Miriam Austin - James Capper - Aleana Egan - Steve Hurtado - Juliana Cerqueira Leite - David Murphy - Elisabeth Wieser
22nd October 2016 — 26th January 2017
ALMA ZEVI, Venice
Presenting work by seven international contemporary artists, this exhibition focuses on sculptors who draw, or make works on paper, independently from their sculptural practice. Moreover, these selected drawings are resolved and complete works as opposed to preparatory or technical sketches relating to specific sculptures. This exhibition aims to investigate the relationship between what can often appear to be two very different bodies of work - sculpture vs. drawing – within a single artist’s practice. All the artists in this exhibition identify as sculptors, and yet describe drawing as a very important, not to mention distinct and self-sufficient, part of their output.
The works exhibited, all made by artists under 40, but hailing from places as diverse as Bolivia, Brazil, England, Germany, Ireland, and the US, bring up these questions: What does it mean to draw as a sculptor? What can we learn from a sculptors’ drawings? How important are sculptor’s drawings to an understanding of their oeuvre as a whole? How do they inform one another? Certainly, it is not just the drawings that inform the sculptures, but also vice versa.
The drawings of sculptors make us think about the notions of touch and spatial articulation that come to the fore in these works. The overt physicality of sculptors’ drawings, and the manner in which they often depict three-dimensional objects, is a way to access the thought-process behind them. The objects (and architectural elements in the case Aleana Egan, Steve Hurtado and Elisabeth Wieser), depicted in the works exhibited are often positioned on the paper in a way that is ambiguous. Specifically, there is a strong sense of spatial disorientation or destabilization in the works selected here. Indeed, space as positive and negative form is an important concern for sculptors. Space is inextricably connected with sculpture, and is a counterpart to gravity and weight – all of which takes on a different significance when working in two dimensions.
In this exhibition, many of the artists bring everything to one flat, forefront plane. A certain texture might make the paper appear to spring forward into space; or drawn forms might create a depth of perspective that is very different to how a painter might engage with the actual surface of the paper and with the tradition of Western-style perspective. Connected to this is the idea of ‘all-over composition’, which is used in David Murphy’s drawings, Elisabeth Wieser’s collages, and Juliana Cerqueira Leite’s frottages.
One must also mention that to exhibit drawings in a public space is a relatively modern (eighteenth century) concept particularly those of sculptors. Before then, drawings were destined for private spaces, or used as presentation drawings for a potential donor or patron to see what the artist was proposing; be it a large-scale painting, fresco, sculpture or tomb. One might ask if sculptors have always made drawings independently from their sculpture or if until recently drawing was solely a working tool, now made redundant by technology and photography? Could the purpose of sculptors’ drawings have changed dramatically since the invention of new technologies, and to a greater extent, the democratization of photography? Which also brings us to the question: How do we understand sculptors’ drawings when they are not displayed side-by-side with sculptures? By showing only drawings in this exhibition, we want to encourage our visitors to see drawings not as illustrations or a means to an end (be it sculpture, painting or anything else), but instead to delve further into the workings of what Catherine de Zegher fittingly describes, when writing on Eva Hesse, as the ‘bifocal mind of both draftsman and sculptor’.
A final point to consider is a recurring, and satisfyingly down-to-earth, opinion expressed by many contemporary sculptors. They have described the act of drawing as relaxing, a retreat into a clean studio, away from heavy lifting, away from technical and engineering problems. In ‘drawing mode’ they can have total freedom and explore fantasies that need never manifest into sculptures. This seems particularly apt in the context of James Capper, whose sculptures can take up to six months to produce and require engineers and very technical components. Or for Miriam Austin and Elisabeth Wieser who create intricate installations that fill entire rooms; or for Juliana Cerqueira Leite whose sculptural process has a performative aspect that pushes her body to its limits. Furthermore, each of the artists in this exhibition works with sculpture on a large and complex scale, so to draw is a totally different physical, conceptual and timely experience. And yet, this experience is in harmony with a way of looking at, and reacting to, the world that is resolutely three-dimensional. Perhaps this is what makes these works so difficult to ‘place’, and what makes them so attractive, though slightly strange. Their form is a drawing, but their content lies between the paper and the space our eyes reach into.