Local Art Scene: When a Line Becomes So Much More

A stellar collection of works on paper by internationally recognized sculptors has arrived at ArtsWestchester in White Plains.

Published October 24, 2014 8:53 PM
4 min read

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artscene-thumbA stellar collection of works on paper by internationally recognized sculptors has arrived at ArtsWestchester in White Plains.

 

By Margot Clark-Junkins

martin-creedA stellar collection of works on paper by internationally recognized sculptors has arrived at ArtsWestchester in White Plains.

Back in 2013, Brian Lang, curator of BNY Mellon’s Corporate Art Collection, assembled this lively and colorful selection of art for an exhibition called “Drawing Line into Form: Works on Paper by Sculptors from the Collection of BNY Mellon” at the Tacoma Art Museum. Then, thanks to a serendipitous discussion between Janet Langsam, CEO of ArtsWestchester, and Jean Marie Connolly, Senior Director for BNY’s Wealth Management Division, it was agreed that 68 works from the original exhibit would be brought to ArtsWestchester.

Works on paper, whether preparatory drawings for a major project, or whimsical sketches made for the artist’s own pleasure, provide a rare view into the creative process. It is not uncommon for artists to sketch out and refine their ideas on paper. And in the case of sculptors, some drawings are further developed, becoming “studies” which evolve into a large-scale work of art.

ArtsWestchester’s Gallery Director Kathleen Reckling is responsible for the thoughtful hanging of this large show. She also wrote the accompanying wall text, which provides essential background. “My main goal was to adapt it to our space and our audience,” she said, “and to place the art so that each piece spoke easily to its neighbor.”

A&E-Louise-BourgeoisThe vast space, once a bank, poses a special challenge for any curator. The Grand Banking Room, an impressive two-story lobby with marble floors and a fearsome echo, has been neatly subdivided with the help of white partitions. And it is a delightful surprise to find that the bank’s open vault serves as a tiny gallery, an ideal setting for viewing some of the smaller works. Upstairs, a balcony overlooking the lobby is lined with additional art works and leads the viewer into another, L-shaped gallery.

Take your time; the show is big and never dull. You can walk through this exhibit and be perfectly happy bouncing among the active line drawings, vibrant brushwork and collaged elements all around you. The artists come from around the globe; their points of view and their artistic styles vary widely. The roster of names — Jim Dine, Barbara Hepworth, Maya Lin, Sol Lewitt, and Mark di Suvero among them — is impressive; in fact, it’s sort of like a “Contemporary Art 101,” said Reckling. But if you want to dig deeper, consider the exhibit’s title, “Drawing Line into Form.” These works constitute the two-dimensional musings of sculptors who plan to work in three dimensions. Ask yourself: at what point does a line become a form?

Louise Bourgeois (French-American, 1911-2010) is one of many heavy hitters in the show. She is perhaps best known for her giant, somewhat menacing, bronze spiders, produced quite late in her career, which appear to skitter toward you in public plazas and at major museums. Bourgeois was in a very different frame of mind when she created Untitled (1988), a neat stack of red rectangles dangling from a couple of slender pencil lines on brilliant blue paper; it is a meditation on perspective, order and mathematical precision.

In Work No. 1367 (2012), English artist Martin Creed has worked methodically, even meditatively, brushing horizontal strokes of the purest watercolor in brilliant hues until a sort of grid has formed. Some colors blur together, the edges softening and blending, while others fight to remain autonomous. The effect brings to mind sheet music where someone took all the notes and converted them into colors (synesthesia, anyone?). This is no accident: Creed debuted an orchestral composition at the opening of the 2012 Olympics in London. It is somewhat disconcerting (pun intended) to learn that he also managed to win the prestigious Turner Prize, bestowed annually upon one artist under the age of 50 by the Tate Museum.

Sketching is a form of daydreaming. A drawing can be a valuable launching point for an artist who wants to explore a particular theme in greater depth. In Drip Drawing 3 (2005), Fred Wilson used a black felt marker to recreate the glass droplets with cartoon-like eyes that he produced in 2001, Drip Drop Plop. A graduate of SUNY/Purchase, Wilson is interested in the theme of racial stereotypes.

South African artist William Kentridge, who is known for his focus on the injustices of apartheid, filmed the charcoal markings and erasures he made on paper and then projected these movements onto an actual three-dimensional object, an installation called Medicine Chest (2000-01). Sarah Sze rolled out an enormous installation at the 2010 Venice Biennale, which clearly has its roots in the intricate drawing Tailspin (2009).

Works on paper are the equivalent of a trail of breadcrumbs; they lead us down the very same path taken by the artist, up to the front door of a masterpiece.

“Drawing Line into Form: Works on Paper by Sculptors from the Collection of BNY Mellon” is at ArtsWestchester, 31 Mamaroneck Avenue, until December 6. The gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday from 12-5.

 

 

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