By its nature drawing is anti-monumental. When artists Ky Anderson, Meg Lipke and Vicki Sher defined their creative perimeters for Paper Giants by scale and drawing, they entered the expanded field of drawing now. The artists’ commitment to creating on gigantic (72 X 60 inches) sheets of heavy weight paper offers us the first exhibition centered on such a scale. Here, we see the intimacy and immediacy of drawing embrace the monumentality of artistic production and architectural spaces today. Representing three differing viewpoints—symbolic, historical, narrative—the exhibition reveals line-work that takes textural and structural content from architecture, domesticity and volumes of nature. Sensationally scaled artworks on paper are a twentieth century invention.
Henri Matisse’s exuberant cutouts of the 1940s and 50s dislodged notions of the preciousness of paper, shifting it from an ephemeral material to one relational with the concreteness of architecture. In the 1960s experiments in printmaking by artists such as Robert Rauschenberg defied the limitations of the printing press and single sheets of American made artists’ papers. Custom paper milled in France allowed artists to subvert more than materiality; print size become akin to portions found in painting. Artists began to merely pin or nail prints to exhibition space walls where airborne dust and exposure to light insured a natural process of destruction. This action advanced institutional critiques about collectability and preservation. Presentation and conservation methodologies, brought on by expansive paper works, continue to challenge today.
Paper Giants represents works with a kindred freeness to mid-century progenitors Matisse and Rauschenberg. The exhibition also reflects the accelerated rise of drawing as an autonomous medium in recent decades. Each drawing is pinned to the wall at the top only while the bottom lofts away from the wall to incite more active viewership. The loose thematic, central to the exhibition, leaves room for individuation. The title, Paper Giants, with its bravado, enters the territory of scalability of working on massive sheets of paper where Kara Walker has held ground. What makes this statement distinct is the collaborative agreement forged in advance of artistic production that put all three artists on the same playing field with the restricted scale. The exhibition subverts the curatorial favoring collectivity. Digital snapshots entered the creative process making it an active space of collaboration with real-time peer-to-peer critiques.
It is important to mention that Paper Giants features works on paper that visually appear to extend the notion of drawing towards painting, printmaking and collage. The distinction that holds these works in the realm of drawing is their engagement with the imperfect universe of line-based compositions on blank paper. Where painting, printmaking and collage project ideas of completion, drawing is action laid bare. For Paper Giants, each artist comes to the project with varied media—acrylic and oil paint, textile dye, beeswax, pencil, India ink—and process but has found that working on large paper triggers an unmediated gestural correspondence with their studio space, artistic practice and materials.
- Geoffrey Young
scribe the parts. Green breasts, jostling belly, flat thighs, perfect withers. The action is in the abstraction. Anderson allows a cozy simultaneity of field and thing. Smartly, and simply, Anderson defamiliarizes the body’s shape, the better to explore its presence.
- Geoffrey Young
- Geoffrey Young: a poet, artist, curator and art dealer and owns Geoffrey Young Gallery as well as The Figures Small Press in Great Barrington, MA.