Drawing is the most immediate and intimate of art forms, at once direct and often tentative or preparatory. Modernist master Paul Klee called it “taking a line for a walk.” Traditionally drawing has tended to be a linear pursuit in graphite or pen and ink, but in the prevailing pluralistic aesthetic of the 21st century a drawing can be just about anything an artist says it is unless it is obviously a painting or a print.
Brattleboro Museum and Art Center curator Mara Williams and guest curator Craig Stockwell, an artist who teaches at Keene State College and Vermont College, have taken the broadest possible definition in putting together Drawing Itself: A Survey of Contemporary Practice (through February 21) at the Vermont museum. The exhibition features hundreds of drawings by more than 60 artists working in graphite and pen & ink as well as watercolor, crayon, wash, collage, acrylic, charcoal, and ink, video and even installation.
Drawing Itself includes drawings by well-known artists such as Romare Bearden, Debra Bermingham, Jake Berthot, Charles Burchfield, Paul Cadmus, Rackstraw Downes, George Grosz, Robert Kushner, Rico LeBrun, George Tooker, and Whitfield Lovell (just to list the artists in the show I am familiar with) in the context of drawings by a small army of artists from New York, Boston, and southern Vermont.
There is an obsessive quality to much of post-Modern art in this digital age, so Aric Obrosey’s intricate limning of the lines of lace seems a fitting representation of contemporary drawing practice. A hand-made likeness of a hand-made material pattern, Obrosey’s large pencil drawing “Turbulent Fond” doesn’t just “take a line for a walk,” it gets lost on that conceptual walk.
James Nelson, one of Obrosey’s stablemates at McKenzie Fine Art in New York, pursues a similar mesmerizing meditation on pattern in an untitled charcoal drawing of what looks to be an accretion of shells or grubs. Both artists practice drawing as an end in itself.
In addition to Drawing Itself, the Brattleboro Museum is also featuring a selection of ice paintings by Eric Aho of Saxton’s River, VT; collages by Marcy Hermansader of Putney, VT; cartoony paintings by artist/animator Bill Long of Chester, VT; and, outside the museum, a rearing metal horse by sculptor Joseph Fichter of Putney, VT.
Brattleboro is in a corner of New England we don’t get to often enough, but this holiday banquet of drawings, paintings, collages, and sculpture should make the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center a destination this winter.
[Brattleboro Museum and Art Center, 10 Vernon St., Brattleboro VT, 802-257-0124.]