatching on the long train ride out to Jamaica Bay to see an osprey and blue jays; no hard slog of that walk in the rain from our midtown hotel all the way to Battery Park . . . I can still see the old lady outside a news agent who, hearing us snuffling as we struggled with a cheap umbrella, gave us a newspaper to put inside the fronts of our jackets to “keep our chests warm” (it worked); and the man, with the same cheap umbrella, cursing it loudly and ramming it, inside-out, into the nearest litter bin with exaggerated force. We got soaked. Then there is the uniformed guy with the thick New Jersey accent, barking at us—like the dog to which he referred—to stop feeding the seagulls by the Hudson: “See! It makes the doigs ang-erwy!” The smell of vanilla from the café in Dean & DeLuca’s on Broadway . . . The thrill of a rebuke from a cop for smoking in a subway station; drinking a beer by the river from a brown paper bag, realising it’s probably something only the British might bother to do when they had a nice snug room to take it back to; seeing Woody Allen come out of his apartment block with Soon-Yi, searching for the right rebuke but just giving him a dirty look instead . . .

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Occasionally, time blurs and I’m not sure if it’s now or if it’s then: memories and emotions merge and separate. Passing Lady Liberty on the Staten Island Ferry for the umpteenth time, sometimes there are screams, surging chaos and blood, imagined visions of the crash. Or breezing uptown for a tour of Central Park (there’s always a raccoon sleeping in a tree), negotiating with thuggish squirrels, giving a wistful glance toward the Natural History Museum and the sighting we had of a nesting peregrine from there . . . then there’s a jolt of revulsion as the tower at 721 Fifth Avenue looms into view; back in “our New York,” he was just Ivana’s ex-mister. The dreaming mind is often kind, and there are, of course, many other towers to gaze upon. Towers in New York: the one thing that even the most committed country bumpkin can’t help but regard with some kind of wonder . . . that stunning photo op from the ferry that no amateur or professional can resist. Our arty sepia shot was taken on a misty day, a perfect focus of minds and lens in that moment of our lives. To our left, out of view but vivid all the same, the gift from our soon-to-be adoptive country gazed protectively and benevolently toward us, giving her blessing. In that moment, the world seemed small and welcoming; New York was a short hop from either London or Paris, both physically and in our sensibilities. One other memory stands out: leaving our apartment one morning, we turned south to see a false ceiling of thick fog over the streets. Of course, I’ve spent enough time in London to be accustomed to fog, but never before in a city with bona fide skyscrapers. There was something particularly unsettling to me about a tower whose top you couldn’t see, and a pair of them only compounded the unease. When I’m touring Manhattan in my sleep, that is an abiding image, whether in context or otherwise. The sight of the Chrysler Building, burnished in sunlight as we chanced on it around a corner during our first trip, had us rooted to the pavement in wonder; yet it’s never there in the dreams like those truncated twins. Strange enough was the thought that, three years before and like all first-timers, we had stood in the viewing gallery, so far up into what had become obscurity that morning. Gazing up from the glistening

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street, the thought made me dizzy, in what I might fancifully describe as a premonition of events just twenty months into the future. Chris had made several eerily prophetic drawings three decades earlier around the time of the towers’ contentious planning, but at this particular moment there was a feeling; perhaps we all had it, somewhere in the gut. On the fateful day itself, several weeks before leaving our native land for France, we were in the car listening to events as they unfolded. Even then, without the visuals and full knowledge of the horror, the earth seemed to shift a little on its axis; for two souls who had no claim to tangible grief, it went deep. I went to Ground Zero a few times over the years, hanging in the air over the rubble and ruins, the jagged metal remnants of those fatally engineered masterpieces. Sometimes I could sense the suffocating dust, but my waking self was always thankful to have been spared a vision of the day it actually happened. Some things the mind can’t conjure, and distance is a friend after all; like the well-meaning passerby who just can’t help, I hovered pointlessly. And those ghostly twins, they were always there in the background—alternative reality or just plain wishful thinking. I never returned to The City, not in real life. Two years after 9/11, almost to the day, a personal disaster struck, putting an end to our globetrotting aspirations. Hotels were suddenly off-limits, and planes became mere flying metal boxes, taking other people to places we never had the chance to fall in love with. There are wonderful destinations to be reached by land and sea: Sweden, Norway—even Iceland—beckon quite feasibly, and even Italian city breaks are possible with a surreptitious camper van. But not New York. Still, we are there not just in my sleep, but in our daily exchanges and in the construction of our compositions. In a box in a bookcase, among the reams of fading photos, there are close-ups of the intricacies of the buildings and the obligatory architectural vistas mixed in with snowscapes snapped on a rail trip upstate to Poughkeepsie. We were transfixed by the sheer breadth of the

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semi-frozen Hudson. We still have the MiniDisc recording of the barman there, telling tales of entertaining drunks in his Texan drawl as we waited and hoped that the train back to the city would turn up two hours late rather than not at all. Our six pieces of Chinese jade, acquired via Cavin-Morris Gallery from a mysterious collector called Spencer, never lived up to their investment promise but still sit in the top of the stationery drawer, bringing luck for us instead. A bit of stolen, broken paving stone from Grove Street lurks in the side pocket of the huge suitcase we had to buy to transport our stash of souvenirs back home, far too large for any trip since—all are evidence of the human fear of forgetting, and they serve their purpose well. With time, though, comes an inevitable softening of the feelings of separation. Other life events cloud the mind—aging parents, new interests, different places—and in the lush, green hills of our chosen French home, the deafening sirens and constant human interaction couldn’t seem further away. Here, life is slow—snail’s pace at best— and the plethora of interesting and unusual birds, be they resident or tantalisingly transitory, are the major source of interest. A meditative air sits over our country cottage; one vehicle might pass every fifteen minutes during “rush hour”; the occasional row breaks out among the chickens. At night, the silence is absolute. But for all that our surroundings might resemble a past age, we are in the now. In France, all internet is high-speed; our hearts sunk as we saw Sunderland vote ‘out,’ then US states fall in real time. The world, once again, seems small. Like so many, all we can seem to do is sit and watch (and tweet and blog and draw). Helplessness is the norm for now . . . but as we bide our time, we send our envoys—our own towers, our small battalion of “Liberties,” the spirits of our New York.

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PL . 1

Bulwark #1, 2017


PL . 2

Bulwark #2, 2017


PL . 3

Bulwark #3, 2017


PL . 4

Bulwark #4, 2017


PL . 5

Bulwark #5, 2017


PL . 6

Bulwark #6, 2017


PL . 7

Bulwark #7, 2017


PL . 8

Bulwark #8, 2017


PL . 9

Bulwark #9, 2017


PL . 10

Bulwark #10, 2017


PL . 11

Bulwark #11, 2017


PL . 12

Bulwark #12, 2017


PL . 13

Bulwark #13, 2017


LIST OF WORKS

PL . 6

Bulwark #6, 2017 PL . 1

Graphite, ink, metal leaf, metal tape,

Bulwark #1, 2017

and color pencil on Fabriano 4 paper

Graphite, ink, metal leaf, metal tape,

89 x 16 inches

and color pencil on Fabriano 4 paper 89 x 16 inches

PL . 7

Bulwark #7, 2017 PL . 2

Graphite, ink, metal leaf, metal tape,

Bulwark #2, 2017

and color pencil on Fabriano 4 paper

Graphite, ink, metal leaf, metal tape,

89 x 16 inches

and color pencil on Fabriano 4 paper 89 x 16 inches

PL . 8

Bulwark #8, 2017 PL . 3

Graphite, ink, metal leaf, metal tape,

Bulwark #3, 2017

and color pencil on Fabriano 4 paper

Graphite, ink, metal leaf, metal tape,

89 x 16 inches

and color pencil on Fabriano 4 paper 89 x 16 inches

PL . 9

Bulwark #9, 2017 PL . 4

Graphite, ink, metal leaf, metal tape,

Bulwark #4, 2017

and color pencil on Fabriano 4 paper

Graphite, ink, metal leaf, metal tape,

89 x 16 inches

and color pencil on Fabriano 4 paper 89 x 16 inches

PL . 10

Bulwark #10, 2017 PL . 5

Graphite, ink, metal leaf, metal tape,

Bulwark #5, 2017

and color pencil on Fabriano 4 paper

Graphite, ink, metal leaf, metal tape,

89 x 16 inches

and color pencil on Fabriano 4 paper 89 x 16 inches

PL . 11

Bulwark #11, 2017 Graphite, ink, metal leaf, metal tape, and color pencil on Fabriano 4 paper 89 x 16 inches

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PL . 12

Bulwark #12, 2017 Graphite, ink, metal leaf, metal tape, and color pencil on Fabriano 4 paper 89 x 16 inches PL . 13

Bulwark #13, 2017 Graphite, ink, metal leaf, metal tape, and color pencil on Fabriano 4 paper 89 x 16 inches All works courtesy of the artists.

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CONTRIBUTORS

Brett Littman is Executive Director of The Drawing Center. Alpha Mason (b. 1964, Widnes, UK) and Chris Mason (b. 1964, London)—known collectively as Hipkiss—met in 1983 and now live and work together in southern France. Recent solo exhibitions of Hipkiss’s work have been mounted by the Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, Chicago, and the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Hipkiss has also been included in recent group exhibitions in Paris at Fondation Mindscape and Halle Saint Pierre as well as in New York at David Zwirner Gallery and the New Museum of Contemporary Art. Work by Hipkiss has likewise been shown in group exhibitions at Tate Britain, London; Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin; Whitechapel Gallery, London; and KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin. Hipkiss’s work can be found in the collections of the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam; FRAC Picardie, Amiens, France; the American Folk Art Museum, New York; and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, among others.


BOARD OF DIRECTORS

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Co-Chairs

Hipkiss: Bulwark is made possible by

Rhiannon Kubicka

Fiona and Eric Rudin, and Selig Sacks.

Jane Dresner Sadaka Frances Beatty Adler Dita Amory Brad Cloepfil Andrea Crane Stacey Goergen Amy Gold Steven Holl Galia Meiri-Stawski Nancy Poses Eric Rudin David Salle Joyce Siegel Barbara Toll Waqas Wajahat Isabel Stainow Wilcox Emeritus Michael Lynne George Negroponte 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 136 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. Noah Chasin Executive Editor Joanna Ahlberg Managing Editor Designed by AHL&CO / Peter J. Ahlberg, Kyle Chaille This book is set in Adobe Garamond Pro and Berthold Akzidenz Grotesk. It was printed by Puritan Capital in Hollis, New Hampshire.

I S B N 9 7 8 - 0 - 9 4 2 3 24 - 3 6 - 5 Š 2 018 T he D rawing C enter


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 8 8 8 . 3 8 0 . 3 3 6 2 | 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 3 6

$15.00 US

ISBN 978094232X X X 515 0 0

9

780942

324X X X

Profile for The Drawing Center

Hipkiss: Bulwark  

The Drawing Center's Drawing Papers, Volume 136, features contributions by Brett Littman and Hipkiss.

Hipkiss: Bulwark  

The Drawing Center's Drawing Papers, Volume 136, features contributions by Brett Littman and Hipkiss.

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