Aleksandra Mir

Drawing Now

Albertina, Vienna
29 May - 11 October, 2015
Curated by Elsy Lahner


Forty years after Drawing Now, the legendary exhibition mounted jointly with the MoMA in New York, 2015 will see the Albertina once again attempt to take stock of what drawing means or can mean today. In the present showing, selected works by 36 international artists and artist groups turn the spotlight on relevant movements of the past ten years.

Drawing Now: 2015 illustrates the broad spectrum of present-day tendencies of drawing in art: its range of featured works runs from the abstract to the figurative and from sketches to large-scale projects planned in great detail. In terms of content, the artists devote their works to private experiences, simple everyday observations, and political events. They also reflect on the medium of drawing itself, examining the conditions and possibilities of such works’ production while also making a theme of appropriated drawing and drawing as a performative or collaborative act.
For this exhibition, the façade of the Albertina itself becomes a three-dimensional drawing board, with artist Rainer Prohaska stretching orange belts around the architectural complex in which the Albertina is housed in order to effect the graphical interconnection of the building’s various elements. Prohaska thus articulates an expansion of the notion of drawing in a manner that is particularly emphatic: Drawing an Orange Line shows that drawing is no longer limited to paper, but can also conquer walls and rooms, architecture and the cityscape.

The participating artists are:
Tomma Abts | Silvia Bächli | Anna Barriball | Marc Bauer | Michaël Borremans | Andrea Bowers | Olga Chernysheva | Amy Cutler | Tacita Dean | Sonja Gangl | Nikolaus Gansterer | Monika Grzymala | Toba Khedoori | Los Carpinteros | Constantin Luser | Lotte Lyon | Julie Mehretu | Aleksandra Mir | Muntean/Rosenblum | Paul Noble | Jockum Nordström | Micha Payer + Martin Gabriel | Fritz Panzer | Dan Perjovschi | Chloe Piene | Rainer Prohaska | Robin Rhode | Mithu Sen | David Shrigley | Paul Sietsema | Tatiana Trouvé | Ignacio Uriarte | Marcel van Eeden | Erik van Lieshout | Sandra Vásquez de la Horra | Jorinde Voigt

Drawing in Daily Life

Drawings seem to be omnipresent today – be it children’s drawings, the mindless scribbling made with a ballpoint while one is on the phone, the tattoos on one’s own body, the pictograms and graffiti in the streets, or the literary genres of comics or graphic novels. Frequently artists make use of drawing’s proximity to everyday life to convey their themes and ideas.

Ignacio Uriarte plays with our habit of distracting ourselves with producing doodles during our daily telephone conversations, taking it to extremes in a manic process: using multicolored ink rollers, he has plain circles – simultaneously planned and improvised – grow into rising oval forms. He thereby intends to face us with both the monotonous routine of office life and its secret, obsessive pleasures.

From Simplicity to Complexity

Hardly any other medium lends itself so well to abbreviating and summing up complex facts and situations and to displaying this very complexity in all its details and facets as drawing.

In his drawings and video works, David Shrigley is less concerned with a technically and manually accurate execution that is also excellent aesthetically. Rather, he deliberately uses an extremely simplified pictorial language in order to convey his messages.

Jorinde Voigt, on the other hand, uses drawing as a means of expression to visualize various levels of meaning. In the present case, she has added her own interpretations and associations to text passages from the writings of the sociologist Niklas Luhmann.

Drawing as a Collaborative Act

Aleksandra Mir expands the concept of drawing not only by spanning rooms with her large-scale works and by creating structures resembling stage sets. Moreover, she explores drawing as a collaborative act by working together with a team, allowing each member to fathom his or her own potentials within a given framework, so that everyone in the team will leave their marks on the drawing through their own working methods.

Their name alone, Los Carpinteros – “The Carpenters” in English – points to the fact that they go about their work as a group. Holding back as individual personalities, they also abandon the idea of individual authorship. At the same time, these Cuban artists use their name to express their attitude toward working (as craftsmen) within a collective.

Drawing as a Means of Communication

With his ironical slogans and political pictograms, which also appear outdoors or in newspapers, Dan Perjovschi seeks to address a larger audience while encouraging us to take a stand.

Robin Rhode, on the other hand, treats themes of street life, with which he confronts the visitors of art galleries and museums. He relies on the language of street art as a pointedly witty and subversive means of expression.

Erik van Lieshout also invites the public to deal with socially relevant themes. In The Mall, he has sketched visitors of a shopping mall in Rotterdam that over the years has turned into a meeting place for the poor and jobless. In order to get into contact with them, he temporarily opened a store there.

The photorealistic drawings by the American artist Andrea Bowers show precisely rendered snapshots of protesters against nuclear energy, war, and economic injustice and for abortion, AIDS research, environmental protection, and a reformed immigration law. The artist’s focus is on the aspect of activism: she represents individuals removed from the background on the white sheet of paper and thus invites the beholder to concentrate on the decisions and actions of socially involved citizens.

In her series Person protected by…, Olga Chernysheva directs our attention to everyday life in the streets of Moscow, where exaggerated luxury and a precarious existence clash. The artist does not hesitate to showcase people in need of protection, such as migrants or the homeless.

Narrative Connection

Some of the works on view hark back to the repertory of history in order to make reference to the present. Collective memories and personal and fictitious experiences converge within narrative fragments. The combination of text and image accentuates the storytelling character of these drawings.

In the works of the duo Muntean/Rosenblum, familiar motifs and poses from art history are related to today’s youth scenes and popular culture.

The drawings by Marcel van Eeden, which recall old detective stories or Surrealist black-and-white films, are partly based on facts and partly spring from the artist’s imagination. All of the figures, places, and incidents he refers to date from before 1965, the year in which the artist was born.

Marc Bauer produces series in which he reflects upon political and social events, which he mingles with personal biographies. In his art, the narrative aspect is underscored by his animation films, for which he strings together countless drawings on acrylic glass to produce short filmstrips.

Imagined Visual Worlds

Today’s figurative drawing stands out for its obvious suitability of rendering imagined visual worlds, a cosmos of its own. Artists design dystopic architectures and surreal scenarios. Figures and allegories from different periods and cultures are woven into contemporary mythologies. In order to emphasize this synthesis, various techniques, materials, and forms of presentation are employed.

Michaël Borremans makes use of envelopes and book covers as supports for his small, fragile drawings. Sandra Vásquez de la Horra draws on found papers and old account books from the former GDR and subsequently covers the paper with beeswax. Mithu Sen complements her drawings on paper with linear patterns engraved in acrylic glass that only become visible as shadows on the paper underneath under certain light conditions. Jockum Nordström builds his works from his repertory of clippings from magazines and books and with previously watercolored paper silhouettes.

The Aspect of Time

We live in a fast-paced world in which time is limited. Every day we are overwhelmed with a flood of pictures on posters, television, and the Internet. Drawing is a possibility for artists to decelerate: by taking the time to grasp and capture an image, they slow down automatically.

The art of Sonja Gangl is only one pertinent example in this exhibition. In her series CAPTURED ON PAPER_THE END, she exclusively devotes herself to the final sequences of motion picture films, which she copies with photorealist precision, thereby freezing them as still frames.

Drawing as a Performance

Nikolaus Gansterer understands drawing as a performative act. For him, drawing is a possibility to render thought processes visible and mediate between perception and reflection. He turns the table into a kind of drawing laboratory in which he develops a number of experimental set-ups.

Drawing as Reproduction

In her drawings, Anna Barriball renders the surfaces of such objects as doors or windows, by which she profoundly explores their history. The regular hatching of the frottage technique enables her to detect all of the individual traces, scratches, and stains that have accumulated over the years and to make them visible in her drawing.

Micha Payer + Martin Gabriel go about their work similarly meticulously when they reproduce extant material. Here the two artists, who always tackle a sheet as a pair, have copied one of their own highly detailed drawings in colored pencil as accurately as possible. In this way, they have produced two copies that are almost identical to the original. Besides addressing the aspect of reproducibility, they thus also question the idea of an artist’s individual hand.

Paul Sietsema deliberately chooses tedious and time-consuming methods when reproducing original pictorial materials in the medium of drawing. Only on closer inspection do newspaper pages and banknotes turn out to be carefully drawn duplicates copied in ink.

Appropriated Drawing

Tacita Dean also refers to extant materials, which she places into her own new contexts in her works. Besides old photographs and postcards, she has adopted pencil drawings by the artist Martin Stekker (1878–1962) she once discovered on a flea market for her own purposes. In the present work group they have been arranged in specific constellations entirely in the spirit of appropriation art.