Much More Than Graphite
From abstract to traditional and even geometric influences, The Nothing That Is: A Drawing Show In Parts explores drawing as a traditional media as well as a conceptual topic. This exhibition contains more than conventional drawings of pen and ink on paper, it contains works that address the concept of drawing and what it means to make a mark.
To draw is to record, to organize, to indicate form and value with line. The works in this collection feature over ninety artists from across the globe and showcases local artists from the tri-state area, including Matthew Dayler, Tracey Featherstone, Mark Harris, and Greg Swiger.
Works large and small are hung on the walls surrounding the rotunda in the center of the room inside the Carnegie’s first-floor exhibition space. This lower floor focused on the traditional forms of drawing with works that emphasized line, value, shape, and expression. One work, Girl on Girl Kiss by Betty Tompkins, takes on the appearance of a traditional drawing with its approach to proportions using a grid, and its use of graphite as the media. However, this work depicts a tightly cropped image of two women engaged in a seemly passionate moment—a subject that does not usually find itself in a traditional art context. Tompkins use of the visual grid represents her use of proportion and realistic interpretation, and she developed value in the drawing by layering graphite in a sporadic drawing style.
The Nothing That Is also contains works that have a strong sense of performance and expression. For example, contemporary painter James Nares’ drawings in the exhibition are reminiscent of the work of Franz Kline, in which he used line as a form of physical expression and record of his interaction with the canvas. Nares’ marks are striking black strokes that span the length of the page and contain a natural sense of contour. Even though they are drawn with what looks to be tempera paint, the work still shows the basic elements of a drawing such as visual movement, composition, and balance.
On the second floor of the exhibition, curator Bill Thelen, arranged the work in themes includingConceptual, Movement, and a Locals Only portion of the show across the rooms surrounding the rotunda. This demonstrates a strong sense of variety in drawings; showcasing video works, text based pieces, textiles, crochet, and even some rubbings. The works on the second floor revolve around the act of mark making upon the page or the canvas.
For example, Professor of Art at The Ohio State University, Carmel Buckley’s rubbings of sewer grates depict the impression of texture; however, there is indication that Buckley also made marks upon the rubbing after it was done to add an extra level of drawing to the works: the rubbings are overlaid with drawn patterns of circles and dots to disguise the immediate impression of traditional drawing and make the work more conceptual—in other words, describing drawing as a means of achieving texture and value as well as layers.
Another work in the exhibition, Basketball Drawing by New York-based artist David Hammons is a build-up of graphite on paper by means of bouncing a basketball repeatedly onto a piece of white paper. The work is the product of the physical interaction between the artist and the work, and calls to mind abstract expressionist strategies such as personal interaction, expressive value and physicality. The artist was using the act of drawing as a means of performance and a record of his physicality that was involved in the work. The texture of the basketball comes through onto the paper after the imprint of each bounce is recorded in graphite on the page. Hammons’ work, a part of the Conceptual Approaches section of the exhibition, shows the variety of drawings in the exhibition itself.
Ultimately, The Nothing That Is: A Drawing Show In Parts, showcases a wide variety of artworks that explore the traditional characteristics of a drawing with the inclusion of works that treat drawing as a conceptual topic rather than an action. The show is wrought with visual variety and is mixed with vibrant paintings and drawings and monochromatic works that keep the viewer interested as they move throughout the various rooms.
Drawing is a fundamental process that is visible and integral in the creation of most artworks from conception to completion, and The Nothing That Is explores and celebrates drawing’s importance.
The exhibition ran through April 15, 2017 at The Carnegie in Covington Kentucky.
Written by Devon Hensler