Posts Tagged ‘drawings’
March 2, 2015 | by Dan Piepenbring
We’re gearing up for our Spring Revel here at the Review. Variously described as “the best party in town” and “prom for New York intellectuals,” it’s a tradition that stretches back … well, tens of years. In that time, archival evidence suggests, it’s grown by leaps and bounds. The fifth revel, for example, in 1969, was held on the grounds of an abandoned church on Roosevelt Island (then known as Welfare Island). It did not go as planned. As George Plimpton later recounted, “Two pianos placed out in a grove of trees were destroyed in a late night rainstorm; almost all the profits from the revel were paid to a piano rental company. The final tally showed that proceeds turned over to the magazine amounted to fourteen dollars.”
Thirty years ago, though, the revel finally became the serious, unmistakably sophisticated affair that it remains today. In our Spring 1985 issue, Plimpton et al enlisted Roz Chast to help dream up a few concepts that could really guarantee a once-in-a-lifetime Revel experience. They were riffing on the theme of “Great Moments in Literature.” Here are three of their proposals: Read More »
February 26, 2015 | by Dan Piepenbring
Victor Hugo wrote poetry, novels, and drama—more than enough for any mortal—but he also made some four thousand drawings over the course of his life. He was an adept draftsman, even an experimental one: he sometimes drew with his nondominant hand or when looking away from the page. If pen and ink were not available, he had recourse to soot, coal dust, and coffee grounds. He didn’t publish his drawings for fear they would distract from his projects as a writer; instead, he drew for family and friends. His son, Charles, wrote of his process,
Once paper, pen, and inkwell have been brought to the table, [he] sits down and—without making a preliminary sketch, without any apparent preconception—sets about drawing with an extraordinarily sure hand: not the landscape as a whole, but any old detail. He will begin his forest with the branch of a tree, his town with a gable, his gable with a weathervane, and little by little, the entire composition will emerge from the blank paper with the precision and clarity of a photographic negative subjected to the chemical preparation that brings out the picture. That done, the draftsman will ask for a cup and will finish off his landscape with a light shower of black coffee. The result is an unexpected and powerful drawing that is often strange, always personal, and recalls the etchings of Rembrandt and Piranesi.
February 24, 2015 | by Dan Piepenbring
Alice Neel, who died in 1984, is remembered best as a portraitist—her paintings present friends, lovers, and other intimates with an astonishing, often forbidding guilelessness. Your average Neel portrait is penetrating, flip, scary, and more than a little funny, depending on how long you’re willing to hold its subject’s gaze. Neel’s people all look to be plodding through the Stations of the Cross with a kind of decadent resignation—this is the world we live in, and oh well. “Alice loved a wretch,” her daughter-in-law told the Guardian in 2004. “She loved the wretch in the hero and the hero in the wretch. She saw that in all of us, I think.”
When Neel wasn’t painting, she was sketching. Alice Neel: Drawings and Watercolors, a new book with a corresponding exhibition, collects this interstitial work, some of it polished and some hauntingly restive. “There is an essential melancholy to Neel’s work,” Jeremy Lewison writes in the book’s opening essay. “She presents a world of hardship, of tenement buildings and shared bathing facilities, of underprivileged and underclass immigrants, of humanity weighed down by the burdens of living in the harsh metropolitan environment, of human loss and tragedy.”
All of which makes her a natural candidate to reckon with the Russian classics, those icons of gloom. Read More »
January 30, 2015 | by Sarah Cowan
At the opening for the Drawing Center’s “All in One,” Tomi Ungerer’s first U.S. retrospective, swarms of visitors obscured the art on the walls. The crowd bent toward the artist, who was holding court and a glass of red wine, though none was being served. Ungerer, who is eighty-three, was in his element. For him, this retrospective is a kind of homecoming. After more than forty years in exile, his career is finding its rightful place in the New York art world.
The Drawing Center exhibition, curated by Claire Gilman, begins with Ungerer’s earliest doodles as a child growing up in Nazi-occupied Alsace, where under the nationalistic duress of war he first learned to be an outlaw. Delicately subversive, they are inscribed with a mature, swaggering humor that takes a subject as terrifying as Hitler and renders him a fool.
In 1956, Ungerer was lured to New York City at the height of print, when publications offered vast opportunities for creative illustrators. Without contacts or even a high school diploma, Ungerer impressed art directors with his idiosyncratic drawing style and witty candor. He became sought after for advertising and editorial work, and most prominently, his unconventional children’s books, which featured society’s most repulsive characters—robbers, snakes, pigs, beggars—as compassionate protagonists.
While working professionally in these PG-rated circles, he remained a deeply political artist, self-publishing bold posters against the Vietnam War, a book of harsh satire called The Underground Sketchbook, and sadomasochistic erotic drawings. But upon discovering his erotic work, the children’s-book community was scandalized. His books were removed from public libraries and his reputation tarnished. Dejected and unable to find work, he left New York in 1971, moving to Nova Scotia with his wife before finding a permanent home in Cork, Ireland.
This defection cost Ungerer the renown he deserves. It wasn’t until 1998 that he received the Hans Christian Andersen Award, the highest achievement for children’s-book authors, and a sign of the recent reappraisal of his career. Recent years have seen reissues of his children’s books in English and a large catalogue of his erotic drawings. In Strasbourg, he has a museum dedicated to his work, and in 2012, his life was the subject of a documentary film. Read More »
January 6, 2015 | by Dan Piepenbring
Probably my favorite entry in The Paris Review’s print series is Marisol Escobar’s, from 1965. It hangs in our office, where, especially on hot summer days, I gaze at it when I’m feeling thirsty. It is, at zero calories, the ultimate in refreshment. But we can safely assume that Marisol had little interest in the contents of the magazine. “I don’t like to read,” she said flatly in a 1968 interview. “It bores me.”
Very well, Marisol. Agree to disagree.
For a few more days—until January 10—New Yorkers can see this print, along with other sculptures and works on paper by Marisol, at El Museo del Barrio, where she’s having her first solo show in a New York museum.
Marisol, who’s eighty-four now, is famously taciturn—she speaks no more than she has to. (Take these exchanges from another interview: “Do you watch movies or TV?” “No.” “Would you recommend sculpture as a career?” “Yes.” “Do you communicate with any other artists?” “No.”) She’s best known for her figural sculptures, which, like her Paris Review print, satirize the culture and fit comfortably—if singularly—into the tradition of Pop Art. But she’s cryptic, to put it mildly, about her process. “In the beginning I drew on a piece of wood because I was going to carve it,” she said in that ’68 interview. “And then I noticed that I didn't have to carve it, because it looked as if it was carved already.”
Rather than waste more words, then, I’ll get onto the work itself: below, more pieces from the El Museo del Barrio exhibition. Read More »
December 15, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
Jane Freilicher died last week at ninety; the New York Times’s obituary called her “a stubbornly independent painter whose brushy, light-saturated still lifes and luminous landscapes set in the marshes of eastern Long Island made her one of the more anomalous figures to emerge from the second generation of Abstract Expressionists.”
In 1965, Freilicher designed the print above for The Paris Review—it was made in an edition of 150 that has long since sold out, unfortunately. The next year, for our Spring 1966 issue, she contributed a portfolio of recent drawings, three of which we’ve reproduced below. (Pardon the absence of details—none of these were published with titles or any kind of metadata. Different times, different production values.)
“Although the complex temperament of her painting prevent its being assigned to a single movement or group, she has been associated the so-called New York School,” the editors wrote then, “particularly with the ‘second generation’ of abstract expressionists”:
It should be pointed out that while abstractionism has entered her work to varying degrees and influenced many aspects of it, she has never at any point abandoned subject matter entirely. The subjects she most frequently chooses are the traditional ones of nude, still life and landscape. Their treatment in these drawings is especially interesting in its illumination of the graphic quality of her art, something from which, in her paintings, attention is apt to be distracted by their sumptuous and subtle deployment of color.